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Tuesday December 1st, 2020 1:19AM

COVID-hit UK arts groups welcome government cash infusion

By The Associated Press
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LONDON (AP) — The British government on Monday announced grants of 257 million pounds ($335 million) to help almost 1,400 arts and cultural organizations survive the coronavirus pandemic.

The money — the first chunk to be spent from a 1.57-billion-pound Culture Recovery Fund — was welcomed by arts organizations that have accused the government of neglecting them while supporting other businesses.

But just after the announcement, the government was forced to withdraw an advertisement that appeared to suggest ballet dancers should retrain for jobs in cybersecurity.

Recipients of the government funding include major organizations such as the London Symphony Orchestra, which received 846,000 pounds, and tiny venues such as London’s 50-seat Finborough Theatre, which got just under 60,000 pounds. Liverpool’s Cavern Club, where The Beatles shot to fame, received a grant of 525,000 pounds.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said in a statement that the money was “a vital boost for the theaters, music venues, museums and cultural organisations that form the soul of our nation.”

Julian Bird, chief executive of umbrella body U.K. Theatre, said the news was “warmly welcomed, and will help create work and retain jobs.”

Britain’s museums, galleries, theaters and music venues all closed when the country went into lockdown in March. Some have managed to reopen, with reduced capacity and at a financial loss, but coronavirus restrictions make most live performances impossible.

Thousands of arts workers also have not been supported by government job-retention programs because they are freelancers.

Many felt slighted when Treasury chief Rishi Sunak said the government would protect jobs that were “viable,” though Sunak denied he was suggesting jobs in the arts were unviable.

Some in the arts world expressed further outrage on Monday about a government-backed ad showing a young dancer lacing up her ballet pumps alongside the words “Fatima’s next job could be in cyber. (She just doesn’t know it yet).”

The government said the ad was part of a long-running campaign encouraging young people from a variety of backgrounds to consider careers in cybersecurity. But Dowden acknowledged it appeared “crass.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman, James Slack, said “this particular piece of content was not appropriate and has been removed from the campaign.”

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