The U.K. government has implemented further emergency funding to tide over arts, cultural and historical organizations impacted by the rising wave of COVID-19 infections caused by the new Omicron variant.
£1.5 million ($2 million) support has also been announced for creative freelancers alongside a further £1.35 million ($1.8 million) contribution from the theatre sector.
The emergency Culture Recovery Fund fund has been doubled from £30 million ($40 million) to £60 million ($80 million) in order to help institutions that have been forced to shut due to COVID-related staff absences or are struggling to stay afloat as citizens retreat indoors.
Dozens of theater shows including Andrew Lloyd Webber’s West End production of “Cinderella” and “Cabaret,” starring Eddie Redmayne, have been forced to shut over the past few weeks as casts and crew tested positive for the virus.
The fund will provide vital emergency grants to support independent cinemas, regional theatres, local museums and heritage sites,
The application window has been extended by a week – until Jan. 18 – to give more organizations a chance to apply.
Freelancers can apply to organizations such as the Theatre Artists Fund and Help Musicians, each of which has been given a grant of £650,000 ($870,000) to distribute over the next few weeks, or the Artists Information Company, which has been granted £200,000 ($268,000) to distribute.
Separately, on Thursday The Theatre Artists Fund revealed it has also raised £2 million ($2.7 million) in the past 48 hours to support freelancers impacted by the new wave. The fund was set up by director Sam Mendes and is administered by the Society of London Theatre‘s sister charity Theatre Development Trust who give grants to freelance professional theatre workers including actors, dancers and musicians as well as crew such as technicians, stage managers and even publicists.
While Boris Johnson has so far avoided issuing another lockdown directive, there are rumors one will be implemented between Christmas and New Year’s Eve as infections reach record numbers in the U.K. However many people, in a bid to ensure they don’t test jeopardize their Christmas by testing positive, have been voluntarily limiting contact as well as staying away from public spaces and events.
The timing of the new COVID-19 wave is particularly dire with many institutions such as cinemas, theaters and cultural events relying on Christmas footfall after a second extraordinarily difficult year.
“Our arts, culture and heritage sectors bring joy and enrichment to our day-to-day lives, and rarely more so than at Christmas,” said the U.K.’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak. “So we understand how devastating the uncertainty caused by Omicron has been. This new funding, alongside the new grants of up to £6,000 we announced earlier this week, will support the sector as we together face this difficult time. We’ve supported the cultural sector throughout the pandemic, and we’ll continue to do so.”
Culture secretary Nadine Dorries added: “From pantomimes to carol singing to festive film releases, Christmas is a very important time of year for so many of our brilliant arts and culture organisations who have now found themselves impacted by the Omicron variant. It is absolutely right that we support them through this challenging time which is why we’ve doubled the emergency funding available from the Culture Recovery Fund and allowed more time for organisations to come forward.”
Sir Nicholas Serota, chair of Arts Council England, said: “We are once again grateful to government for their support and investment which continues on an unprecedented scale to meet the challenges facing our arts and cultural organisations and creative freelancers. We will work closely with the government to deliver funding at pace and will continue to support freelancers and cultural organisations to explore all available funding to help navigate these difficult times.”