Coronavirus: What is the future for the UK’s theatres and music scene? – ITV News

Posted: June 23, 2020 at 4:44 pm


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The gradual easing of coronavirus lockdown measures has offered hope to businesses left on the edge through the pandemic.

But the arts and entertainment industry remains restricted in how it can reopen, with live performances in theatres and concert halls remaining off limits in the latest update on England's lockdown.

An ITV News survey, distributed through the Independent Theatre Council and the Music Venue Trust, reveals how hard hit the industry is - with 97.5% of venues and companies surveyed saying they were facing permanent closure due to the pandemic.

The impact of lockdown has already hit arts venues of all shapes and sizes.

London's West End, all but closed since the beginning of March, could be "decimated" by the crisis theatre director Marianne Elliott has warned.

Already musical giants Les Miserables, Mary Poppins, Hamilton and The Phantom Of The Opera have announced they will not return until 2021.

Reacting to Tuesday's relaxing of measures in England, a statement from the Society of London Theatre said: 'We welcome the easing of lockdown restrictions and look forward to continuing to work closely with the government on a date when theatres can reopen".

But the impact continues up and down the country.

More than 100 staff face losing their jobs at the Theatre Royal in Plymouth, where income has fallen more than 90% since lockdown came into force.

Chief Executive Adrian Vinken said the theatre is waiting for the point where "we can open safely, without social distancing, and start to trade back to a point of sustainability".

While 250 jobs could be at risk as the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff which is set to shut until 2021 because of the pandemic.

Indeed of those surveyed by ITV News, 95% reported losses of more than 100,000 in revenue since the outbreak.

For the musicians, artists, and creatives behind the content, the lockdown threatens an already uncertain livelihood.

Of those surveyed, nearly 93% said their livelihood is under threat as a result of the pandemic.

The government's furlough scheme - extended until October - offers support for many businesses, allowing them to keep staff on despite closures.

While those who are self-employed are eligible for government support in the form of grants. Chancellor Rishi Sunak has claimed 95 per cent of self-employed workers are eligible for the scheme.

But many creatives still feel that lockdown has - and will continue to have - a "devastating" impact on the industry.

Writer and performer Zak Ghazi-Torbati had been due to perform an LGBTQ+ cabaret show before lockdown hit.

"It will have a devastating impact for those in the arts, especially in fringe theatre where funding and resources are already lacking.

"For those of us who were preparing for upcoming productions, we can only hope we'll have another chance to put them onstage.

"But it's looking less and less likely as theatres and fringe venues are warning of full closure due to the financial hardship of the pandemic."

Writer Rosanna Suppa fears the pandemic will be a setback to "the small progress" made in diversifying the industry - both in terms of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) representation and social economic diversity.

The 25-year-old said it will be "a lot easier" for creatives who are financially better off to recover from the hit of lockdown and "get back into the swing" of accessing and working in the arts.

Ms Suppa added many creatives, forced to pursue other means of income to survive "while the world has stopped," might never return to the industry.

Cardiff-based musician Bella Collins says "the usual struggle for musicians just got a lot harder".

She says the initial outbreak and resulting lockdown has left gigging musicians - and venues - "floating in a limbo of uncertainty, not knowing when normality will resume".

Of those who responded to ITV News' survey, 94% said the government has not done enough to support the industry - the remaining six percent who said government support had been sufficient were all based in Wales.

Ms Collins said the government had "stepped up" to offer help, but that "the real saviours for musicians have been PRS, Help Musicians UK, and The Musicians Union setting up immediate cover relief plans - softening the initial blow of loss of work."

She added: "The internet has played a vital part in the lockdown, it makes the world a smaller place" - allowing for performances to continue and a sense of community.

The industry itself has indeed reacted creatively to lockdown, offering hope to many unsure of the future of the UK's theatrical and music scenes.

"It's such an unreliable industry at the best of times but by nature it's also a really creative industry and one that improvises well," says writer and performer Kate Reid.

She points to the influx of live performance via video call and various online platforms as sign of the industry's willingness to adapt and survive.

"Even in the most unreliable and potentially bleak of times, theatre responds in a really creative and imaginative way and that gives me hope for the future."

Last updated Tue 23 Jun 2020

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Coronavirus: What is the future for the UK's theatres and music scene? - ITV News

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June 23rd, 2020 at 4:44 pm

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