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Belgrade Leadership Respond To Government Arts Support Package

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Belgrade Leadership Respond To Government Arts Support Package

Following the news of the government's £1.57 billion support package for the arts, the Belgrade Theatre joined venues across the UK on Monday night by lighting up in red in a show of hope and solidarity with everyone who is missing live theatre.

Launched by Clearsound Productions and Backstage Theatre Jobs, the "Light it in Red" campaign encouraged theatres, concert halls and other arts venues to light up together to raise awareness of the crisis the live performance sector is currently facing. The theatre industry has been amongst the hardest hit by the pandemic, with artists, freelancers, venue staff, associated companies and community groups all affected by venue closures.

Many UK theatres have already found themselves on the brink of financial collapse, with Nuffield Southampton Theatres going into administration in May, and several others forced to consider mass redundancies. Some predictions suggested that without urgent assistance, around 70% of Britain's theatres would not survive until the end of the year.

The government's commitment to a bailout for the arts has come as a huge relief for theatres, helping to address the massive uncertainty they have been facing. The news was warmly received by the Belgrade Theatre, which is due to play a central role in Coventry's City of Culture year from 2021-22. Staff are now eagerly awaiting news of how the funding will be distributed, and are keen to ensure the benefits are felt as widely as possible.

The Belgrade's creative leadership team - consisting of Artistic Director Hamish Glen and 2021 Co-Artistic Directors Corey Campbell, Justine Themen and Balisha Karra - said that the funding needed to do more than simply support venues.

"The theatre industry has a complex and intricate ecology, and the success of theatre venues like ours relies on the health of the arts sector as a whole. It is vital that the promised funding not only supports venues like the Belgrade, but also extends far and wide to cover freelancers, grassroots organisations and independent companies across the country - many of whom have been left with no support at all since March. It is especially important that struggling artists, companies and community venues outside London are not forgotten."

Executive Director Joanna Reid agreed, emphasising the importance of making sure the funding is evenly distributed across the country, because the Arts play such a vital role in supporting the economic and social health of the regions.

"As 2021 rapidly approaches, it's more important than ever that we are well supported to continue entertaining and inspiring our communities. Where the Belgrade is now is the result of years of cumulative work and investment, which has recently included significant amounts of funding, time and preparation for the planning of our City of Culture programme. In light of this, we feel it's vital that we're able to deliver on our promises to the people of Coventry and beyond.

"The City of Culture programme itself is part of wider government efforts in recent years to drive urgently needed investment into cities outside London, going hand-in-hand with the redistribution of Arts Council funding. We know that a well-funded, thriving local arts scene comes with huge social and economic benefits, from supporting young people and marginalised communities, to generating income for nearby restaurants, pubs, hotels, car parks, public transport services and more."

Senior Producer Sâmir Bhamra said: "The arts are more than just the glitzy, sparkling shows that the West End is associated with. The Belgrade undertakes a wide range of outreach work with communities in Coventry to make sure the arts are accessible to everyone. For example, as a Theatre of Sanctuary, we work with new migrant communities who have made the UK their home. We are also continuing to work with with well-established communities in the city, from the South Asian women who take part in regular workshops with Balisha Karra, to a new partnership our Embedded Community Producer, Krysztina Winkel, has been forging with Roma people in the city."

Nevertheless, the theatre acknowledges that there is more work to be done, and it hopes that the government's pledge of support will provide it with the boost it needs not only to survive, but to improve, channelling its energies into offering support where it is needed most.

The creative leadership team continued: "We would like to thank everyone who has advocated for us and championed our work in recent weeks and we hope that this investment will enable us to fulfil our ambition of aiding the UK's financial and social recovery from the crisis.

"The real work now begins: this bailout can't be an excuse to resume business as usual when we reopen. The pandemic and other recent world news stories have brought existing inequalities into sharp relief, both in the arts and elsewhere, and we must act on the lessons it has taught us. We promise to work tirelessly now to ensure that we emerge from the lockdown better than we went into it, ready to deliver a bold, diverse and groundbreaking programme for Coventry's City of Culture year in 2021-22."

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