'If you're not on the list, it's over': Is the £390m culture fund enough?

The Marina Theatre in Lowestoft. Inset: Emma Butler Smith. Picture: Mick Howes/Marina Theatre

The Marina Theatre in Lowestoft. Inset: Emma Butler Smith. Picture: Mick Howes/Marina Theatre - Credit: Mick Howes/Marina Theatre

Norfolk and Waveney's culture and arts industries have hobbled through the pandemic on minimal staff and no guarantees of when the curtain will come up. 

But Rishi Sunak outlined a further Culture Recovery Fund package of £390m in the B udget - despite the fact many businesses in the sector are still waiting on funds outlined last year.

Emma Butler-Smith is the chief executive of the Marina Theatre in Lowestoft and said: "We're still waiting to see if we've been awarded the funds outlined at the end of last year, there's a lot of red tape to get through. 

"You see the list and hope you're on it, but at the same time feel desperate for the names which aren't on there because there's a good chance they won't reopen."

She added: "It's brilliant that we've got a Tory government which will support the arts and hospitality to this extent but it's the job of those who are awarded the funds to pass it on to the local economy.


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"We've scaled back from 45 staff and 40 volunteers to 10 with a couple more to leave for various reasons - we need to continue doing whatever we can to keep people employed so they can pay their mortgage."

She was echoed by Stephen Crocker, chief executive of the Norwich Theatre Royal, who said: "We really try to do everything we can to support our entire supply chain wherever possible as it is a fragile ecosystem. 

Stephen Crocker, chief executive of Norwich Theatre, has announced all shows at the Theatre Royal Pl

Stephen Crocker, chief executive of Norwich Theatre, has announced all shows at the Theatre Royal Playhouse and Stage Two are cancelled until further notice Credit: Ella Wilkinson - Credit: Archant

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"I am really pleased with the measures the chancellor announced. Not only did he take into consideration that we'll be closed for a longer period of time, but also the huge value the sector has."

However the funds have not done enough for the infrastructure behind the red curtains and glittering costumes, said audio engineer Ciaran Moriarty. 

The self-employed owner of AudioEast works with a team of freelancers at venues such as the Waterfront and the LCR in Norwich, and said: "Rishi Sunak and his government have done the bare minimum to make headlines that they're supporting the industry but I don't think they really understand or care. 

"So much of our sector is self-employed and the support there has been good but it's been in comparison to furlough without the attentions to our overheads like equipment and taxes."

Ciaran Moriarty of AudioEast. 

Ciaran Moriarty of AudioEast. - Credit: AudioEast. 

He said that the sector needed a safety net should the government's road map not go to plan: "We can afford to stay open or to stay closed but not flick between both. There's also a skills shortage because so many people have gone elsewhere when the sector shut down. I'd like to see some assurance of support if we can't reopen." 

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