More than 100 employees at Norwich Theatre are facing redundancy, as it warns that the “scale of ongoing financial loss is no longer sustainable”.
Norwich Theatre comprises three venues, including Norwich Theatre Royal, Norwich Playhouse and Stage Two. It currently employs 217 staff, but said 113 (52%) are facing redundancy, with a further 59 employed on zero-hour contracts being told they will no longer receive any work.
The company receives no annual public subsidy and generates all of its income through tickets sales, commercial activities and fundraising.
The company said the restructure was due to the “huge financial losses” already incurred as a result of closure due to coronavirus and a projected period of at least another six months before the organisation can fully reopen.
“Due to the devastating impact of coronavirus on the whole of the theatre ecology, all large-scale shows previously planned to tour to Theatre Royal for the August to December 2020 period have now been postponed. Furthermore, Norwich Theatre has also made the difficult decision to postpone its annual pantomime from Christmas 2020 to Christmas 2021. This means that there will be no large-scale productions at Theatre Royal until January 2021 at the earliest,” it said in a statement.
Michael Newey, chair of the trustees at Norwich Theatre, said the trustees had a “duty to ensure that we protect our charitable mission and our ability to carry out that mission into the future”.
“The coronavirus lockdown saw us immediately lose 95% of our income and this scale of ongoing financial loss is no longer sustainable. With no large-scale productions able to go ahead until next year, no clear date for when we will be able to operate at full scale again and no public funding intervention forthcoming, we have been forced to mandate the chief executive to begin a major restructuring project to reduce our costs,” he said.
He added: “We know that this is a devastating decision for our staff and every trustee wishes that we had a different way forward… Without government support, we have been left with no other option if we are to make a guarantee to our audiences that we will survive this crisis and welcome them back to our buildings next year.”
Chief executive Stephen Crocker described the staff as the lifeblood of the organisation, and added that his team had done “all we can to support and protect them over these past few months and will continue to do so as we explore all options through this consultation process”.
“On their behalf, I remain shocked and angry that the government is standing idle as an industry that has delivered so much to this country and is so vital to its recovery is being allowed to fade into dust. I will continue to fight hard for our staff, our theatres and our whole industry but this is an incredibly dark day for us and for arts and culture in Norwich, Norfolk and the East of England. I am simply heartbroken,” he said.
The company’s Theatre Royal is the largest stage in the East of England, and hosts companies such as English Touring Opera and Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures, as well as the Royal Shakespeare Company.
It said that Les Misérables, which had been performing when lockdown happened, expected to bring in £5 million to the local economy during its five-week run.