Culture secretary

Minack Theater slams Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden for fake tweet after Jill Biden’s G7 visit

Cornwall’s famed Minack Theater has denounced a false statement by Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden after celebrating a visit from US First Lady Jill Biden and partners of the G7 leaders yesterday.

After the visit, Mr Dowden tweeted: “Glad that @FLOTUS and @carrielbjohnson were able to visit the beautiful Minack Theatre. This unique venue was one of over 650 theaters aided by Covid with support from the Recovery Fund £2billion culture, ensuring it can entertain visitors for years to come.”

However, the Culture Secretary had gotten the facts wrong – the clifftop theater at Porthcurno had not received government aid at all.

The theater replied, “Sorry @OliverDowden but that’s not true. We didn’t get any CRF money as we weren’t eligible to apply. Turns out having a good level of cash reserves meant that we had to fend for ourselves and use our own reserves.”

Mr Dowden deleted his original tweet overnight.

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People were quick to respond with Ed Abrahamson replying to the Minack: “Bravo for surviving. Shame on you @OliverDowden for claiming credit and political capital here”

Carrie Johnson and FLOTUS Jill Biden in Minack

Amanda Dearne wrote, “Sums up this half-dumb government approach to theatre. I want to put on a show to entertain at the G7 but not really support theaters when they need it.”

Last August, the Minack was in consultation with 19 staff members about layoffs after the pandemic caused a huge financial loss to the theater.

Carrie Johnson and FLOTUS Jill Biden in Minack
Carrie Johnson and FLOTUS Jill Biden in Minack

Director Zoe Curnow said last summer that being forced to operate at just 30 per cent capacity to ensure social distancing had strained the theater’s finances.

She added that the Minack would lose between £500,000 and £600,000 last year, despite posting a surplus in July.

Carrie Johnson and FLOTUS Jill Biden in Minack
Carrie Johnson and FLOTUS Jill Biden in Minack

On Saturday, Dr Biden, Carrie Johnson and the other G7 partners were taken to the Minack in a motorcade to watch a special performance by local children on plastic pollution.

Sitting socially distanced in the unique open-air theater carved into the granite cliff face of Porthcurno, the partners appeared in high spirits as they watched the sun-kissed spectacle.

Carrie Johnson, FLOTUS Jill Biden and Brigitte Macron in Minack
Carrie Johnson, FLOTUS Jill Biden and Brigitte Macron in Minack

In a tweet shared by Oliver Dowden in her misrepresentation, the First Lady wrote, “Beautiful and powerful G7 Spouse Program today at @MinackTheatre.

“Thank you to Carrie Johnson and everyone who helped set it up, especially all the local kids who played for us!”

Among the theaters and other cultural enterprises that have received government support during the pandemic were the Hall For Cornwall, which received more than £91,000 in the last round of funding, the venue for Newquay Whiskers which received more of £25,000 and Liskeard’s Sterts Open-Air Theater which was allocated over £32,000.

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