The culture and hospitality sector is in danger. Many theatres have a limited number of months, or weeks before they completely run out of funding. Pubs that employ musicians to draw in punters are struggling badly and some are closing for good. People who work in the arts sector are finding themselves with little or no income for months at a time and all too often fall outside the criteria as sole traders, for help from the government. The benefits structure is stacked against the self-employed too.
Light It In Red was a direct action event nationwide, to highlight the plight of the arts industry. For it is an industry, with music alone contributing £5.2 billion to the UK economy. A total of £1.28 billion from the theatre industry in 2018 is not to be sniffed at.
PLASA is the lead international membership body for those who supply technologies and services to the event and entertainment industries. Their membership added their #wemakeevents cry to the voices of others working in entertainment and culture. They also provided the necessary red lighting.
There is some good news however, with some theatres insisting Cinderella will go to the ball, or Snow White will choke on that apple, at Christmas this year. Optimistic maybe, but it’s what is required in places where children’s only experience of theatre is the panto. Pantomime is often the bread and butter of large theatres, paying those looming bills each year. Panto brings communities together and creates memories.
Social distancing and safety procedures will be essential in public places. This will raise costs and decrease revenue. With no equivalent of #eatouttohelpout in the arts many venues will not break even.
On Tuesday 11th August North East venues joined in with their #lightitinred and #wemakeevents displays and the media turned up at the larger venues. The £1.57 billion rescue package has been conspicuously absent in the north and in grassroots venues. The government would do well to realise if you take the bottom layer of cards out, the whole lot tumbles. Small theatres are a massive source of talent, writing, technical skills, and other resources which feed into the higher revenue venues.
All we can do is raise the profile of the campaigns to keep culture alive and support all the safety-conscious events being put on by the brave promoters, artists and venues who refuse to be beaten by this virus. I include comedy in the arts, even if the government won’t.