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southbank centre empty during London’s lockdown
Photograph: Sandor Szmutko / Shutterstock

The Southbank Centre warns it could remain closed until April 2021

The cultural institution by the Thames says that without funding its future is at stake

Written by
Laura Richards

The UK’s largest venue for the arts, the Southbank Centre, has warned that its future is as insecure as other arts venues across the UK. Yesterday (Monday May 25), the cultural institution issued a statement detailing the likelihood of its closure until April 2021 and the general threat to its existence posed by the crisis.    

A prediction put forward as a best-case scenario is that by the end of the year, the Southbank Centre will have made a loss of £5 million – despite using all of its reserves, the remainder of its Arts Council funding and financial support from the government’s furlough scheme. However, it warned of redundancies and its permanent closure as the worst-case scenarios.

Social distancing is a big concern for the brutalist venue, too, with the Southbank Centre saying it would lose more money than it would generate by opening at 30 percent of its capacity. It is now calling on the government to support the arts during the crisis to avoid UK venue closures and to help them plan for the future. 

‘This crisis has hit hard, and we join a number of other organisations and venues in sounding the alarm about the long-term health of UK arts and culture,’ said Elaine Bedell, chief executive of the Southbank Centre. 

The institution is also calling on the government for an extension of the UK furlough scheme for the arts sector and for support for self-employed artists and musicians who don’t qualify for the scheme. 

The Southbank Centre, comprising the Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Purcell Room and Hayward Gallery, and home to the London Philharmonic Orchestra, puts on more than 3,500 events a year but has been closed since March 17. It was founded as part of the Festival of Britain in 1951, an event following the Second World War pitched as a ‘tonic for the nation’.

‘Just as the South Bank was a focal point of social and economic recovery then, we hope that we’ll emerge from this crisis to a brighter future, throwing our doors wide open once more,’ said Bedell.   

According to statement, the arts charity typically receives 60 percent of its funding from ticket sales and revenue at its venues, bars and restaurants. 

In terms of its immediate future, the Southbank Centre said it was currently preparing to cancel its programme of events from September to November, and is considering live broadcasts for its concerts scheduled in autumn 2020 and spring 2021.

Read about how Shakespeare’s Globe is now facing a struggle for survival

When will music venues reopen in London

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