UK theatres call for government support in open letter

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The coronavirus pandemic is threatening the survival of UK theatres. In an open letter to the government, Society of London Theatre (SOLT), along with UK theatres and hundreds of industry leaders have requested for support during these challenging times.

In a warning published this week by Oxford Economic projects, the arts industry could face an estimated 400,000 job losses and £74 billion loss in annual revenue.

The letter written to Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, Channcellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak and Secretary of State for Culture, Oliver Dowden, has been published by Official London Theatre online.

Dear sirs,

We are concerned that British theatre is on the brink of ruin.

Theatre is one of the UK’s most dazzling success stories. In all its forms, whether drama, musical theatre, opera or dance, British theatre is a world class cultural and economic force with productions filling venues from Broadway to Beijing.

The pandemic has brought theatre to its knees. Theatres do not have the money to operate viably with physical distancing. It is difficult to see venues opening before the end of the year.

Research by UK Theatre/Society of London Theatre suggests 70% of theatres will run out of money by the end of 2020. For many, it will be sooner. Four theatres have already gone in to administration and we are concerned that number will soon rise dramatically.

Culture and creativity is playing such an important part in helping the entire nation through these difficult times. It will play a crucial role as we emerge from the crisis.

It is difficult to underestimate the importance of theatre and storytelling to our national identity. More people see a theatre show each year than attend all league football matches in the whole of the UK.

The existential threat to theatre is also one which endangers the important work that is being done to create and attract more diverse workforces and audiences.

Without government investment, theatres will be forced to close and may never return. The threat of British theatre being destroyed by accident is as real as it is bleak. It would not only be a spiritual tragedy but an economic one.

We call on the government to urgently consider the submission from UK Theatre/SOLT calling for moves to:

Sustain the workforce, through the continuation and development of the Job Retention Scheme and a new package to support the army of freelancers and self-employed artists who create so much of our work.

Support theatre recovery, through adaptations to the existing theatre production tax relief scheme, support for businesses that supply theatres, and aid with making venues Covid-19 secure.

Safeguard the future of the theatre industry, through an Emergency Relief Fund and the creation of a new Cultural Investment Participation Scheme for the sector from government: a national pledge for culture.

Signed,

Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre

Bectu

Equity

Independent Theatre Council

Live Comedy Association

Musicians’ Union

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