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John Barrowman ‘sick and tired’ of focus on sport as he slams support for arts

John Barrowman said many people in the industry are struggling (David Parry/PA)
John Barrowman said many people in the industry are struggling (David Parry/PA)

John Barrowman has said he is “sick and tired” of hearing ministers discuss crowds returning to sports stadiums when actors remain unable to work.

Barrowman, who has appeared in a number of West End shows, criticised the Government over its package of support for theatres and said the sector faces a “double-edged sword” when it starts up again.

The Torchwood star, 54, appeared on Good Morning Britain shortly after Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden to discuss an upcoming ITV show, but he quickly turned his attention to the minister’s comments about the Government’s economic support for the arts.

The Government previously announced a £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund to save institutions in peril as a result of the global pandemic, plus additional support during the Budget this year.

Asked whether he is worried about talent leaving the industry, Barrowman said: “It’s gone. There are so many people who haven’t been able to afford, they have left the industry. I know friends of mine who have lost their homes.

“They have had to make decisions about whether they are going to put food on the table for their families or whether they are going to pay a mortgage, because they haven’t been able to get furloughed.

“The money has not been there because of some loophole that the Government says, ‘You can’t do this now, you don’t deserve this money’. That’s absolutely rubbish. Everybody should be helped, everybody pays their way, everybody pays their taxes.”

Barrowman predicted many actors will be hired back by their companies after lockdown, but for reduced pay because of heightened demand.

He added: “So you’ve got this double-edged sword that is going to happen to people in the industry.”

Barrowman, a judge on ITV’s Dancing On Ice, also claimed the Government’s financial support for the sector had helped theatres themselves but failed to reach the actors and crew who work there.

“I am a lover of sport myself but I get sick and tired all the time of hearing, ‘Let’s fill up the stadium and do it socially distanced’,” he said.

Many theatres have not been able to open their doors since March 2020 but according to the Government’s roadmap out of lockdown, they will be able to reopen without social distancing from June 21.

Culture Recovery Fund
Many theatres have been closed since March 2020 (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

In his own appearance on Good Morning Britain, Mr Dowden touted the roughly £2 billion of support for the arts as “pretty much the biggest investment anywhere in the world”, and he noted “tens of thousands” had used the furlough and self-employed support schemes set up by the Government.

He added: “But of course it is an incredibly challenging time for the creative industries and particularly our theatres because we can’t operate as normal.

“I want them to get them back as soon as we can but obviously we have got to do that in a safe way and, as you rightly say, we have to do this in a way that is as permanent as we can be, given the challenges of this terrible disease. That is why we set out this cautious roadmap.”

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