Ikumelo said the arts prevent young people from “hanging out in gangs”, and those in power should “not overlook” the sector.
Three of tonight’s BAFTAs nominees have urged the government to provide further funding for the arts sector during the coronavirus crisis.
Best Female Comedy Performance nominees Sian Clifford, Gbemisola Ikumelo, and Sarah Kendall all called for further action from the UK government, ahead of tonight’s awards.
When asked by Sky News at a Q&A about how the government should support the industry, all three said more money was needed for the sector.
Famalam writer and star Ikumelo explained how the arts were supporting young people from her home community.
“Those spaces, those venues…it’s not just rich people who are going out on a Friday night. That theatre experience was [there] for me as a kid.
“[It’s for] local people living out on the ends…they’re choosing that over hanging out in gangs.
“It’s so important that we understand the community that theatre, live art, all that stuff, plays into society and not overlook it,” she added.
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In early July, the Government announced a £1.57bn coronavirus funding package for theatres and live music venues, which is being distributed in grants and loans.
The package was welcomed by the director of the National Theatre, and the composer Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber.
But a senior Conservative MP said the money would only provide temporary help, and Labour called the handout “too little too late”.
Clifford, who plays Claire in Fleabag, agrees.
The actor has also starred this year in Who Wants To Be A Millionaire-inspired drama Quiz, which began as a theatre show in Chichester, before becoming a West End hit, and finally transposing onto TV.
“People have to look at what’s kept them going during this entire time, and it’s entertainment, and so much of what we’re watching was basically born out of theatre.
“People don’t realise the sort of food chain…the role that theatre plays in how people are discovered.”
A 2019 report for the Arts Council of England from the Centre for Economics and Business Research found at the time that the arts and culture industry contributed £10.8bn a year to the UK economy.
“I think the long term economic impact…it’s incomprehensible…bearing in mind other things that are being supported at this time, there’s no question.
“You absolutely have to show up for people and their communities,” Clifford said.
Kendall, who is from Australia, wrote and starred in Sky comedy Frayed. She described theatres as “the cultural hub” of the UK.
“I include myself in this – people move from all over the world to take part in the live comedy scene. That’s why it does produce world class talent.
“It’s that really obvious food chain. They need to be supported.”
“And I think there’s going to be a really big role that the theatre, comedy, laughter, all of that stuff, plays in the nation healing,” Ikumelo added.
“If the industry is crippled, and there is nothing to go back to, it will have an effect to communities.”
The virtual Virgin Media BAFTAs airs tonight at 7pm on BBC One.