Southbank may be closed till April 2021
With its reserves running dry during the Covid-19 closure, the Southbank Centre may have to close until at least April 2021 and will cease to be a going concern before the end of the year if it doesn’t get emergency rescue funding.
There will be almost no artistic activity on the Southbank – which includes the Royal Festival Hall and the Hayward Gallery – through 2020 and 2021. Since closing on March 17 the centre has furloughed most of its staff and still faces a £5.1m deficit in the current financial year, and despite being the UK’s largest arts and cultural organisation its chief executive, Elaine Bedell, said the remainder of its Arts Council grant - worth 37% of its income - will have to be used to effectively mothball its building, and some staff will have to be made redundant without rescue funding.
“It is with an incredibly heavy heart that we today share further details about the future of the Southbank Centre” she said today. “We know we are not alone in this and stand with our friends, partners, and colleagues - both here in the UK and abroad - during this time of unprecedented challenge.
“With eight orchestras, the National Poetry Library, and Arts Council Collection all calling us home, and playing host to over 4.45 million visitors each year, we’re doing all we can to safeguard the Southbank Centre we currently know and love for the years ahead. However, this crisis has hit hard, and we join a number of other organisations and venues in sounding the alarm about the long-term health of UK arts and culture.”
To open sooner than next spring with 30% capacity due to social dcinsatcing would mean beginning with an operational loss, she said.
Her appeal follows similar pleas from the heads of the National Theatre, Royal Opera House and Royal Shakespeare Company, warning the government that there will be no performances across the country after lockdown is lifted unless there is help. “And if we lose our performance culture we lose it for good” said the RSC’s Greg Doran.
The Southbank Centre is calling on the government to institute specific rescue programme to
- Extend the furlough scheme for the cultural sector beyond October;
- Develop a large-scale intervention to support the recovering arts sector and its future;
- Support those self-employed artists and musicians who do not qualify under the current financial support schemes.
Today’s announcement coincides with the initial findings of a new report by the economics consultancy Hatch Regeneris on the cultural and economic value of the Southbank Centre to the cultural sector.
The Southbank Centre presents over 3,500 events a year - of which over 40% are free - and welcomes enough visitors to fill Wembley Stadium 50 times over. Alongside supporting over 7,000 full time jobs in London’s cultural visitor economy, the Southbank Centre is an important cultural tourism asset. Around 1 in 10 of all London’s international visitors go to the Southbank Centre, along with 1 in 3 cultural tourists. The report notes that 4 out of 5 tourists to London cite “culture” as the major reason for their visit, and these visits support 80,000 jobs and £3.2 billion in Gross Value Added in the capital. This is supported by the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions rates the Southbank the UK’s fifth most visited attraction.
Last week the government appointed the philanthropist and entrepreneur Neil Mendoza to head a task force looking into cultural recovery and renewal. https://www.artsindustry.co.uk/news/2057-dowden-appoints-culture-tsar-to-advise-on-recovery