Northampton's culture industry welcomes emergency £1.57bn government fund but concerns remain

'I'm definitely feeling optimistic and slept a lot better than I might have done'
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Northampton's culture industry has welcomed the government's £1.57 billion fund to protect venues and attractions from the impact of coronavirus.

But arts leaders called for more details on when the money will be available and how to apply as well as clarity on when some venues can reopen following the lockdown.

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Royal and Derngate chief executive Jo Gordon told the Chronicle & Echo: "I'm definitely feeling optimistic and slept a lot better than I might have done.

Royal & Derngate chief executive Jo GordonRoyal & Derngate chief executive Jo Gordon
Royal & Derngate chief executive Jo Gordon

"It's fantastic news and thanks goes to the people who have lobbied hard to make the argument for it so it's really positive.

"We're waiting for the details but it's seems like a really significant number but we need to understand the detail like how it's going to be distributed and to whom, nationally and regionally."

Theatres, heritage sites, museums, galleries, live music and independent cinemas will be able to access emergency grants and loans, according to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

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The money is designed to help venues stay afloat while their doors are closed as well as restart projects to support jobs, including freelancers.

The Old Savoy is the new home of The Deco theatreThe Old Savoy is the new home of The Deco theatre
The Old Savoy is the new home of The Deco theatre

The announcement yesterday (Sunday, July 5) came after significant pressure from the industry for government intervention with many venues warning they would close and jobs would be lost without help, including from Ms Gordon.

"It's brilliant for Northampton and the cultural quarter because many of us will be able to access support to get a portion of the fund," she said.

"But we're still going to push for those 'not before dates' - the last thing we want to is to open before it's safe but as things open around us, we want to plan for when it's appropriate for us to do too."

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The fund includes £1.15 billion for cultural organisations in England delivered through £270 million of repayable loans and £880 million in grants.

78 Derngate in Northampton78 Derngate in Northampton
78 Derngate in Northampton

Grant decisions will be made by industry bodies such as Arts Council England, Historic England, National Lottery Heritage Fund and the British Film Institute.

The manager at The Deco Theatre in Abington Square, Jill Roach, said: "I'm not sure at the moment how it will help us as I don't know what the details to it are and how we would access it but any money is good news.

"But we'd have to get our heads around it as it's a whole new ball game for us as we've never applied for a grant before."

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Museums and historic sites will also be able to apply for a grant and Les Patterson, the secretary at 78 Derngate in Northampton, also hailed the government support.

Visitor numbers have been low at the only house in England designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh since opening to the public on Saturday after nearly four months of lockdown.

"I know as much as anyone else does but it sounds like a lot of money but I don't know how to apply or the criteria yet any money is very welcome," he said.

"We need an interim grant until there's more movement around the county as a whole and we get more visitors as there aren't very many at the minute."

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Northampton Borough Council also welcomed the announcement from the government as it looks after Northampton Museum & Art Gallery as well as other heritage sites around the town.

This is fantastic news for the arts and of course we would wish to ensure all venues which could potentially benefit do so," a council spokesman said.

“We have yet to receive the background detail for this fund from government but will, of course, be taking a close look at that when it arrives.”