Bectu statement comes after a comprehensive report forecast widescale job losses in the UK creative industries, including film, TV, theatre and live events.
Bectu – the Broadcasting, Entertainment, Communications and Theatre Union – has expressed its disappointment at the government’s lack of plans to tackle the ailing UK theatre industry.
Yesterday it was revealed that the theatre industry is facing ruin amid the coronavirus crisis, with stars such as Phoebe Waller-Bridge, James McAvoy and Andrew Scott among a 98-strong alliance of creatives who wrote directly to the government to warn of the challenges facing the sector.
The open letter, which was sent to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the chancellor Rishi Sunak and the culture secretary Oliver Dowden stated that the theatre industry “is on the brink of ruin” and stated:
Research by UK Theatre/Society of London Theatre suggests 70% of theatres will run out of money by the end of 2020. For many, it will be sooner. Four theatres have already gone in to administration and we are concerned that number will soon rise dramatically…
…Without government investment, theatres will be forced to close and may never return. The threat of British theatre being destroyed by accident is as real as it is bleak. It would not only be a spiritual tragedy but an economic one.
We call on the government to urgently consider the submission from UK Theatre/SOLT calling for moves to:
Sustain the workforce, through the continuation and development of the Job Retention Scheme and a new package to support the army of freelancers and self-employed artists who create so much of our work.
Support theatre recovery, through adaptations to the existing theatre production tax relief scheme, support for businesses that supply theatres, and aid with making venues Covid-19 secure.
Safeguard the future of the theatre industry, through an Emergency Relief Fund and the creation of a new Cultural Investment Participation Scheme for the sector from government: a national pledge for culture
However, speaking during the government’s daily coronavirus briefing yesterday, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said he was looking at measures to support the theatre industry but stopped short of committing to any specific action – a response that Bectu has called “incredibly disappointing”.
Head of Bectu Philippa Childs said:
On a day when the scale of imminent job losses in theatre and the creative industries was revealed, it is incredibly disappointing that the Culture Secretary arrived at the press conference empty-handed with no rescue plan for the sector.
Theatre workers and the industry need practical action that will stop mass redundancies. It is not good enough to say that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has been extended when theatres across the country are launching redundancy consultations and people are already losing their jobs.
Each day that goes by without government intervention jeopardises the future of theatres and the wider creative industries.
Rather than using today’s press conference to announce a comprehensive plan that would reassure the sector, Oliver Dowden suggested theatres could open from 4 July and announced yet another working group.
This is complacent and demonstrates a deep lack of understanding of the issues facing theatres and the wider creative industries. Our members, many of whom have been excluded from income support schemes, will be stunned that once again their concerns have failed to be addressed.
The bleak outlook for the theatre industry follows a report commissioned by the Creative Industries Federation, of which Bectu is a member, earlier this week which predicted huge job losses in the creative industries.
The Projected Economic Impact of Covid-19 on the UK Creative Industries Economics report found that over 400,000 creative jobs could be lost and the creative industries are projected to lose £1.4bn a week in revenues in 2020.
Some of the stark projections from the report include:
- A 57% drop in revenue (£36bn) for the film, TV, video, radio and photography sector, with 102,000 job losses due to social distancing requirements in cinemas and the increased cost of filmmaking
- A 58% drop in revenue (£827m) in the post-production and VFX sector
- British theatre projected to lose £3bn in revenue and 12,000 job losses
Read the report in full here.