Southbank Centre support call

No financial support for the Covid-19 hit Southbank Centre would be ‘a national disgrace'

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The prospect of London’s Southbank Centre – the UK’s largest arts complex – not receiving a generous slice of the government’s £1.57 billion rescue package for the arts would be ‘a national disgrace’, the Unite and PCS unions said today (July 17).

The unions understand that the Southbank Centre is not in line for financial support from the bail-out which was unveiled by culture secretary Oliver Dowden earlier this month.

The unions are asking serious questions why cash support is not forthcoming, as the Southbank management announced this week that 365 employees, such as lighting technicians and front of house staff, could be made redundant out of a total workforce of 577.

The complex includes the Hayward Gallery; the Royal Festive Hall, the home to eight orchestras; the Queen Elizabeth Hall; the National Poetry Library; and the Arts Council Collection.

Unite regional officer Rose Keeping said, “The Southbank Centre is the UK largest arts complex and a jewel in the crown of London’s cultural scene – the prospect of it not receiving any financial support from the government’s £1.57 billion rescue package for the arts would be a national disgrace.

“Although some redundancies were not unexpected, we are appalled at the huge numbers at the Southbank Centre who may lose their jobs,” she noted.

“The trade unions are fully committed to exploring all options to reduce redundancies and secure jobs, so we can have a thriving post-pandemic cultural world for all to enjoy, whether they are Londoners, from elsewhere in the UK or from overseas.”

Steven Warwick, PCS Culture Group Secretary added, “The Southbank Centre is so important for working class access to the arts. Over 40 per cent of the artistic programme is free to attend and the Southbank Centre supports a further 7,000 jobs in the arts in London.

“It is a monument to the role of culture in the recovery after the devastation of WW2 through the Festival of Britain in 1951, it is the ‘People’s Palace’ and it must now lead the recovery of our national culture after Covid-19.“We will work closely with Unite to fight to save the jobs of those hundreds of staff, who have made the Southbank Centre one of the jewels in the crown of UK culture.”

By Shaun Noble

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