Theatre industry in need of government support says director

The survival of the arts industry and hundreds of jobs will be reliant on government support, according to one theatre owner.

Iain Reddihough, artistic director of the Theatre on the Steps says the industry needs government help
Iain Reddihough, artistic director of the Theatre on the Steps says the industry needs government help

The government has begun the process of handing out grants to organisations across the country earlier the week, with more expected to be announced in the coming days.

For many the funding is a lifeline as first they have faced a complete closure during lockdown, then the difficulties of trying to arrange socially distanced, covid-safe performances.

The latest restrictions brought in by the government this week suggest that it will be some months before venues can look forward to re-opening – and the revenue stream that comes with it.

Iain Reddihough, artistic director at the Theatre on the Steps in Bridgnorth, said the uncertain impact of the pandemic has had a demoralising and depressing effect on workers across the industry.

He said: "When we had the original lockdown in March we cancelled some shows but rescheduled others for October and now we are having to do it again. It is demoralising enough to do it once, but to do it twice, it is soul destroying."

He added: "It is totally depressing. As well as our own productions we have a lot of outside companies come to visit us and I am in touch with them daily. They are all extremely depressed. Most have not been able to earn any income since March.

"And now the prospect of any income coming in in the near future is disappearing too. They are all troopers, lots have been doing stuff and putting things on YouTube and live streaming, just trying to cheer everyone up."

Mr Reddihough said they were anticipating it being next March at least before a return to some kind of normal – a timeframe that wipes out the most lucrative period of the year for theatres, panto season.

He said: "Lots of venues are talking to us suggesting it will be March next year at the earliest and for a lot of us Christmas is the busiest part of the year. For most theatres the Christmas pantomime is the most significant production of the year, be it a small theatre like ours or the London Palladium."

He added: "We had a slight glimmer of hope that this might improve but with the fresh regulations imposed on Monday it is now unlikely that will happen."

Mr Reddihough said that government support would be vital to protect the industry, jobs, and also the revenue stream it generates for the local economy.

He said: "Quite a number of our audience members have made donations. Very many have also transferred tickets from this year's postponed shows to next year, and some who say they do not know if they will be able to make it next year have said to keep the ticket money.

"That is really very, very helpful and hugely appreciated but it is not the substantive sums we need to keep the theatre going."

He added: "I think it is important because it is a very big industry in this country. Even the Theatre on the Steps, we think if you take into account all the money people spend on tickets and drinks, and the money in restaurants and bars in the town, and the people that come to stay in the town, we think we bring in around a million pounds a year, which is a lot for a small theatre."

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