Dowden says ‘Business as usual’, but box office begins to hurt

Culture secretary Oliver Dowden has ruled out closing museums and galleries because of the Covid-19 coronavirus crisis, for now.

It would be “premature” he said, following an emergency Cobra meeting chaired by the Prime Minister today, adding that the government is following the advice of health officials and, while the situation is kept under review, there is currently “no need” to cancel big events or for people to avoid public places 

Main image shows Wilhelmina Barns-Graham’s gouache Glacier Snout Pink of 1978 from the West of England Academy’s exhibition 

But already the West of England Academy in Bristol has decided to cancel the private view this Friday of its exhibition Wilhelmina Barns-Graham and the Artists of St Ives, though the exhibition itself is expected it open as planned, and the London Book Fair, due to run tomorrow and Wednesday, has been cancelled.

Meanwhile, theatres, galleries, arts centres, festivals and concert halls are drawing up contingency plans against the outbreak of the disease being declared an epidemic.

SOLT, the Society of London Theatre, said: “Official advice states that there is currently no clear rationale to cancel events or postpone most international travel, and the government encourages business as usual”. But box office is beginning to feel the effects of cancellation, said Catherine Mallyon, executive director of the RSC. “All of our performances and activities will go ahead as planned and any changes to this situation will be communicated through our website” she said. “We are experiencing a small drop in visitor numbers and in income– primarily a result of cancellations from overseas travellers– as well as [from] some international education workshops.”

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