THE show must go on, they say — except that at the moment it can’t.
From the Royal Albert Hall to the tiniest regional theatre, the government’s Covid-19 restrictions have kept a lid on business since March.
Hopes of a socially distanced return to indoor performances were dashed at the end of July, when prime minister Boris Johnson announced that he was delaying the opening of indoor shows until at least August 15, even with precautions in place. The decision has profound implications for theatre and music businesses and the freelancers and employees who work in them. Actors, musicians and stage hands have all found themselves out of work since March, and theatres across the UK have made huge numbers of redundancies in recent weeks, as the furlough scheme comes towards its end and they have to pay national insurance and pension contributions for furloughed staff.
Think of a big-name venue, and chances are it has made redundancies. The Southbank Centre has announced plans that could result in 400 job losses, while Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG) — the biggest employer in UK theatre — is to lay off around 1,200 staff next month. The majority of cuts are in London, but ATG also runs the Liverpool Empire, the King’s Theatre Glasgow, the Swansea Arena and a host of other venues that will face job cuts. According to Bectu, the entertainment industry union, there have been 5,000 people made jobless in the theatre industry due to coronavirus, 2,700 of them in London. The number has risen by 2,000 since July’s government announcement of a £1.57billion support package for the arts that was designed to save theatres, museums and music venues.
‘In July we warned that a storm would turn into a tsunami without further assistance,’ says Bectu chief Philippa Childs. ‘But despite details of the arts recovery package being announced, we are still nowhere closer to the money being distributed.’ ‘The tsunami we predicted is about to reach our shores as the timeline for action from the government has been too slow, and there has been no flexibility for the industry and its access to the furlough scheme. ‘Freelancers are crying out for help and support and having to rely on charity. Their future in the industry is deeply uncertain.’
ExcludedUK is a newly formed non-profit NGO and serves as a collective platform for those entirely or largely excluded from the UK Government's Covid-19 financial support measures. We are a rapidly growing organisation and an inclusive community, representing a broad spectrum of individuals and businesses, but all sharing one common thread: we are excluded.
As an organisation we will play a crucial role in facilitating support and assistance on multiple levels, both for now and into the future. Our aim is to build a stronger platform, raise awareness, lobby for support, raise funds for legal challenges and help enable the changes that are needed for those excluded.Most importantly, our hope is that our efforts can help propel affected individuals and businesses forward in the face of adversity resulting from Covid-19 and being excluded from Government support, while equally ensuring we are all able to help each other emerge from this crisis.