On Monday 16 March 2020, the events and theatre industry stopped. Technicians across the country had done their rig checks, performers were doing their warm-ups, the stages were being swept ready to open the houses to audiences who travelled sometimes hundreds of miles to enjoy an evening of entertainment. Once the announcement was made by the Government that the country was going into lockdown, tools were downed, and technicians and performers went home unsure of what their futures would hold.
We were the first to stop and will be the last to return, no sooner than Spring 2021. As the days went by, the enormity of the situation became clear. Freelancers were being told daily that the work they were relying on for their livelihoods was disappearing. Suppliers started working out how they would get their equipment out of venues and how they would pay their staff. After the Government’s announcement of the Furlough Scheme for full time employees, the freelance community were told they would be able to claim on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS). As the details emerged, it became clear that many individuals were finding they would not be entitled to any financial help. As weeks turned into months, the dire situation facing our industry prompted the creation of groups such as Freelancers Make Theatre Work, Let The Music Play, Forgotten Ltd and Let Us Dance. These groups and many individual businesses petitioned the DCMS and Government on behalf of different sectors of the industry to create a rescue package for venues, suppliers, and individuals. On Sunday 5 July, the Government announced £1.57bn predominately for theatres, venues and institutions deemed the crown jewels for the UK. There was no clear detail on when this money would be available and as the days went on, news of redundancies and closures of long-standing venues continued to appear in the news.
A recent PLASA survey reported that 10% of businesses served redundancy notices in July and a further 15% will be serving this month. With social distancing still in place and no viable way to hold mass gatherings by the end of the year, 70% of industry businesses will have made redundancies. Government support packages for employees ends in October. As an industry that will be not be able to generate any income, we are asking the Government to “Throw us a line”. There are c1,000,000 employed in the UK delivering events, 600,000 deliver outdoor events, 72% of whom are freelance, many of which have no access to any financial support. Most of the suppliers, including UK manufacturers, are not eligible for the £1.57bn bailout so will have to take out private lines of credit in order to continue. More redundancies and closures will appear in the news. More lives will be affected, not just by the financial burden, but by the mental health toll. News of talented individuals leaving the industry and not planning to return so they can provide for their families is heart breaking.
As we all know, the events and theatre industry is a way of life and not just a job. We travel together, eat together, drink together, sleep on the same bus, know about each other’s families, see each other at our best and worst, and work to a standard that is the envy of the world. #WeMakeEvents is bringing together all aspects of the events and theatre industry to make our voices heard by the Government. Those currently involved include 19 trade and industry bodies along with over 100 of the world’s leading audio, lighting and video equipment manufacturers, production companies and freelancers.
The #WeMakeEvents campaign is now at RED ALERT and will continue until the industry is allowed to operate in a way that is not limited by social distancing policies, and is calling for:
1. Grants - not loans - made available to businesses in the events supply chain
2. Furlough Scheme extended until the industry is back to work
3. Extension of the Self-employed Income Support Scheme. Extend self employed
On Tuesday 11 August the #WeMakeEvents - RED ALERT campaign is holding a day of events to call the Government to ‘THROW US A LINE’ before we lose the talent and expertise that is the envy of the world.
Find the event on Facebook at WeMakeEvents: Red Alert - day of action.