Mayor Ben Houchen has urged Tees Valley organisations and individuals in the culture sector to apply for £160million of Arts Council England support unveiled as a response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The culture sector has been hard hit by the outbreak, with all theatres, galleries and cultural venues ordered to close to slow the spread of the virus.

Current national projections suggest theatre ticket sales are down by 92 per cent on last year and that more than half of freelance creatives have seen all of their existing contracts cancelled since the outbreak.

Now Arts Council England, the body focused on arts and culture, has set out a package of £160million to help the sector, £90million has been allocated to support the resilience of key leading bodies recognised as National Portfolio Organisations (NPO).

Six such organisations currently operate in Tees Valley.

An extra £50million of emergency funding will be allocated to other organisations with a track record in publicly funded culture, and a further £20million for individual artists and practitioners who can apply for grants of up to £2,500.

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said: “The coronavirus pandemic has hit the creative sector hard and I’m pleased to see Arts Council England step in and provide essential funding. This will make sure the great organisations that we have in Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool can continue to put on excellent events and shows for communities across the region.

“I’d urge any eligible organisations to apply for funding from Arts Council England to get the support they need to help them through this difficult time.”

Annabel Turpin, Tees Valley Local Enterprise Partnership Theme Lead for Culture and Chief Executive and Artistic Director of Stockton’s ARC, said: “Government is rightly putting people’s health and wellbeing above all else at the moment, but we have some fantastic cultural institutions and individuals across Tees Valley that are now in trouble.

“I welcome this new funding from Arts Council England and everyone in the sector should check whether they can take advantage of the support, to make sure this continues to be a brilliant place to live and visit when this situation starts to return to normal.”