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Covid-19 Tiers: Performing Arts

Volume 685: debated on Thursday 10 December 2020

What assessment he has made of the effect of the tiered system of covid-19 restrictions on the performing arts. (910115)

Following the recent introduction of regional tiers, venues in tiers 1 and 2 are open to audiences, subject to social distancing and caps on capacity. Venues in tier 3 are adapting their performances to broadcast without audiences. The Government continue to work with the performing arts sector to assess the impact of the tiers and to develop proposals for how venues can open with fuller audiences when it is safe to do so.

The culture recovery fund, which the Minister mentioned earlier, has of course been welcomed by our award-winning Sheffield theatres, along with others across the sector. However, she knows that the performing arts depend on an army of freelancers. They make up some 70% of the theatre workforce alone, not only actors and performers, but more working in lighting, set design, stage management and other areas. She also knows that they have been shut out of the business support that she talked about earlier—more than 200,000 people, part of the 3 million excluded across all sectors—so will she recognise the problem for freelancers and press the Treasury to provide the support they need?

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to say that the culture recovery fund has been a lifeline for cultural and artistic institutions up and down our country. Sheffield Central has received over £7 million in funding in 2020-21. The whole thing about supporting freelancers is getting things up and running. For example, the Crucible theatre in Sheffield is in tier 3, but it is continuing to rehearse its panto with the aim of performing it live if restrictions are lifted in time, but whatever happens, it will record its work and stream it into hospitals, schools and, hopefully, to audiences. That is how we get our freelancers back to work—by continuing to produce the high-quality cultural content that audiences are so desperate for.