158 MPs and their peers pressure Boris Johnson to safeguard theatre industry during coronavirus crisis

Over 150 MPs and peers urge the UK government to rescue the performing arts sector. Is a new theatre rescue deal finally closer to being reached?

158 MPs and their peers pressure Boris Johnson to safeguard theatre industry during coronavirus crisis
Boris Johnson is now in the hot seat as pressure mounts for immediate action to save the performing arts.

More than 150 MPs and peers call for immediate intervention from Boris Johnson to save UK theatre

In a letter addressed to Prime Minister Boris Johnson dated today, 11 June, 158 MPs and peers demanded immediate action "to rescue the sector and allow theatre to contribute to the success of the UK." The MPs have warned that there could be a total of 200,000 job losses for both employed and freelance theatre workers and highlighted that 70% of British theatres will have exhausted all of their reserves by the end of 2020.

"COVID-19 has removed all the sector’s trading income at a stroke and thrown business into crisis. Overall, the impact has been immediate and devastating; the medium and long-term consequences see threats to economic, social and cultural well-being in communities all over the UK," the letter, inked by the Society of London Theatre (SOLT), UK Theatre, and One Dance UK, mentions.

The letter goes on to tell that a number of venues have already been forced to go under, with many more redundancies lurking around the corner. Many theatres have had zero income during the mass theatre lockdown yet are still required to pay pricy building overheads that average between £70,000 to £100,000 a month.

Strict social distancing measures will not work for almost all theatre shows

David Tennant recently made headlines when he expressed his concern for the survival of UK theatres, reminding us that performance venues almost always operate on low-profit margins. Thus, it comes as no surprise that the new letter signed by over 150 MPs has also warned that social distancing would make "the prospect of reopening with any profitability impossible," adding: "While many other sectors will be able to gradually reopen under current measures, theatres cannot."

The MPs have asked the government to consider a set of recommendations while warning: "Any sector-wide reconstruction would be far costlier than this rescue package and a managed recovery."

What the government can do to help UK theatres

SOLT and UK Theatre have already issued a set of recommendations, including an emergency rescue fund, long-term loan, and a Cultural Investment Participation Scheme, and pleaded that the government invest in theatre and generate returns in the process.

The MPs' letter describes the situation as critical and they have also called on the government to introduce a theatre tax relief and furlough scheme that can be modified to provide additional support as needed. They have also demanded that the insurance and liability policy for theatres be reviewed in light of the newfound risks, estimating that only 12% of organisations think they would be able to have a secure insurance policy in the future.

"British theatre is far more than entertainment. It is beneficial to mental and physical health; it informs and educates. Moreover, British theatres export British creativity to the world, with all the benefits to trade and tourism flowing from that global exposure," the letter reads, with MPs signing a call for "fundamental and comprehensive action to be taken now, to prevent this major part of the UK’s global offer from being lost."

📰 Keep following London Theatre Direct's news pages here for all the latest West End and UK theatre announcements and COVID-19 news.

Nicholas Ephram Ryan Daniels

Ephram is a jack of all trades and enjoys attending theatre, classical music concerts and the opera.

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