Government’s Culture Recovery Fund Causes Controversy

On Monday 12th October, The Arts Council of England released their first round of grants from the Culture Recovery Fund.

1,385 cinemas, theatres, concert halls and museums have received funding of up to £1 million to support local artists and employees, with a total of 257 million being distributed across UK venues. More announcements regarding the Culture Recovery Fund are being expected over the coming weeks, as part of the £1.57 billion emergency support package announced by Cultural Secretary Oliver Dowden in July.

Read more: An Open Letter To Oliver Dowden

However, upon the release of the list of venues set to receive financial support, criticism began being launched at one of the venues being given essential aid. Secret Group, the company behind Secret Cinemas—an immersive cinema company based in central London—received £977,004 in funding, the ninth highest amount of money to be given to one venue.

Secret Cinemas is known for elaborate and engaging theatrical experiences to complement the film being watched: but these aren’t experiences available to everyone. The least expensive ticket price is £60, meaning it is unaffordable for many. Many have criticized this decision as other more accessible cinema venues, which offer tickets at a lower price, have received far less financial support.

Around 2000 venues had applied for the first round of grants, and over 500 had been turned away from receiving financial assistance. Meanwhile, a £3 million grant meant for independent cinemas (distributed by the BFI) has only reached 42 venues so far across the UK, with the money released totalling £650,000.

Critics also noted that one of the criteria for receiving the funding was that it had a viable business model. But Secret Cinemas, despite its high ticket prices, had reported pre-COVID losses in the millions, including a £2.4 million loss in 2019. Critics have said that this demonstrates that the fund is prioritizing more metropolitan and middle-class ventures over smaller venues that are more financially accommodating.

A full list of recipients from the first round of funding can be found on the Arts Councils Website.

Words by Mischa Alexander


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