ONE constant in the Coronavirus crisis is that whenever the government describes what it is doing as world-beating, then chances are it is anything but.

Older readers might remember the world-beating track and trace system and app that were promised to help us get the country out of lockdown.

£12 million later and the app may or may not be ready in time for Christmas.

As for tracking and tracing this appears to have been outsourced to the landlord of your local pub.

So when the government hailed its package to rescue the arts as ‘world-leading’, that should be a sign for caution.

At first glance, £1.57 billion seems a decent wedge. But when you consider that, on 2018 government figures, the creative industries contribute £117 billion to the economy, it’s not that much – and is going to have to stretch an extremely long way.

For many institutions, the money has already come too late. Earlier this month, the wonderful Nuffield Theatre in Southampton announced it was going to close permanently.

The announcement, too, has not been enough to halt the redundancies of 400 staff at the National Theatre in London. This week the Northcott Theatre in Exeter and the Tobacco Factory Theatre in Bristol announced they would need to make job cuts of 50 per cent and 70 per cent respectively.

As with other government announcements, the original good-news headlines have been followed by a period of purdah: at the time of writing, over a week on, theatres still don’t know when they will be allowed to reopen, or how that magic pot of money is going to be divvied up.

The fact that government gave open air theatres 48 hours’ notice of being allowed to reopen suggests they don’t completely get how productions work.

For many theatres, the pantomime might not be the cultural highlight of their year, but is by far their most profitable, often bankrolling much of the rest of the year. These are big budget productions that require a lot of preparation and planning. Clarity over openings and detail over funding as soon as possible is essential. Beanstalks (I think) don’t grow on trees.

As for funding itself, I really hope the talk of preserving ‘crown jewels’ doesn’t mean that – not for the first time – the money ends up in London rather than in the regions.

I hope, too, that the money will finds its way down to the freelancers whose creativity and brilliance are the true lifeblood of this sector: just as the rescue money kicks in, so the current support scheme for the self-employed is about to come to an end. It would be tragic to save the theatres, but have no-one left to perform in them.