The money will be shared out between theatres, independent cinemas and other arts organisations to help them stay in business while coronavirus forces them to remain closed.
The rescue package, announced by chancellor Rishi Sunak, is expected to help world-famous cultural institutions such as the Royal Albert Hall, the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Mary Rose Trust.
It follows weeks of mounting pressure for the government to help the arts after warnings the industry would be brought to its knees without intervention.
Gavin & Stacey star Brydon – who appeared alongside Kenneth Branagh in The Painkiller on the West End and had previously called out the government’s slow response to the theatre crisis – reacted to the bailout on Twitter, writing: “Great news! Let’s hope this gets to the people and places that need it.”
Paddington actor Bonneville, who began his career at the Royal Shakespeare Company – wrote: “Thank you, Mr Sunak. And thanks to all who have advocated for the Arts’ multi-billion pound contribution the UK economy. However, as well as companies, buildings and ideals, tens of thousands of industry freelancers need help through uncertain times ahead. Let’s keep talking.”
Reactions from the rest of the arts industry were mixed. While many were grateful for the investment, others were unhappy with the way the British government had dragged its feet, and how much more some other countries had invested in their arts sectors.
Thank you so much, to you and @OliverDowden – this is a brilliant and wonderful thing.— Jack Thorne (@jackthorne)July 5, 2020
France have given €7b. Your move.— Emma Kennedy (@EmmaKennedy)July 5, 2020
There was an urgent need for action and I am delighted and relieved Government have listened and responded. This package gives our sector a fighting chance of survival. Looking forward to seeing further details and to bringing our artists and audiences back to safe performances— Tamara Rojo (@TamaraRojo1)July 5, 2020
Great to see the Government support the arts, but what we really need is for the UK’s theatres to open safely as soon as practically possible. – ALW— Andrew Lloyd Webber (@OfficialALW)July 6, 2020
Good news. Won’t solve everything but it’s a very positive development https://t.co/hhD03XjWaZ— Armando Iannucci (@Aiannucci)July 5, 2020
Better late than never and incredibly welcome. Just a thought @RishiSunak – the UK arts sector is a vibrant, exciting, spectacle.... maybe an image that represents it rather than your face? the fight to save the sector is only just starting #imnotbitteryouare #SaveTheArtsUK https://t.co/tDr17rxbe4— Jane Brown (@JaneMuseums)July 6, 2020
Following the announcement, Boris Johnson said the UK’s cultural industry was the “beating heart of this country”.
He added: “This money will help safeguard the sector for future generations, ensuring arts groups and venues across the UK can stay afloat and support their staff whilst their doors remain closed and curtains remain down.”