'Uncertain' future for Wakefield's arts and cultural attractions after pandemic
Wakefield’s arts and cultural scene is set to benefit from a ‘lifeline’ cash injection.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden this week confirmed government plans to provide more than £1.57 billion in emergency grants and loans to arts and cultural locations across the UK.
It is understood that the aim of the funding is to preserve the “crown jewels” of British culture, as well as local venues.
Mr Dowden said he believed the funding would protect the industry as a whole, but acknowledged that “not every job is going to be protected”.
Theatre Royal Wakefield, who last month confirmed that they had furloughed almost all of their staff, said they were “delighted and relieved” to hear of the funding, but said it would not solve all of the problems faced by the industry.
In a statement, the Theatre Royal said: “Whilst we await further details on how the grants and loans will operate, it’s important to note that even with this funding, the exit strategy from the crisis for theatres remains uncertain.
“It is still now known when we will be able to reopen and in what format. For this reason, it’s important that we continue to operate in a way which safeguards our survival for the people of Wakefield and beyond.”
Katie Town, executive director of the theatre, had previously said she was concerned that, if social distancing were enforced in theatres in the coming months, the Theatre Royal may be able to have as few as 100 guests at each performance.
Simon Wallis, Director of the Hepworth Wakefield, echoed the concerns, and said he hoped the government would use the opportunity to tackle the long-standing divide between funding in the North and South of England.
He said: “This is a very welcome package at a crucial time for us all. We hope the ‘levelling-up’ agenda will be enacted through it.
“We need to see greater investment made in the North to address our huge regional inequalities, particularly for areas hardest hit by over a decade of austerity.
“It’s time to redistribute state investments more equitably.
“There is a clear geographical divide in where cuts to cities have fallen, with the top five worst affected cities by austerity - which includes Wakefield - all being located in the North of England.
“This could be a great opportunity to begin changing that unsustainable position.”
As well as the district’s more traditional arts and cultural attractions, government funding has the potential to protect emerging talent.
Live events campus Production Park, which has provided staging and support for pop superstars including Take That, Beyonce, Hugh Jackman and the Spice Girls, has also praised the announcement.
Lee Brooks, CEO of Production Park, said: “This is fantastic news and likely to provide pivotal reinforcement for many cultural and arts institutions which would otherwise have been floored by the current situation, so obviously it’s an urgent and important intervention.
“However, we need to be aware of the disparate and fragmented landscape of the creative industries in general, and live event production specifically, and ensure that support reaches every level and geography of the UK.
“We also hope that this support enables institutions to continue to offer work opportunities to independent practitioners and freelancers, as well as entry level jobs, placements and internship opportunities to early career professionals such as our students and graduates.
“That is the focus for my work with the Creative Industries Council and a daily mission for Production Park. I’m sure that Wakefield and the West Yorkshire region has an important story to tell, in that respect.”