Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre has questioned Labour leader’s Keir Starmer on how they will be supported following Covid-19.
During a question and answer session hosted by Tileyard London, Belgrade Theatre’s artistic director Hamish Glen quizzed officials on how their community work can be supported by the government.
It comes as funds can’t yet be generated for the company through the sale of live show tickets, with a number of performances postponed until next year.
Despite rescue packages for the arts being announced by the government, no application criteria has been released, and payouts are unlikely to be seen before autumn.
Hamish outlined some of the community work the theatre contributes to, including:
Supporting teenagers’ mental health and wellbeing through two separate online programmes
Providing a creative platform for migrant women in collaboration with Coventry Refugee and Migrant Centre
Developing a digital version of our Theatre in Education programme, to help support parents and educators
Nurturing local talent through the writers’ room for our groundbreaking digital TV series, SeaView
Working with the local Roma community on events designed to challenge negative stereotypes
Working with local Black artists to spearhead a national movement to change the language around diversity
He asked the labour leader: “These are just a few examples of our wide-ranging community, education and diversity work. How will this work be supported to continue as the theatre remains unable to host shows and generate the income we need?”
Keir Starmer – who was in the city earlier this week – praised the theatre for their outreach work.
He said: “Can I begin by thanking you for everything you are doing for the communities of Coventry.
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“I was really struck as people talked through the challenges posed by Covid-19 how the different communities of Coventry were pulling together. There was a real sense of a ‘family’ of communities: different communities, diverse communities pulling together to help each other out. And therefore all the work you’re doing is vitally important to get people through this period.”
The labour leader agreed that the rescue packages for the arts industry was belated.
He added: “It’s true that the Government did put some money behind arts and culture a few weeks ago – and that’s a good thing. The problem, the limitation of it, is firstly that I think it came a bit too late.
“We have to get through these weeks and months to ensure that we have a creative sector in the way that we want coming out of Covid-19. And one of the arguments we’ve been making to the government is that it’s all very well supporting our business sector and organisations and self-employed people – but winding down that support in one go in October of this year is not going to work.
“And for the creative sector it’s obvious that people will not be able to perform in September and October in the usual way – it’s going to take longer. And therefore what we’ve said is to provide sector-specific packages for the creative sector.
“We cannot lose what we’ve got. We’ve got to preserve it and see that it’s central to everything we’re doing.”