Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

The Arts In Ruin

Theatre in Wales: Comment

Collapse , The Culture of the United Kingdom , July 1, 2020
Theatre in Wales: Comment by Collapse In the first half of this sombre year- unlike any in our life-time- I have written more tributes to those who have been lost than reviews of shows that have been made for Wales.

The extent of the ruin for the culture of the UK as a whole has been analysed by the consultancy Oxford Economics. The forecast is £74bn drop in revenue for the creative industries, 400,000 jobs gone, 119,000 salaried and 287,000 freelance.

The scope of the study includes music, theatre, film, TV, fashion, publishing, architecture, museums and galleries. The weekly dearth has been £1.4bn. The gross-added value loss is forecast at 25% or £29bn. The figures for theatre are £3bn in revenue loss and 12,000 jobs. The willingness or reluctance of audiences to return to venues is unquantifiable. The Christmas productions for 2020 that pay a large measure of the annual fixed costs are in jeopardy.

The furlough programme has worked for employees on PAYE. The later Self-Employment Income Support Scheme has covered, according to the UK government, 95% of those in the category. That 5% can be presumed to include many across theatre: directors, producers, designers, stage managers, technicians, front of house, costume supervisors, casting directors, voice coaches, production managers, workshop facilitators.

Financial anxiety is a frequent precursor of all other anxieties. The income mix of PAYE and self-employment is the largest cause of exclusion. A 50%-plus share of historic income from PAYE is cause for ineligibility from both schemes. Reports are given of regular employers declining to furlough employees on zero hours contracts.

New entrants are not eligible, a tax return for 2018-2019 being necessary. The self-employed trading via a company are ineligible. Universal credit renders void any tax credits that might be carried forward.

The grass-roots organisation Excluded UK estimates about three million taxpayers are ineligible for the furlough scheme and the self-employed income support scheme (SEISS). Among the left-behind are thousands of freelancers on short-term PAYE contracts, widespread in the creative industries. A survey by the organisation “Women in Film and TV” found 67% of freelancers were unable to access any government support, and the broadcasting union Bectu found half of those surveyed had borrowed money to survive the lockdown. A Musician’s Union survey found 19% of respondents were considering abandoning their music career.

On 23rd June theatres in England were permitted to re-open but not to perform. Restrictions on music are firm. Wind players and singers need to be three metres apart and six metres apart from other people. A five-point plan for performance venues was announced 25th June. Equity responded:

"We delivered detailed feedback on the draft government guidance to the DMCS yesterday. In it we said that it is impossible to ignore the incompatibility of full or indeed partial re-opening for many sectors of the live performance industries under existing funding and business models. Much of the industry cannot viably operate without targeted investment in infrastructure and ongoing support for organisations and the workers associated with them – whether they are permanent employees, freelance or self-employed."

Playwright James Graham: "A reassuring flicker of light within darkness. What is still missing of course is any investment package to be able to actually do it and, without that, we can be in no doubt that the entire theatre ecology is on the verge of absolute and total collapse."

In Wales the Government created emergency Covid-19 response funds. Director Adele Thomas on Radio Wales Arts Show: “ACW has been fantastic.” The first, titled “Urgent Response Fund for Individuals”, received 534 applications, from whom 407 people received a little over £909,000.

The complementary initiative, titled “Stabilisation fund for Organisations” received 136 applications, from whom 119 received a little over £3,070,000.

At the time of writing applications to a further round of “Stabilisation fund for Individuals” is under adjudication. The fund has a value of a little over £2,400,000.

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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