Museums in England begin second lockdown for at least four weeks 6 Nov 2020

As England enters a second period of lockdown that will last for at least four weeks, museums across the country closed on 5th November. Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced that the furlough scheme, which supports up to 80% of the wage of employees unable to work, will be extended to March, with the option for employers to rehire staff to put them back into the furlough scheme. MA Director Sharon Heal said “it’s a blow to museums to have to close just as they were getting back on their feet, and while it’s good to see furlough being extended, it’s cold comfort to the 3,000+ people in the sector who have lost their jobs in the last few weeks as the first scheme ended.” She called for the remainder of the Cultural Recovery Fund held by ACE to be spent in a ‘flexible way’ to allow organisations to spend into the next financial year, a position also supported by NMDC.

Prior to national lockdown,  Kim Streets, Chief Executive of Museums Sheffield spoke about some of the drivers that had kept museums in the city open when it was in Tier 3, with a footfall of 25 – 30%. . She pointed to the benefits to local business, adding “in our city centre Millennium Gallery site, some of our visitors are people who come in every day. They come in because there’s a friendly face to greet them and because they’re lonely”. Acknowledging that ‘safety must be a priority’ the Creative Industries Federation said that the new lockdown would be ‘devastating’ to much of the UK’s creative sector, and again drew attention in particular to the 2.9m people who are not eligible for furlough or the Self Employment Income Support Scheme, many of whom work in the creative industries. Across other UK nations:

  • Scottish museums are all in Tier 3 or 2 areas, and have not been required to close.
  • Museums in Wales have been closed since 23rd October for a ‘two week firebreak’ until 9th November.
  • Museums in Northern Ireland have been closed since mid-October on the instructions of the Northern Ireland executive.

In England, National Trust parks and gardens will remain open over the next month, as will the gardens of some museums such as the Horniman and some libraries will be offering a click and collect service for books, but overall culture will be through digital and remote means through  the second lockdown. Art Newspaper, Museums Journal (Wales), Museums Journal (Ireland), Museums Journal (new response to lockdown) ArtNet (Europe overview late October), M + H (Sheffield), Creative Industries Federation, BBC (furlough scheme extends to March), (overview of restrictions from 5th November), Museums Journal, DCMS (Oliver Dowden, twitter Q&A), National Trust