Culture minister invited to see Covid impact first-hand in Manchester

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The city council has sent a direct invitation to Culture Minister Caroline Dineage to come to Manchester and meet with culture leaders in the city to see for herself the scale of the problems still facing the sector, six months on from when they were forced to close their doors back in March.

With the doors still firmly closed on theatres and live venues, and with many of them in discussions with their staff on cutting jobs if they are unable to open any time soon, a meeting with the minister is seen as vital in demonstrating the support that is still needed.

At the same time, city leaders are keen to share with the minister the proactive work that’s already being done towards ensuring culture continues to be at the heart of Manchester, and that it plays a key role in rebuilding the city’s economy.  

Although the past few weeks have seen a number of galleries, museums, libraries and cultural venues in the city start to re-open in a Covid secure way – amongst them Manchester Art Gallery, Central Library, and HOME – there are concerns that many other venues are still not able to open.

The guidance and restrictions surrounding the re-opening of indoor performance spaces means that live performances in many venues currently remain un-viable, and re-opening plans have also been impacted by the additional local measures put in place across the region restricting who people can meet up with.  As a result venues big and small are facing ongoing financial pressures due to lack of commercial income, reduced capacity, and footfall. 

Whilst valuable progress in identifying a way forward for Manchester’s culture sector has been made behind the scenes with partners locally over the last six months – including the development of a culture recovery plan for the city – more support at national level is now needed to fully realise the scale, scope, and ambition of the job ahead.  

The invitation to the minister follows previous letters sent in July to the Secretary of State for Culture and Chancellor of the Exchequer asking for additional support for the culture sector in Manchester. 

No direct response was received to these letters and concerns are growing daily across the city about the consequences of the continued closure of its cultural venues.

Councillor Luthfur Rahman, Executive Member for Culture, Leisure, and Skills, Manchester City Council, said: “Other parts of the economy may be getting back in business, but nearly six months on from their forced closure our theatres and live entertainment venues are, in contrast, on their knees.

“Continued support for the sector is vital, not just today but also tomorrow.  We urge the culture minister to make the trip to Manchester and see for herself what’s happening across our city and behind the still closed doors of our venues. 

“We can’t wait one hundred years for the Sleeping Beauty that Manchester’s world-renowned theatre and arts scene has fast become since Covid kicked in, to magically wake up.

“This is far from just a fairy-tale about a world without culture, this is a real-life story about all the people behind the scenes and on the stages who make the magic happen and whose livelihoods depend on our venues.  

 “These same venues – once filled with wonder, excitement, and endless possibility – are now rapidly nearing their last gasp. 

“They need direct intervention and additional support right now to keep them breathing until they’re allowed to open up their doors to audiences again, as well as a proper plan put in place that tells them when they can do this, and under what terms.”

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