Cultural hubs across Basingstoke and the surrounding towns and villages have been handed hundreds of thousands of pounds to help them recover from Covid.

One of the town’s premier arts venues, The Anvil, was awarded £123,000, while Zeal, a Basingstoke businesses which provides equipment for live events and entertainment, was given £271,052. A Hart comedy promoter, meanwhile, was given £27,500.

Museums also benefitted, with the Hampshire Cultural Trust, which runs Basingstoke’s museums, given £240,000 and Whitchurch Silk Mill £50,000 to help with their recovery.

The chief executive of Hampshire Cultural Trust said they were “thrilled to receive this vital funding.”

The grants were made as part of the Culture Recovery Fund, a £1.57 billion scheme by the government which is administered by Arts Council England, and has received applications from across the country. It aims to support arts and cultural venues which have been amongst those hardest hit by the pandemic.

A report by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) in 2020 found that museums have been the worst hit of the cultural sector during the pandemic, with the value of it down by 26.3 per cent, or £387 million, nationally. Music and the performing arts are not far behind, with their value falling by 25.8 per cent. However, given the larger revenue of this area, their income has fallen the most of any cultural sector, by £2.28 billion.

In the latest round of awards, The Anvil, has been given £123,000 to support its reopening. This money will be welcome, with Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council having voted to slash its funding by half recently.

Matthew Cleaver, Chief Executive of Anvil Arts, said: “We’re delighted to receive this award from the Culture Recovery Fund and are very grateful to DCMS and Arts Council England. It’s further recognition of the importance of protecting and supporting what we do, and a real vote of confidence in The Anvil Trust at a national level.

“We can’t wait to welcome audiences and artists back to our two venues. This award will help towards the costs of reopening The Anvil and The Haymarket when indoor events are permitted. Safety screens, ventilation upgrades, sanitiser stations and extra staff on duty to help audiences get used to the new requirements are among the many things that have to be put in place.

"Arts and entertainment are a vital part of what Basingstoke offers to both residents and visitors, and will be all the more important as we come out of the pandemic. After more than a year of closure, we are eager to make our contribution to the economic recovery of the town centre, and increase the happiness and wellbeing of the borough through our performance programme and community work.”

Other performing arts businesses have also benefitted from the fund, with Basingstoke business Zeal being given £271,052. It is an experiential production house that designs, produces and supplies equipment to the live events and entertainment industry.

Steve Hough, Zeal’s managing director said: “We were thrilled to have been awarded the grant which provides a lifeline for our company. We are also proud to be recognised for the vital role companies like ours play in facilitating live entertainment.”

Meanwhile, Hampshire Cultural Trust, which runs the Willis Museum, Basing House and the Milestones Museum, was given £240,000 to help with its recovery.

Paul Sapwell, CEO for the trust, said: “We are thrilled to receive this vital funding as Hampshire Cultural Trust prepares to start welcoming visitors back to our museums, galleries and arts centres in May.

“The support we have received is crucial in ensuring that we can continue to provide creative cultural experiences and operate safely as we begin to re-open our doors once again.

“Culture has such an important role to play in supporting everyone’s health, wellbeing and happiness and we look forward to playing our part in the recovery of our communities as we move towards a future where we can put the pandemic behind us.”

Another museum, the Whitchurch Silk Mill, also benefitted from the latest round of grants, being given £50,000. It had previously received £131,550 in the first round of grants.

Sue Tapliss, the mill’s director, said: “The lockdown has given us with the opportunity to reflect upon how we can better serve our community and visitors, and this funding will enable us to survive but hopefully thrive.

“It has given us the time to develop new ways of telling our story, to make improvements, and develop our weaving team and conserve the historic machinery to provide an experience that will delight everyone who engages with us.”

Sir Nicholas Serota, the chair of Arts Council England, said: “Investing in a thriving cultural sector at the heart of communities is a vital part of helping the whole country to recover from the pandemic. These grants will help to re-open theatres, concert halls, and museums and will give artists and companies the opportunity to begin making new work.

“We are grateful to the Government for this support and for recognising the paramount importance of culture to our sense of belonging and identity as individuals and as a society.”