It appears that for many theatres in the West End and around the UK, the government’s £1.57 billion arts aid package may be too late, with little clarification on who might be eligible many are now entering into redundancy consultations.
Confusion reigns in the arts sector with many of the organisations and theatres that are on the brink having to proceed with redundancy consultations as the government has yet to provide clarity on the cultural recovery package, who will be able to access it and how and when the package will be put into place.
This week redundancies are being planned at Andrew Lloyd Webber’s LW Theatres, owners of seven West End venues including the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, London Palladium and The Gillian Lynne Theatre. Delfont Mackintosh Theatres (Gielgud, Novello, Coward, Wyndham’s amongst others) and Nimax Theatres (Palace, Lyric, Apollo, Vaudeville amongst others).
Originally LW Theatres indicated that they would try to avoid redundancies but it now needs to make cuts as producers of shows running in their theatres have made decisions to close or delay their return which makes further delay impossible. LW Chief Executive Rebecca Kane Burton confirmed that on 18 June that they contacted those affected and will continue to work closely with staff and their union .
The staff union BECTU’s chief Phillipa Childs said: “These redundancies are just the tip of the iceberg and we remain deeply concerned about the number of job losses that we are seeing across the whole of the industry”. She confirmed that urgent clarity about the aid package was needed.
The other major West End and regional touring venue owner Ambassador Theatre Group are also starting redundancy talks preparing to make 5% redundancies affecting 5% of its total UK workforce.
Two-thirds of Southbank Centre staff (approx 400 jobs) are at risk as redundancy consultations there have started. 400 jobs represent over 60% of its staff.
In Birmingham, both the Town Hall and Symphony Hall have also begun consultations placing half of their staff at risk. They join the Exeter Northcott Theatre (50% of staff at risk), Tobacco Factory Theatre in Bristol (70% of jobs), Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre ( 21 staff at risk), London’s National Theatre (400 casual staff redundancies), Royal Opera House (all casual staff), Wales Millennium Centre (up to 250 jobs), Horsecross Arts (168 staff), Pitlochry Festival Theatre (42 staff), Newcastle Theatre Royal (44 staff), Birmingham Hippodrome (62 staff), Oxford Playhouse (12 staff), and Worthing Theatres (86 jobs).
Meanwhile, restaurants and hospitality sector representatives located in London’s West End are facing a ghost town night on night without the 28,000 theatregoers who attend shows there every night providing customers for restaurants and bars not to mention hotels and taxis.
At this rate, there may be no industry left to provide aid money to. It must be incredibly frustrating for the companies and theatres who fought to hold on and now are forced to act not knowing when and if they can access the long-awaited aid package.