5,000 theatre industry workers ‘have lost their jobs due to Covid-19’

The Palace Theatre, which usually shows the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child play, sits in a deserted Shaftesbury Avenue in
The Palace Theatre, which usually shows the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child play, sits in a deserted Shaftesbury Avenue in London, the day after Prime Minister Boris Johnson put the UK in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.

There have been 5,000 coronavirus-related job losses in the theatre industry, a union has said.

Around 2,700 of those are in London, while major regional theatres are also starting redundancy proceedings, according to entertainment and media union Bectu.

The sector has been plunged into uncertainty by the pandemic after productions across the country were put on hold.

Coronavirus
(John Walton/PA)

The union said the number of redundancies in the industry has risen by 2,000 since the July announcement of the Government’s £1.57 billion support package for the arts which will be used to help organisations including theatres, music venues, museums and galleries.

The Sheffield Theatres Trust, Birmingham Hippodrome, Theatre Royal Newcastle, Nuffield Southampton, Lyceum Edinburgh, Coventry Belgrade and Norwich Theatre Royal are among the regional venues reporting redundancy proceedings, according to Bectu.

Philippa Childs, head of the union, said: “The clock is still ticking to save the future of the theatre industry and these figures demonstrate the scale of the crisis it is facing.

“In July we warned that a storm would turn into a tsunami without further assistance.

“Despite details of the arts recovery package being announced we are still nowhere closer to the money being distributed.

West End Stock
(Ian West/PA)

“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.

“Major industry businesses are releasing their lowest paid staff from the furlough scheme and that trend is only set to continue up the ladder of the workforce.”

The figures include those permanently employed by theatres as well as casual workers and staff on zero hours contracts.

In addition to the redundancies, employers are also proposing significant pay cuts for those who are not made redundant, according to Bectu.

The union estimates that around 290,000 people are employed in the theatre industry and 70% of those are freelance, many of whom have not qualified for Government support.

West End Stock
(Ian West/PA)

Last week Prime Minister Boris Johnson postponed plans to allow indoor socially distanced performances inside theatre and music venues.

A number of high-profile actors have spoken out in support of the ailing industry.

Fleabag creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge and The Crown star Olivia Colman last week launched a fund to provide grants to UK theatre professionals facing financial hardship during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport have been contacted for comment.

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