The Southbank Centre has announced it is at risk of closure until at least April 2021, as a result of the economic impact of Covid-19.
The venue disclosed details of crippling financial pressure as its reserves run dry. The Southbank Centre had been due to stage its Meltdown festival curated by Grace Jones next month.
The charity states that it is forecasting a best-case scenario of a £5 million loss at the end of 2020/21 financial year. The organisation will have used up all its reserves and be in deficit, will have needed £4m support from the government furlough scheme and will have used the remainder of its annual grant from Arts Council England to effectively mothball the buildings.
There will be a need to make some staff redundant and the organisation will cease to be a going concern before the end of the year if further urgent support is not secured.
The Southbank Centre confirms that there will be hardly any artistic activity throughout 2020/21, as a normal range of events would have seen the losses rise to around £11m, given the restrictions that social distancing impose on the ability to realise workable ticket revenue.
The Southbank Centre has called on the government to extend the furlough scheme beyond October for the cultural sector; develop a large scale intervention to support the arts sector as it navigates this crisis and which helps it survive and plan for the future; and support those self-employed artists and musicians who do not qualify under the current financial support schemes.
Elaine Bedell, chief executive, Southbank Centre, said: “It is with an incredibly heavy heart that we today share further details about the future of the Southbank Centre. We know we are not alone in this and stand with our friends, partners, and colleagues - both here in the UK and abroad - during this time of unprecedented challenge.
“With eight orchestras, the National Poetry Library, and Arts Council Collection all calling us home, and playing host to over 4.45 million visitors each year, we’re doing all we can to safeguard the Southbank Centre we currently know and love for the years ahead. However, 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.
“The Southbank Centre’s own history is traced directly to the 1951 Festival of Britain. Here, the post-war government recognised how vital arts and culture were to the health and well-being of a traumatised 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 an even brighter future, throwing our doors wide open once more.”
The Southbank Centre normally presents over 3,500 events a year, of which over 40% are free.