The money will be shared out between theatres, independent cinemas and other arts organisations to help them stay in business while coronavirus forces them to remain closed.
The rescue package, announced by chancellor Rishi Sunak, is expected to help world-famous cultural institutions such as the Royal Albert Hall, the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Mary Rose Trust.
It follows weeks of mounting pressure for the government to help the arts after warnings the industry would be brought to its knees without intervention.
Gavin & Stacey star Brydon – who appeared alongside Kenneth Branagh in The Painkiller on the West End and had previously called out the government’s slow response to the theatre crisis – reacted to the bailout on Twitter, writing: “Great news! Let’s hope this gets to the people and places that need it.”
Paddington actor Bonneville, who began his career at the Royal Shakespeare Company – wrote: “Thank you, Mr Sunak. And thanks to all who have advocated for the Arts’ multi-billion pound contribution the UK economy. However, as well as companies, buildings and ideals, tens of thousands of industry freelancers need help through uncertain times ahead. Let’s keep talking.”
Reactions from the rest of the arts industry were mixed. While many were grateful for the investment, others were unhappy with the way the British government had dragged its feet, and how much more some other countries had invested in their arts sectors.
Following the announcement, Boris Johnson said the UK’s cultural industry was the “beating heart of this country”.
He added: “This money will help safeguard the sector for future generations, ensuring arts groups and venues across the UK can stay afloat and support their staff whilst their doors remain closed and curtains remain down.”
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