Statement from our Chief Executive
Today, we received a £10.9m loan from the Cultural Recovery Fund
It’s a lot of money. And it’s taxpayers’ money, so we must make sure we return real value - to all the communities we serve around the UK through our creative learning and touring programmes, as well as to the millions of people who attend our 3,000+ cultural and artistic events a year here on the Southbank. We must continue to fundraise alongside the loan. More importantly, every penny of it - plus interest - must be paid back.
I’m incredibly grateful to the Culture Recovery Board for their vote of confidence in our Business Recovery Plan. The process has been forensic: our plan has been through an independent external business review and detailed discussions with our Board. We had to take into account the debt we already have - following years of essential work to our national heritage site - as well as model what the prospects are for the gradual recovery of both our artistic and commercial income and we’ve had to consider how we can adapt.
We suffered catastrophic losses this year (£25m) due to Covid and as a result had to take tough decisions, sadly losing over 50% of our staff. This loan helps us to stabilise our finances, replenish our depleted reserves and reopen all our venues safely in the Spring of 2021, confident that we can rebuild an ambitious artistic programme - and as we recover, I very much hope that we’ll be able to welcome back some of the valued colleagues we so painfully had to let go last summer.
Hundreds of thousands of people depend on the Southbank Centre for their creative livelihoods, including freelance performers and artists. We’re home to eight world-class orchestras and to the National Poetry Library. Our live events programme, futuretense, gives young musicians a platform and we house many community ensembles, like the fantastic Tomorrow's Warriors. Our Hayward Gallery touring programmes support 126 arts galleries around the UK. If we’re not presenting work, then we’re not helping all these brilliant creatives to work.
With this loan, we’ll be able to develop and extend the reach of our learning programmes - including for example our Art Explorers programme, which has introduced hundreds of schoolchildren to the arts for the first time - and our Art By Post programme, which offers creative access for the 22% of the population who cannot travel and don’t have access to a computer, many of them shielding or in care homes across the UK.
Our 11-acre site is currently lit up with a spectacular (free) Winter Light show, with amazing work from artists around the world and we were able to stream or broadcast over 40 concerts and literature events this autumn - but it’s not the same as filling our venues every day with visitors and audiences for that unmissable, live, collective, experience.
Covid put paid to that - and it’s had a devastating effect on our community. The generosity of the Government and the British taxpayer allows us to reopen, but the impact of Covid will be with us for some time to come, as we wait for audiences to return and to rebuild our commercial income. But with this loan we can now face our future with real creative optimism. And we can’t wait to welcome you back.