Shakespeare’s Globe has warned that it will not survive the Covid-19 pandemic without at least £5 million of support. The Bankside theatre, which does not receive regular funding, said it had been unsuccessful in applying for a relief grant from Arts Council England, meaning it has so far been left with no emergency support to weather the crisis.
In a written submission to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s inquiry into the impact of Covid-19 on the creative industries, the Globe said the coming months will pose its greatest threat since opening in 1997, admitting that it will face permanent closure as a result of losing 95% of its income – which includes theatre tickets, tours, workshops and retail trading – since being shut to the public.
"A model that has contributed to our financial resilience now sees us critically vulnerable and at risk of closure in the wake of Covid-19," the theatre’s evidence said. "Without emergency funding from government we will not be able to survive this crisis; a tragedy for the arts, for the legacy of England’s most famous writer, but also for the country, if our iconic site on Bankside stands empty. We submit in order to make the case for emergency funding," it said.
Its artistic director, Michelle Terry, said the theatre ordinarily survives "hand to mouth" because it does not receive subsidy, and is "completely dependent" in the income it can generate. "When that income stops, the few reserves we’ve got in the bank – whatever savings you’ve got – that’s how long it will last," she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. She said the crisis had forced the theatre to ask "big existential questions" about its purpose, adding: "But we need money to be able to keep asking those questions, so that when the time is right, we can get artists, actors, writers, designers and directors back in the building."
The Globe’s DCMS committee submission estimated that it would need £5 million of support in order to reopen, begin creating shows again and restart its operations, but said this did not include any contingency if there is a second wave of social distancing next year, or if audiences do not return.
It warned that even with a bailout, opening its building later than September would cause "significant difficulty" in maintaining artistic and educational work at its current level. Among the other long-term impacts highlighted by the theatre are the consequences of a downturn in tourism, which provides a major part of the Globe’s audience, and the effects of the crisis on older people, with people aged over 70 making up the majority of its 574 front-of-house volunteers.