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Arts of the UK 2020: Over 50% of charity-run small theatres could fail in the next 3 months without government support

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LONDON – Due to the COVID-19 crisis and temporary closures of theatres, 57% of small theatres in the UK could fail without government support. Theatres Trust warns that as many as 136 small local theatre operators could go into administration in the next three months. In response, Theatres Trust has announced a package of additional support for small theatres to help them survive the impact of COVID-19.

At this critical moment, the national public advisory body for theatres is increasing its support for these smaller theatres including:
• Taking on an additional adviser to help small theatres with business planning, budgeting and cashflow, fundraising and essential building maintenance.
• Creating a new Theatres Trust Skills Bank to match theatres with experts willing to offer pro bono advice on preparing to reopen including hygiene and social distancing needs and general property management.
• Repurposing its small grants programme to support theatres to cover the additional costs of reopening after several months’ closure, including making adaptations for increased hygiene and social distancing measures.

The UK has a world-leading theatre industry and the small local theatres across the country are vital not just as places of entertainment but as community centres. Theatres Trust is lobbying the government and providing additional support to ensure that theatres are still there for communities around the UK to return to when the crisis is over. Local theatres include venues which are at the very heart of their local communities like Market Theatre Ledbury, Sheringham Little Theatre and Settle Victoria Hall, the oldest music hall in the world which has become a true community centre delivering shopping, prescriptions and making PPE during the COVID-19 crisis.

The role of Theatres Trust is to ensure everyone can access live performance where they live. Almost 40% of the UK’s theatres are small local venues and more than half of these – around 240 – are run by small charities. 38% of these have only one month’s reserves and 19% only have three months’ reserves. Without additional government support, including the full continuation of the Job Retention Scheme, many will have to permanently close their doors.

Theatres Trust Director Jon Morgan comments: “These are tough times for the theatre sector and we are talking to the government about the additional support theatres need, but we hope that with these resources we can help more theatres to survive the current crisis. We have already seen some operators go into administration and unfortunately others are likely to follow, but Theatres Trust has a strong track record of supporting theatres to be saved and returned to cultural use and is working to ensure that no theatres are permanently lost due to COVID-19. Jon Morgan sits on the Entertainment and Events Working Group which is working with DCMS and health officials to determine how theatres can reopen with minimised risks to staff, performers and
audiences.

Alongside this, Theatres Trust is calling for the government to invest in the theatre
sector, including extending the furlough scheme for theatres to protect operators from going into administration.

UPDATE: With the news being published that a £1.57 billion rescue package will be used to help the arts, Jon Morgan, director of The Theatres Trust, a national advisory public body for theatres has issued a statement, saying: 

“Theatres Trust welcomes the announcement of £1.57bn additional support for the arts and cultural sectors, and the recognition of the importance of these sectors to the UK economy and national life. We will need to know more detail of how this money will be allocated across the different areas to fully assess its benefit – we would hope that a significant proportion will be reserved for the performing arts. Theatres have been amongst the hardest hit industries by the pandemic and are still at risk as they are unable to operate viably while social distancing is in place.

It remains to be seen whether this amount will be sufficient to replace the furlough scheme, as it begins to taper from August and ends in October, at a time when we still do not have timescales for theatres reopening. We are pleased to see investment in capital projects included in this announcement. Our research has shown that there are more than 100 theatre capital projects worth almost £800m that have been stalled by the pandemic by anywhere between 3 and 18 months at a cost of upwards of £66m.”

Find out more about Theatres Trust and their initiatives on their website here

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