Many of you will have seen the theatre “roadmap” from Arts Minister Oliver Dowden. A map with no sense of direction, it has been greeted with derision across the theatre industry. Also a big thanks to everybody who signed the parliamentary petition – I’m afraid that appears to have gone the way of the dodo. Below is an extract from an email I sent to the minister, I’m still waiting for a reply…
Dear Oliver Dowden,
The news concerning our sector last week was very disappointing. Firstly the Theatres and Music parliamentary petition which was presented to the House of Commons on Thursday.
Sadly all that happened was a long statement from Theresa Villiers MP praising the Government for all its work (in a very generalised way), reading a long list of facts about how much money the Chancellor has spent on the furlough system (all of which is already in the public domain) and a few vague promises about further help for the Arts. Am I being naive in thinking The House is a debating chamber? 142,000 people signed the petition and all we got was a long drawn-out statement by a very bored sounding MP! Can you let me know if this is all that will happen to this petition in terms of parliamentary procedure or will it be discussed elsewhere in the corridors of Westminster?
Secondly on Friday morning I read the theatre ‘five point plan’ that your office issued. I’m afraid I was not impressed. Where is the detail, the dates and the financial package? Allowing theatres to open now to rehearse as the first point of the five is not very helpful. A theatre company cannot rehearse if there is no opening date and no finance to pay the actors, crew and creative team. Furthermore there is no guidance in the plan regarding social distancing in the rehearsal room, the dressing rooms, the wardrobe and wig rooms; it appears the plan has been drawn up by someone who does not understand how theatre works. Perhaps we could follow Premier League football (presumably their guidelines came from the DCMS), where the backroom staff all wear masks but the managers (our equivalent of directors) don’t wear masks and neither do the players. Again if we follow the same rules, presumably our actors can now engage in physical contact including hugging and kissing – watch what happens when a goal is scored!
I am writing on behalf of the Society of Independent Theatres (SIT). Our sector of small, many un-funded, venues represents the life blood of the industry, the vast majority of theatre practitioners start their careers in our theatres. We would like an assurance that a “one size fits all” solution does not work in our industry. SIT are requesting that the Government extend full furlough and freelance support for our sector until venues and artists can safely engage with audiences again. And, we expect the Treasury and DCMS to offer a commitment of further support if we are unable to welcome audiences back by the end of October, at which point many of our venues will face a financial catastrophe, leaving them unable to recover.
I look forward to your reply.
Response to the Coronavirus Crisis
Due to the Government policy regarding theatres, Upstairs at the Gatehouse has suspended all performances. We will continue to review the situation and hopefully re-open in the Autumn.
All of the shows between 17th March and 31st May were either cancelled or have been moved to a future date. Ticket refunds have now been completed and we would like to take this opportunity to thank everybody who contributed the value of their tickets to help the theatre survive these difficult times. The offer was very much appreciated and we thank you for your generosity, this will enable us to cover some of our fixed running costs over the next six months. For updates please check this website, or drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
John, Katie and Annlouise thank you for your continued support of Upstairs at the Gatehouse.
Box Office: 020 8340 3488
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5th July 2020