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UK creative industries face 'a cultural catastrophe'—but museums may not be hit as hard

New report by Oxford Economics predicts that the culture sector will lose 30% of its revenue due to Covid-19

Museums in the UK are predicted to lose 9% of their revenue due to Covid-19 © Lucrezia Carnelo

A report by the Creative Industries Federation argues that the coronavirus crisis will mean that the sector is set to lose £74bn in revenue; a 30% drop over last year. This would mean a loss of 406,000 jobs in the calendar year 2020.

The federation describes the situation “a cultural catastrophe”. It commissioned the report on “The Projected Economic Impact of Covid-19 on the UK Creative Industries” from Oxford Economics, a commercial venture with the university’s business college. Their research suggests that the creative industries will suffer twice as badly as those of the wider economy.

But the big surprise is the report’s suggestion that museums will escape relatively lightly, losing just 9% of their revenue. This is a much lower proportion than any other sector of the creative industries.

Although a fairly small proportion of their museums’ revenue, this would still represent a loss of £743m. Five per cent of employment in museums, public galleries and libraries could go, eliminating 4,000 jobs, overwhelmingly the self-employed. Astonishingly, Oxford Economics suggests that there will be no reduction in employed staff between March and December this year. And if museums are able to reopen in July, then the £743m loss could be “mitigated”.

These figures present quite a different view from those within the museum sector, who have predicted that the coronavirus closures will have a devastating impact.

The report also gives data for “music, performing and visual arts”, and here the situation is dramatically worse. This sector is likely to face a loss of £11bn in revenue, a fall of 54%. This would involve a loss of 178,000 jobs.

Music and theatre are particularly vulnerable, because of the difficulties of social distancing. No breakdown for the visual arts is available, but they are likely to suffer less. The visual arts element includes the art trade (dealers and auction houses), as well as artists and associated services.

Other sectors face very serious falls in revenue: 58% for design and designer fashion, 57% for film, TV, video, radio and photography, 53% for craft, 44% for advertising and market research, 40% for publishing and 24% for architecture.

Caroline Norbury, the chief executive officer of the Creative Industries Federation, says its report shows that “we urgently need a Cultural Renewal Fund for those in the creative sector who will be hit hardest”.