Sheffield's theatres have been given a £675,000 emergency grant as culture groups wait for details of £1.57 billion government support package

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The operator of Sheffield's Crucible and Lyceum theatres has been given an urgent grant of more than £675,000 to stave off ‘financial disaster’ this summer – as the city’s arts, culture and heritage groups wait for further details of the Government’s £1.57 billion support package for their sector.

The lifeline for Sheffield Theatres comes from Arts Council England’s short-term emergency response fund, designed to help organisations that need rapid support to stay afloat until the end of September.

The shutdown of venues and museums because of the Covid-19 pandemic has left many places facing a potentially ruinous loss of income which is also being addressed by the Government’s rescue package, billed by ministers as the ‘biggest ever one-off investment in UK culture’.

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Dan Bates, Sheffield Theatres’ chief executive, said the Arts Council funding – totalling £675,569 – was a significant step.

Sheffield Theatres chief executive, Dan Bates. Picture: Chris Etchells.Sheffield Theatres chief executive, Dan Bates. Picture: Chris Etchells.
Sheffield Theatres chief executive, Dan Bates. Picture: Chris Etchells.

“This will make an immediate and important difference, and will take us some way towards meeting the challenges we face right now,” he said.

“We also welcome the announcement of a £1.57 billion package of support for the arts, culture and heritage sector from the Government. There is more detail to understand on this and we look forward to learning more about how this funding can help us to look to the future and return to creating bold and brilliant work for our stages when it is safe to do so.”

But he warned that his company was still in ‘uncertain times’.

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“Crucially, we don’t yet know when we will be able to perform in front of an audience. However, we remain resolute in our commitment to our city and our audiences. We will find our way through these challenges and we’re grateful to the Arts Council and the government for their help to do this. Our thanks also go to the thousands of customers who have donated over the last four months. We can’t wait to be back and to welcome everyone once again.”

Kim Streets, CEO of Museums Sheffield. Picture: Steve Ellis.Kim Streets, CEO of Museums Sheffield. Picture: Steve Ellis.
Kim Streets, CEO of Museums Sheffield. Picture: Steve Ellis.

Turan Ali, interim artistic director and CEO of Theatre Deli, which has a venue on Eyre Street in Sheffield, also welcomed the state funding – but cautioned that ‘it won't be able to save everyone’.

“There will be huge competition for the funds and priority will be given to save the ‘crown jewels’ in the cultural sector,” said Turan.

“Whether the likes of Theatre Deli will be successful in getting much needed funds to make up for many months of being closed we won't know for some months, but we will be applying.

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“One thing is for sure, this time next year there will be fewer arts organisations alive and kicking than there were before the pandemic, and we aim to make sure Theatre Deli is one of the survivors.

A night at The Leadmill in Sheffield.A night at The Leadmill in Sheffield.
A night at The Leadmill in Sheffield.

“As a venue for diverse and lesser heard voices, venues like ours are crucial to building understanding between communities, something we have all realised during this crisis is essential for a healthy society.”

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Sheffield’s renowned club The Leadmill was placed on an ‘at risk’ register weeks ago by the Music Venue Trust charity, which has been raising money to ensure places can survive and stage gigs again when restrictions are lifted. A phased return of the performing arts is expected to begin only with performances behind closed doors and rehearsals.

Ben Hartley, The Leadmill’s live promoter, said the club was ‘still waiting for clarification’ on the amount of funding venues and contractors could access from the £1.57 billion package.

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“At this point we don’t know the details and how the money will be distributed. We are cautiously optimistic and look forward to working with the Music Venue Trust, who are working closely with the Government to ensure all live music venues are able to open safely when the time is right.”

Kim Streets, chief executive of Museums Sheffield which runs the Graves Art Gallery, Weston Park Museum and the Millennium Gallery, said the Government package was ‘very much welcome’.

“At this time of national crisis and huge uncertainty, museums have shown that people need great art, heritage and culture now more than ever,” said Kim.

“This funding recognises both the scale of the financial challenge and the immense value of arts and culture as we step out on the road to recovery. As ever, the devil is in the detail and we’re looking forward to finding out more about the support on offer and how we can secure much needed investment in the city’s museum offer.”

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Dan Jarvis, mayor of the Sheffield City Region, said research showed arts and cultural organisations in South Yorkshire had missed out on nearly four million visitors and expected to lose £30 million between April and August.

“I’m pleased that the Government have listened to the pleas from many across the industry for support,” he said.

“Of course, the devil will be in the detail. We especially need to ensure that this funding reaches our smaller local and regional organisations as well as the bigger national ones. The loss of a theatre in a small town is felt more keenly than in London or other big cities. We need to make sure local arts projects, grass root venues and freelancers, who are the backbone of this industry, get the support they need to allow them to build back better and thrive in the future.

“Art, culture, music and heritage can serve as important contributors to recovery and renewal, contributing to healthy and sustainable communities, strong local identities, and vibrant town centres. I will continue fighting for this industry to ensure that the funding announced by the Government reaches all who need it most.”

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The culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, said this week that the £1.57 billion in grants and loans would protect most jobs in the culture sector, but not all. Nuffield Southampton Theatres has already gone into administration along with Southport Theatre, while the National Theatre has made all of its front-of-house staff redundant.

"Sadly, not everyone is going to be able to survive and not every job is going to be protected and sadly, I will have to be honest with you, of course we will see further redundancies,” the minister said.

Arts Council England has given more than £9 million to 53 of its National Portfolio Organisations in the North through its emergency fund. The Lowry complex in Salford received the biggest single grant, of £1.3 million.

Darren Henley, ACE’s chief executive, said: “This investment provides critical relief to valued cultural organisations that faced immediate financial disaster before September. We know that massive challenges remain in the autumn, and we'll use the rest of our available funds, alongside the Government funding just announced, to support our sector in the coming months.”

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