Union Chapel submission – DCMS Inquiry into the Impact of Covid-19 on DCMS sectors

Our response to the DCMS inquiry into the Impact of COVID-19 on DCMS sectors

On 17th June 2020, Union Chapel submitted evidence to the DCMS inquiry into the impact of COVID-19 on DCMS sectors. In the submission we outline our organisation’s experience as a venue, a charity and an organisation providing urgent support and services to the most vulnerable at this time. We outline how much we’ve had to change, in an attempt to weather the storm, but how, without greater support from the government and DCMS, we and many others in the arts and culture sector remain under threat.

The below was written prior to the government’s announcement of the Arts Rescue Package. This is very welcome news, though we await the detail of how this funding will be allocated.


  • Union Chapel will not survive as a venue beyond Spring 2021 if the current situation continues without further government intervention.
  • The country will lose a valuable and popular venue which adds significantly to the local and London economy.  Our audiences include people from across the country who travel to see well-known artists as well as international tourists.  The loss of the venue denies the public the opportunity for both popular and innovative artistic experiences.
  • Union Chapel is already supporting some of the most vulnerable in our community, work which has escalated during the crisis – and we have ambitious plans, to widen our reach, the diversity of our beneficiaries and further our work for our communities, supported by major funders.  These are at risk if the venue is forced to close.
  • Union Chapel has also piloted pioneering approaches to live streamed behind-closed-doors performances, which have generated revenue for artists, crews and the venue. This too is at risk if the venue is forced to close.
  • Consultations to date appear to put the onus on venues and other businesses to re-open to survive, before it is safe or feasible to do so. Union Chapel would be able to hold less than 10% of our normal audience socially distanced.
  • As recent reports from Music Venues Trust and Creative Industries Federation clearly highlights, without further government support, the impact across the arts and cultural sector, from large venues to grassroots arts organisations, artists, practitioners and freelancers, would be devastating.

Some of the Union Chapel’s urgent recommendations to the Government include the following:

  • The government needs to provide greater commitment and security to our sectors, either through an extended Job Retention Scheme for the sector; or other greater financial support. Otherwise, many more in culture and hospitality will face redundancy, more arts organisations large and small will be at higher risk of permanent closure, and the sector will be forced to lose experienced staff who help make our sector great.
  • More support needs to be provided to freelancers, such as artists, practitioners, technical professionals and others, as they are critical to the survival of our sector.
  • There also needs to be more flexibility to permit furloughed staff to volunteer for associated charities.
  • Venues and arts organisations need to be supported to re-open in a way and at a time that is safe and viable to do so, and not forced to do so prematurely.

Our full submission is available here: Union Chapel submission- DCMS Inquiry into Impact of COVID19