The latest Welsh Government announcement to begin lifting social distancing restrictions is welcome news for the performing arts sector, but a new report by Creu Cymru documents the crisis-status of the industry caused by the Covid restrictions particulary over the typically busy Christmas period.
Creu Cymru, Wales’ Performing arts sector alliance that champions and connects people, audiences and communities, has estimated that the total loss of income for its members, who represent virtually all the nation’s professionally run theatres, arts centres and producing companies, is between £8-10 million since Wales re-entered Alert Level 2 on the 26th December. Having to return to the rule of 6 with a maximum capacity of 200 resulted in most theatres in Wales cancelling performances or closing completely as it was not financially viable to operate.
Creu Cymru has been lobbying Welsh Government and Arts Council of Wales on behalf of its members for further funding support and to reconsider the need for social distancing in theatres. It has been advocating for the theatre sector since before these recent restrictions were put into place, including presenting the case before the Senedds Culture, Communications, Welsh Language, Sport and International Relations Committee as part of its one-day inquiry into arts and the creative industries.
The importance of getting funds turned around quickly following any funding announcements was highlighted Louise Miles-Payne, Director, Creu Cymru said “We recognise the swift and positive response by the Welsh Government to our continued lobbying since the end of 2021 for financial support for the Welsh arts sector. We were extremely pleased to see the First Minister announce a potential end date to the restrictions on theatres and other entertainment sectors today. Alongside the news earlier this week of a further 15.4 million Cultural Recovery Fund, this will go a long way to help a sector hugely affected by restrictions. The Christmas season is an incredibly important part of the theatrical calendar, it brings in much needed income and brings families together. We estimated total losses of around 8-10 million for theatres in Wales in this latest round of restrictions. We are grateful for the consultation we’ve been able to have with Welsh Government Ministers and Officials who have listened to our concerns and questions.
On behalf of our members, we have stressed the need for sufficient time for plans to be put into place. Today’s news means that the thousands of producers, actors, musicians, venues and supporting staff across the industry who have been anxiously debating whether to begin rehearsals and the subsequent marketing of productions planned from February onwards, can now proceed with greater assurances.”.
Creu Cymru’s report for the Welsh Government on the status of the sector documents that at least 19 theatres had to cancel their Christmas productions and performances scheduled in January..
The Welsh Government also has announced a £1000 emergency payment for freelancers working in the sector which will be made available through local authorities from next week with full details announced on January 17. Venues and cultural arts centres and museums look likely to meet the eligibility criteria for the £15.4m fund as they can more easily demonstrate the loss of income they have suffered. However, it is as yet unclear how producing companies will be supported if planned projects cannot go ahead or what insurances could be available if cancellations come after the work has been commissioned.