Southbank Centre warns it may have to stay closed until next spring because of Covid-19

25 May 2020, 10:00

The Southbank Centre has warned it is likely to have to close until next spring
The Southbank Centre has warned it is likely to have to close until next spring. Picture: PA

By Asher McShane

London’s Southbank Centre is facing the risk of having to stay closed until April next year because of the impact of the coronavirus lockdown.

The central London arts hub is set to run out of cash by September 2020, forcing closure until next April - with bosses saying it is facing “crippling financial pressure” as reserves run dry because of Covid-19.

The Southbank Centre said it is now facing a “best case scenario” of a £5.1m deficit in the 2020/21 financial year after closing its doors on March 17.

The centre said it has no choice but to make some staff redundant and that the charity organisation will cease to be a going concern before the end of the year if further support is not secured.

Organisers of the UK’s largest arts and cultural organisation said they will hardly be able to run any activity in 2020/21, saying it would increase their losses to around £11m after furlough support and a grant from Arts Council England because social distancing means they will not be able to raise enough money from ticket sales.

Bosses at the Southbank Centre have today called on No10 to extend the furlough scheme beyond October for the cultural sector, develop a large scale intervention to support the arts, and offer support to self-employed artists and musicians who do not qualify under current support schemes.

The centre is preparing to cancel events from September to November 2020 and is considered broadcasting concerts from behind closed doors from Autumn 2020 to Spring 2021.

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Elaine Bedell, Chief Executive of the 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.”