In order to protect public health and save lives, our Government has asked that we follow stay at home advice as much as possible since late March. Aside from the huge sacrifices that have been made, ‘smaller’ things that we have missed out on include sports matches, eating at restaurants, gallery exhibitions, theatre performances and more.
A key casualty of lockdown is that until now, accessing leisure and cultural activities outside of our homes has not been safe. We’ve missed enjoying many activities, whether solo or with family or friends.
Arts and culture enrich and contribute so much to our lives, often without the recognition they deserve. For many of us they enhance and form a daily part of our lives - from music and TV to art, film and literature. I was particularly concerned to hear about the impact on jobs at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester. This news has highlighted the issues affecting the Manchester theatre and cultural offering, amongst many of our cultural bodies. I wrote to both Rishi Sunak the Chancellor and Oliver Dowden, Secretary of State for Culture, asking for support for the sector to be seriously considered. I am therefore so pleased that the Government is investing well over £1 billion to safeguard jobs and protect the industry. This funding and other Government grants will go far to protect much loved national and local institutions
And it isn’t just leisure and entertainment which enriches our lives. Trips out or eating at cafes and restaurants with family and friends – these are things we’re looking forward to being able to do again. So, to help our local businesses, this month the Chancellor announced that there will be 50% off meals eaten at restaurants and cafes next month, encouraging us to safely dine out and support our local restaurants and cafes. This is in addition to cutting VAT in the tourism and leisure sector to 5% giving a much needed boost to this important sector.
To protect health and save lives, it was right to lockdown and as we now begin to get back to some normality, whether it’s a first visit back to hairdressers or the gym, it’s the right time to get behind our local businesses and cultural institutions too.