A five-step plan to reopen theatres has been branded meaningless and falls “woefully short”, industry leaders have claimed.
Culture secretary Oliver Dowden’s plan features five ways he intends to get theatres reopened, including allowing open air performances and pilots for shows staged inside, but includes no timetable for making it happen.
The plan also makes no mention of a financial package needed to secure the sector’s future.
It had a lukewarm reception from people within the industry, who argue it does not go far enough in protecting the sector against long-term damage.
Society of London Theatre chief executive Julian Bird called on the government to give indicative “no earlier” than dates for stages of the roadmap, so theatres can start to plan reopening.
He added: “Otherwise with no information at all, theatres and producers will have to assume a worst case scenario and plan to be shut for a long period. With the rest of the economy now reopening quickly we firmly believe that with the right safety processes in place, we can get back to full audiences in theatres within months – we now need government to confirm this.”
Equity general secretary Christine Payne said the union had made it clear to the culture secretary that without an investment plan to protect jobs and workplaces “these efforts to develop return to work guidance will be meaningless”.
She added: “We delivered detailed feedback on the draft government guidance to the Department for Digital, Media, Culture and Sport yesterday. In it, we said that it is impossible to ignore the incompatibility of full or indeed partial reopening for many sectors of the live performance industries under existing funding and business models.
"Much of the industry cannot viably operate without targeted investment in infrastructure and ongoing support for organisations and the workers associated with them – whether they are permanent employees, freelance or self-employed."
Birmingham Hippodrome chief executive and artistic director Fiona Allan said that, without dates, the roadmap “is of no practical benefit whatsoever for the performing arts sector”.
“We need dates to work towards in order to plan properly or more jobs will be lost and more venues and companies close. How is this not clear?,” she said.
BECTU head Philippa Childs said the roadmap “provides no dates, no clarity, no support and no certainty” and claimed it showed how “little understanding there is in government of what is happening in the industry right now and what is needed to help”.
“We need a comprehensive plan and this announcement fails to address the key and pressing issues. A roadmap is fine – as long as you have enough fuel in the tank to get there. Many theatres don’t and this much awaited announcement falls woefully short of what is needed,” she added.
Curve chief executive Chris Stafford added: “While good to have, unless this roadmap is accompanied by financial packages and a clear idea of timeframes, the status quo remains unchanged for many of us and the situation for our sector will continue to worsen.”