Given we made two appeals for government support for theatres to survive beyond the pandemic it would be churlish not to welcome the government’s £1.57 billion cash injection to protect our world leading cultural sector.
Now it’s true that money has to go a long way across theatres, museums and live venues, but considering yesterday we had no support this is a significant acknowledgement that many big and small theatres were on the brink of going under. And, make no mistake, once they went dark the reality was they would never come back like the Nuffield in Southampton.
You can’t help but think the National Theatre’s decision to lay off its front of house staff, or the announcement by regional powerhouse the Royal Exchange of potential redundancies must have focused the government’s thinking.
The Mousetrap might be up and running in a reduced form, but for most theatre fans it is unlikely that they will be sitting in a dark room watching work before Christmas, so this cash injection will tide our theatres over until they can get enough people through the doors to start paying their own way.
Like with all these announcements there is much to do now in making sure this money is spent wisely and fairly, but as quickly as possible, so the creatives can start planning for a future that until recently looked very bleak.
But as well as supporting the big theatres to meet their big fixed costs the money needs to find its way to companies like Mikron who recently launched an appeal for a relatively small £48,3337.49 to make sure they could celebrate their fiftieth anniversary in 2021. Or radical theatre company Red Ladder, and solo performers like Daniel Bye, who don’t have buildings to pay for, but are key players in the theatrical ecosystem.
We also know that freelancers can make up to 70% of any production, so consideration needs to be made about how this money can help keep their skills in the industry.
The number one point of any theatre or company is tp make sure as many people as possible can think about the world about us, or be transported to a new world. That might be the Bard, or panto, but millions of people love and need live theatre.
But we also made the economic argument when we asked the government to act. Theatres contribute huge tax revenues to our national economy through the two billion earned as tourists pour into the West End, taxable ticket sales in regional theatres, business rates, tax paid by performers/technicians and the cash spent before people even enter the theatre that contributes hugely to city centre economies.
So whilst £1.57 billion is a huge amount of money it is actually a wise investment of tax payers money, and not a handout, if it saves theatres and companies who will contribute billions to our national recovery pot for decades to come.
More than it, means there is now a fighting chance you can once again visit your much loved theatre, sit back and be taken to other worlds to forget the virus for a little while And, frankly, if ever we needed theatre to help raise our battered souls and spirits it is now.