Southbank’s plea for help with £21m debt

The Southbank Centre, which has said it may have to cut 400 jobs, has appealed to the government for help with a “crippling” £21m debt exacerbated by the Covid-19 lockdown.

The Southbank, one of the largest arts centres in the world with the Royal Festival Hall at its heart, has told the Commons culture select committee that its future is under threat because of the lockdown, and it  has been unable to address debts incurred through loans for essential maintenance and refurbishment.

"Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic” the centre has told the committee “this debt was already a significant but manageable burden with servicing costs of around £2 million per annum 

“Now it is crippling as we have little or no income; and all forecasts indicate that it will be a number of years before we can hope to replicate the commercial income that we had built up pre Covid-19."

Uniquely, as well as funding its artistic activity the Southbank is required to maintain and manage its 11-acre site, the source of the longstanding debt, when it is unable to generate the vital commercial income needed to support the debt.

Last week the select committee accused the government of failing to  understand the  urgency of the situation for performance venues such as the Southbank Centre.


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