Culture sector governed by uncertainty as government outlines timetable

Photo: Eva Turečková

The Czech Republic’s culture sector has been responding to the government’s freshly announced plans to slowly get the country’s economy moving again. Booksellers say they fear for the existence of outlets, while festival organisers say they are still awaiting official guidance.

Photo: Eva Turečková
According to the chairman of the Association of Czech Booksellers and Publishers, Martin Vopěnka, the book market may not survive the current situation.

Shops of less than 200 square metres not located in shopping centres will be allowed to reopen on April 27, while similar stores of over 1,000 square metres can welcome customers from 11 May. Shopping centres will start again on June 8.

Mr. Vopěnka told the Czech News Agency there were many book outlets in shopping centres and this was a long time to wait, adding that he hoped the state would provide significant compensation.

Unless the government comes up with a specific support for the book market, the sector will suffer a lot, he said. Books are not an essential item, unlike food, and this is an issue of society’s priorities, said the head of the Association of Czech Booksellers and Publishers.

Under the government’s timetable – which is contingent on a spike in detected Covid-19 cases not occurring – museums and galleries should open on 25 May.

Czech theatres will be able to open from 8 June, though a prohibition on events attended by 50 or more people will be in place. Most theatres have capacities of over 50.

The minister of health, Adam Vojtěch, said on Tuesday that large arts events drawing thousands of people were unlikely to take place in the Czech Republic at all this year.

This would naturally impact rock festivals. The organisers of the Votvírák festival, which is planned for Milovice in mid-June, say they will decide on its fate by the end of this month. A spokesperson said there were several options, including featuring only Czech performers.

The team behind the Rock for People, due to take place in Hradec Králové on the third weekend of June, say they are awaiting an official government decision; this unfortunately has not been forthcoming to date, said director Michal Thomes.

The National Theatre will begin putting on plays again just as soon as this is permitted, its director Jan Burian said.

In recent days representatives of the Czech book market said they expected a 30-percent fall in sales this year stemming from the coronavirus crisis. They say the market will lose up to CZK 3 billion and have requested CZK 1 billion in support from the government.

The minister of culture, Lubomír Zaorálek, said small publishers would be included in a rescue package he prepared for the government.

Last week the cabinet rubberstamped around CZK 1 billion in support for the arts.