● The Southbank Centre today announces it is at risk of closure until at least April 2021,
detailing crippling financial pressure as its reserves run dry as a result of the economic impact
● The venue today calls on the Government to support the cultural sector through a number of
● The announcement comes with initial findings of a new report into the arts charity’s social and
● Since announcing its closure on 17 March, the organisation has furloughed the majority of its
staff but is nevertheless facing a £5.1 million deficit in FY20/21.
The Southbank Centre today announces it is at risk of closure until at least April 2021, as a
result of the economic impact of COVID-19, disclosing details of crippling financial pressure
as its reserves run dry.
The charity states that it is forecasting a best case scenario of a £5m loss at the end of
2020/21 financial year. However, in arriving at this position, 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.
Despite being the UK’s largest arts and cultural organisation, the Southbank Centre confirms
that there will be hardly any artistic activity throughout 2020/21 as to present anything like a
normal range of events would have seen the losses rise to around £11m (after furlough
support and ACE grant), given the restrictions that social distancing impose on the ability to
realise workable ticket revenue.
Today’s announcement comes as the Southbank Centre releases the initial findings of a new
report by Hatch Regeneris, a leading, independent economics consultancy which illustrates
the cultural and economic value of the Southbank Centre to the cultural sector.
The Southbank Centre presents over 3,500 events a year – of which over 40% are free – and
welcomes enough visitors to fill Wembley Stadium 50 times over. At its heart is the Royal
Festival Hall – the iconic and only remaining building from the 1951 Festival of Britain, a
Festival designed to be “a tonic for the nation” following the country’s endurance of the
second world war.
As a key arts hub, the Centre works with international artists, gives a home to eight
orchestras and supports grassroots cultural activity. An extensive creative learning
programme reaches young people and families, the socially isolated, and those affected by
homelessness, dementia and addiction. All of this work is now under significant threat.
The Southbank Centre’s annual Arts Council England grant represents just 37% of its
income. While the arts charity has been extremely successful at replacing its declining public
funding with earned income from ticket sales, bars, restaurants and other commercial activity
that takes place across its site, this success now makes the Southbank Centre highly
vulnerable. The mandatory closure of the venues, bars and restaurants has led to the
immediate and catastrophic loss of 60% of its income.
With the likelihood of social-distancing measures remaining in place for many months to
come, the venues are unlikely to be able to re-open until April 2021, as to do so on restricted
capacities (30%) means the organisation would lose more money by opening than it would
The Southbank Centre now calls 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;
● Support those self-employed artists and musicians who do not qualify under the
current financial support schemes.
Alongside supporting over 7,000 FTE jobs in London’s cultural visitor economy, the
Southbank Centre is an important cultural tourism asset. Around 1 in 10 of all London’s
international visitors went to the Southbank Centre, along with 1 in 3 cultural tourists. The
report notes that four out of five tourists to London cite “culture” as the major reason for their
visit, and these visits support 80,000 jobs and £3.2 billion in Gross Value Added in the
capital. This is supported by the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA) who note
that the Centre is the UK’s fifth most visited attraction.
In addition, there is a growing body of evidence on wellbeing effects from engaging with the
arts: the report estimates that given its local reach, the Southbank Centre supports in excess
of £150 million in wellbeing value per annum for the UK.
Today’s announcement comes as the Southbank Centre makes preparations to cancel
events from September – November 2020. The organisation is also considering the option of
broadcasting concerts from behind closed-doors through Autumn 2020 and Spring 2021.
Elaine Bedell, Chief Executive, Southbank Centre, says:
“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
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.”