Theatre storm will turn into a tsunami without government intervention, says Bectu

3 July 2020

Close to 3,000 theatre jobs are at risk of redundancy with many more expected, entertainment union Bectu has warned today (Friday 3 July).

These figures – officially notified to Bectu by employers – do not include freelancers, who make up around 70% of the theatre workforce.

Figures from SOLT and UK Theatre estimate theatres employ around 290,000 people.

Bectu has members who work in affected theatres and venues including: Southampton Nuffield, Theatre Royal Plymouth, the Royal Albert Hall, the Royal Opera House, Lyceum Edinburgh, National Theatre, Nimax Theatres, Cameron Mackintosh and Delfont Mackintosh, Birmingham Hippodrome, Coventry Belgrade, Theatre Royal Newcastle and more.

The jobs they do encompass front of house, creative and technical roles and management positions.

Theatres first began issuing redundancy notices in May after the Chancellor decided that employers will need to start contributing to the furlough scheme from August.

In the past 24 hours the Royal Theatre Exchange in Manchester has announced that 65% of its workforce is at risk of redundancy, the Southampton Nuffield said it is closing permanently and the Royal Albert Hall revealed that it will have to close next year – its 150th year of being open – if the government fails to intervene.

Head of Bectu Philippa Childs said: “A perfect storm is taking place across the theatre industry, which is only set to turn into a tsunami as each day passes without government intervention.

“The clock has been ticking since it was announced that employers will have to contribute to furlough scheme from August.

“Bectu officials have been working night and day to save these people’s jobs, but the reality is that theatres have no income coming in and no plan for when they can truly start to operate again.

“This is cultural vandalism beyond repair. Many theatre industry workers are freelance and have fallen through the gaps of the income support schemes and received no government help. The government has failed these people at every stage of this crisis.

“Rishi Sunak is making a statement on 8 July and so much hangs on whether the government acts to provide a comprehensive rescue and recovery package.

“That package must include a short-term cash injection to allow theatres to remain open, a specific exemption for theatres to contribute to the furlough scheme and support for freelancers currently excluded from financial support. We also need  a long-term plan for how live performances can take place again and the money to allow that to happen.”