‘Better late than never’ - theatre boss welcomes government support fund
PUBLISHED: 15:27 06 July 2020 | UPDATED: 16:20 06 July 2020
Sonya Duncan/Courtesy of Lee Johnson
The boss of a struggling entertainment venue has welcomed news of government funding aimed at rescuing the endangered arts industry.
Lee Johnson, operations manager at Diss Corn Hall, said the £1.57bn support package meant the voices of those within the arts world has “finally been heard”.
Sunday’s announcement from culture secretary Oliver Dowden came after several weeks of pressure which saw the government accused of neglecting theatres, cinemas, galleries and concert venues.
Last week, Norwich’s Theatre Royal revealed it has been forced to cut 113 jobs in a desperate bid to secure its future.
A host of other entertainment venues across Norfolk and Waveney have lost tens of thousands of pounds, having been forced to close in March amid the coronavirus crisis.
Mr Johnson’s has been among the region’s most vocal proponents for urgent action, and admitted he was breathing a sigh of relief after the weekend’s announcement.
“We have been fighting for this for some time, so it’s absolutely fantastic news that the government has stepped up and our voices have finally been heard,” said Mr Johnson.
“The government has probably been put under pressure to do this, but I would like to think it has been in the pipeline for a while. But it’s better late then never.
“My only concern is that it needs to be ensured this money is distributed fairly and relatively evenly. If there are any conditions then we will be happy to meet them.”
Mr Dowden’s pledge to give the arts sector much-needed support came just a day after theatres in Norfolk and Suffolk unveiled a five-point plan to stop it from crumbling.
More than 30 of the region’s theatre bosses had backed a plan to be taken to government, which included a £60m investment and a bespoke package of employment support.
Mr Johnson has himself been writing to MPs and all South Norfolk Council members, but says he has only received responses from two councillors.
“I am still advocating the five-point plan,” added Mr Johnson. “This money needs to spent on safeguarding jobs and buildings, covering running costs, and given to smaller arts organisations.
“We are certainly not going to get this money and sit on it.”
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