Open letter calls for government support

London theatre news: Thursday 18 June 2020

Coronavirus - Funding - Theatres

Theatres on the "brink of ruin" force industry leaders and a host of top flight actors and creatives to write an open letter asking for government help.
Images for various Delfont Mackintosh shows

Sir Cameron Mackintosh's shows that will not reopen until 2021

It's an obvious indicator of the extraordinary times and the critical nature of the situation staring UK theatre in the face when an open letter gets published asking the government for help.

That's what happened yesterday when the Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre made a call for government financial backing to support a theatre industry "on the brink of ruin".

For some venues, ruin is already a fact with four theatres having already lowered their final curtain and gone into administration with others likely to follow the same path in the next few weeks.

The urgency of the situation - and the lack of real progress to provide appropriate financial support - becomes even clearer when the letter in question is backed by dozens of top flight actors, directors and writers as well as theatre unions like BECTU and Equity.

Here's the letter in full ...

An open letter to the prime minister Boris Johnson, chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak and secretary of state for culture Oliver Dowden.

Dear sirs,

We are concerned that British theatre is on the brink of ruin.

Theatre is one of the UK's most dazzling success stories. In all its forms, whether drama, musical theatre, opera or dance, British theatre is a world class cultural and economic force with productions filling venues from Broadway to Beijing.

The pandemic has brought theatre to its knees. Theatres do not have the money to operate viably with physical distancing. It is difficult to see venues opening before the end of the year.

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.

Culture and creativity is playing such an important part in helping the entire nation through these difficult times. It will play a crucial role as we emerge from the crisis.

It is difficult to underestimate the importance of theatre and storytelling to our national identity. More people see a theatre show each year than attend all league football matches in the whole of the UK.

The existential threat to theatre is also one which endangers the important work that is being done to create and attract more diverse workforces and audiences.

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.


Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre, Bectu, Equity, Independent Theatre Council, Live Comedy Association, Musicians' Union (you can find the full list of other signatories here).

On the same day, the highly successful theatre producer Sir Cameron Mackintosh announced that his West End productions of LES MISÉRABLES, MARY POPPINS, HAMILTON and THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA will be delayed until as early as practical in 2021.

You can read Sir Cameron's full statement here.

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