Dowden forced to delete tweet claiming Cornish clifftop theatre got Covid cash

Historic Minack Theatre says it never received any support from the government

Chantal da Silva
Sunday 13 June 2021 15:29
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<p>Carrie Johnson at a performance of ‘Ocean World’ at the Minack Theatre, Porthcurno, on Saturday</p>

Carrie Johnson at a performance of ‘Ocean World’ at the Minack Theatre, Porthcurno, on Saturday

Culture secretary Oliver Dowden was forced to delete a tweet after appearing to falsely claim that a renowned theatre visited by US first lady Jill Biden and other partners of G7 leaders on Saturday received coronavirus support from the government.

Following the visit from G7 leaders’ partners, Mr Dowden tweeted that he was “delighted” to see Ms Biden visiting the “stunning Minack Theatre” in Cornwall, where G7 leaders have convened this week.

“This unique venue was one of more than 650 theatres helped through Covid with support from the £2bn Culture Recovery Fund, ensuring that it can entertain visitors for years to come,” the culture secretary claimed in screenshots of the now-deleted tweet.

Mr Dowden appeared to have gotten his facts wrong, however, with the clifftop theatre telling the culture secretary it was left to “fend for” itself during the pandemic.

“Sorry @OliverDowden but this is not true,” the Minack theatre’s Twitter account tweeted in response to the culture secretary’s post.

“We did not benefit from any CRF money as we were not eligible to apply,” the theatre said. “It turned out having a good level of cash reserves meant we had to fend for ourselves and utilise our own reserves.”

Mr Dowden appeared to delete his tweet overnight.

However, the culture secretary faced a wave of backlash over the incident, with social media users celebrating the Minack and lambasting Mr Dowden for claiming undue credit.

“Well done for surviving,” one social media user, Ed Abrahamson, wrote in a tweet to the Minack Theatre.

To the culture secretary, Abrahamson, whose account says he is the vice president of Cornwall Air Ambulance, said: “Shame on you @OliverDowden for claiming credit and political capital here.”

Other social media users, meanwhile, have called for an apology from the culture secretary.

It is unclear why Mr Dowden thought the theatre had been a beneficiary of the Culture Recovery Fund.

The £1.57bn fund was created in a bid to help support cultural organisations and heritage sites in the UK in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Independent has contacted Mr Dowden’s office for comment.

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