Esquires and Quarry Theatre welcome emergency Government grants for the arts

Quarry Theatre
Behind the scenes at the Quarry Theatre. Image: The Quarry Theatre

Bedford’s cultural venues – including Esquires and the Quarry Theatre – have welcomed the news that the Government has earmarked £1.57 billion to protect Britain’s world-class cultural, arts and heritage institutions during the coronavirus pandemic.

After a high profile campaign by the Music Venue Trust and calls for support from world-renowned venues including the National Theatre and Royal Albert Hall, the Treasury has pledged a rescue package to help thousands of organisations across the UK.

This includes £880m grants for the arts.

In a statement to the press, the Government said, “The money, which represents the biggest ever one-off investment in UK culture, will provide a lifeline to vital cultural and heritage organisations across the country hit hard by the pandemic.

“It will help them stay afloat while their doors are closed. Funding to restart paused projects will also help support employment, including freelancers working in these sectors.”

For Esquires, Bedford’s nationally-recognised live music venue, the uncertainty over when they can reopen has been felt by the owners and their legion of live music fans.

“I am delighted with the news that the Government will be supporting the arts, including grassroots venues” said Esquires’ owner, Gareth Barber.

“The whole sector has breathed a huge sigh of relief and hopefully a burden has been taken off its shoulders. I just want to thank everyone who has supported us over theses last few months; it’s not been easy but it’s helped push this decision through.

“We will continue conversations with the Music Venue Trust and hope we can share some good news very soon.”

Tom Grennan playing to a sold out Esquires (photo credit: Neil McCarty)

In a statement on their website, the Music Venue Trust said, “Music Venue Trust warmly welcomes this unprecedented intervention into Britain’s world class live music scene.

“We’d like to thank the Secretary of State and the team at DCMS for the opportunity to work closely together throughout this crisis to develop genuine solutions to the challenges faced by grassroots music venues.

“This fund provides the opportunity to stabilise and protect our vibrant and vital network of venues and gives us the time we need to create a plan to Reopen Every Venue Safely.

“On behalf of every grassroots music venue in the UK we would like to take this opportunity to thank every music fan, every artist, every activist, and every one of you, our people, who got this done. ‘Without people, you’re nothing’ – Joe Strummer.

“We have you, and that’s everything. Thank you.”

James Pharaoh, director of Bedford’s Quarry Theatre, said, “Although some details are yet to be made clear, this rescue package for the arts, culture and heritage sector is with welcomed with open arms.

“As many people will know, the Quarry Theatre is part of Bedford School and of course will be open when the school returns after the summer holidays.

“However, much of our programme is dependent on professional touring theatre, musicians, comedians, NT Live broadcasts etc to which this package is essential to their survival.”

Elaine Midgley, director of Bedford Creative Arts, said, “This is brilliant and very welcome news for the sector.

“We will certainly be in need of further funding to secure our medium to long term future.  What we now need to ensure is that it’s distributed in the right way to make a solid and lasting impact to both established venues and small community focused organisations like ourselves.

“We also need to ensure that the funding filters down from the established institutions to the many creative individuals and freelancers whose skills we need to drive the sector’s success and whose livelihoods depend on such support.”

Alex Levene, Associate Producer at the Place Theatre added a note of caution, saying, “Whilst this announcement will hopefully be a chance for some celebration in venues and orgs around the country, we also need to acknowledge that more is needed to help support freelancer, self-employed and casual staff and creatives, who will continue to struggle until cultural life across the country can reopen.

“It seems the government is looking to make venues and organisations responsible for supporting those who are left outside, and as a sector we must do everything in our power to ensure this money makes it through to those most in need.

“Buildings without creative work are just shells waiting for life to grow in and around them.”