Creu Cymru warning on future of theatres in Wales

August 24, 2021 by

Creu Cymru, Wales’ performing arts sector alliance, is urging people to support their theatres and to help build confidence is promoting using free lateral flow COVID test home kits.

Director Louise Miles-Payne said that balancing the long-established financial pressures to reopen at full capacity now that Welsh Government regulations allow, brings many considerations and challenges for Welsh theatres and performing arts venues who at their heart know building audience confidence is imperative for the sector to survive.

The organisation that champions and connects people, audiences, and communities, says that it is clear that the vast majority of its members, who represent virtually all of the nation’s professionally run theatres, arts centres and producing companies are facing complex commercial, programming, staffing and health and safety challenges as they prepare to fully reopen for the first time since the March 2020 nationwide, pandemic-enforced closures.

Louise Miles-Payne said, “While most theatres across Wales are delighted to be preparing for their long-awaited reopening, our recent poll showed that venues of all scales unanimously reported their concerns around the competing financial pressures to reopen at full capacity as regulations allow, while many feel continuing with social distancing and therefore lower audience numbers is likely to remain the only viable route to achieving vital audience confidence. As we represent the sector in Wales, encouraging customers to make use of the free to access lateral flow tests that can be sent to your home and carried out in your own time. Knowing that you are safe before you go to a performance helps protects those around you and will keep the magic of theatre alive. We will be promoting this message through our ‘Testing, Testing 123 campaign’ launching Tuesday 31 August.”

Historic commercial arrangements with promoters often means the venue is in a difficult position and adapting to need for fluid planning is problematic as theatres must continually plan for different scenarios. The marketing of performances is a particular challenge as many Creu Cymru members reported that, for example, shows keep dropping out for various reasons such as ticket sales are not where they should be,  not enough lead time to market shows properly, a worry of not being able to market shows confidently due to worry the venue cannot guarantee the show will go ahead and are wary of losing the trust of audiences. It also warns that some promoters may decide there is too much of a financial risk, for example, such as deciding whether Christmas pantomimes go ahead.

Managing differing public opinions is something many theatres reported. Louise Miles-Payne, continued, “Welsh theatres told us they anticipate some audience members will want the freedom to remove masks when seated while that may deter others from returning. Managing perceptions of both promoters and the public will be unchartered territory for many venues as some people will have an expectation that everything is resuming and working to normal, and at the same time some audience members may be shocked when performances are not going ahead and can’t understand why things get rescheduled. Therefore, theatres are in a difficult position managing the different expectations and realities of all parties.”

Producing companies in some respects have greater control and flexibility over their choice of space for performances and how they can create a solution they feel best works for their performers and audiences. The first show to welcome back a full capacity audience in Wales will be Jimmy Carr at St David’s Hall Cardiff on the 31 August 31. Cardiff Council’s Cabinet Member for Culture, Venues & Events, Councillor Peter Bradbury said: “We are delighted that the first live show with a full indoor capacity audience in Wales will be at St David’s Hall, and especially with such a high-profile name in Jimmy Carr. Over the last 18 months, we have missed live entertainment so much and come to realise what a crucial part it plays in our social lives.”


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