‘Artistic armageddon’ as funds run dry

Glastonburied: This year, many festivals could go bust. © Getty

Should government save the arts? Live events have been extinguished by the pandemic. Festivals, theatres, and museums are all struggling – but some would prefer that the money go elsewhere.

An “artistic armageddon”, wrote the Evening Standard’s Julian Glover. A “cultural catastrophe”, said the head of the Creative Industries Federation.

The coronavirus has wreaked havoc on the global economy. But few industries are as reliant on large crowds and enclosed spaces – factors that contribute to the spread of Covid-19 – as the arts.

The pandemic has led to the cancellation of countless events, including Glastonbury and the Edinburgh Fringe. Over 90% of independent festivals say they now face impossible costs and the prospect of imminent ruin.

According to a report in the Financial Times, yesterday, UK revenues across the creative sector are predicted to drop by 30% in 2020, with more than 400,000 jobs set to be lost.

Many historic venues, including Shakespeare’s Globe theatre, have turned to crowdfunding to stay afloat.

Just yesterday, 98 leading directors, actors, and producers called on the government to rescue the ailing theatre sector, where 70% of jobs are at risk. In a letter, they wrote the sector was “on the brink of ruin”.

Playwright James Graham, who rose from working in local theatres to writing the recent TV hit Quiz, argues that any government funds should be seen as an “investment” and not a “bail out”.

After all, the arts generate a huge amount of money for the economy, from tourists attending West End plays to teenagers attending festivals.

So, should government save the arts?

Gig economy

No, goes one argument. Culture that relies on government funding tends to produce niche work that goes ignored by most of the public.

Of course, goes the opposing argument. We learn from the arts; we heal through them. As the guardian of our society and civilisation, government has a huge responsibility to protect our culture.

You Decide

  1. Should people who do not go to theatres, galleries, and museums be paying tax to support them for others?


  1. Make a banner that you might take on a march calling for more government support for the arts.

Some People Say...

“There is no prejudice that the work of art does not finally overcome.”

Andre Gide (1869-1951), French author and Nobel prize-winner

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Twice as many people normally go to the theatre every year in the UK than go to Premier League football matches. Last year, the arts and culture sector contributed over £10 billion to the UK economy, overtaking agriculture. Across the Atlantic, the American Alliance of Museums warned that US museums alone were losing at least $33 million (£26m) each day during the pandemic.
What do we not know?
We do not know if theatre-goers and music fans will willingly return to venues after lockdown is lifted. We do not know how many people who have lost their jobs in the creative sector during the pandemic will return to similar work in the future. We do not know if public support for arts funding will be high when the country enters into a recession.

Word Watch

Wreaked havoc
To cause damage, disruption, or destruction. Wreak as a verb comes from the Old English for “to drive out” or “to avenge.”
Dependent on.
About to happen.
Asking for help from members of the public instead of going to an investor or selling something.
Unwell; sick; weak.
A point at which something, usually something unwelcome, is about to happen.
Bail out
When the government spends a large amount of money to rescue a failing company or sector. During the 2008 financial crash, the government bailed out many large banks.
West End
London’s theatre district. A key touristic and cultural destination.
Something that appeals to a small section of the population.

PDF Download

Please click on "Print view" at the top of the page to see a print friendly version of the article.