CRISIS IN CULTURE
The impact the Covid-19 crisis and lockdown upon the cultural sector is critical. Of all areas of industry across the country, none has been more devastating. Major UK arts and museum venues will remain closed until late 2020 and in many cases later. Current realistic estimates for re-opening vary from October to spring of 2021. The Southbank Centre has stated it will not reopen until 2021 and faces ‘catastrophic losses’. Sir Cameron Mackintosh has confirmed major venues and productions such as Les Miserable will not reopen this year. Numerous internationally well known UK venues are known to be facing crippling, possibly terminal, financial losses including ‘big players’ such as the RSC, Old Vic and Globe. Several venues have already declared insolvency including the Nuffield in our neighbouring city. The impact on individuals most of whom work on short term or zero hours contracts has already been enormous and sector unemployment is likely to be high for the next couple of years. LW Theatres, the Young Vic and Selladoor are just some of the prominent companies who have told the DCMS that we need clarity and action from the government. Julian Bird SOLT/UK Theatre CEO has stated that the next few weeks are crucial to the survival of the whole sector. And Rufus Norris at the National has opinioned that 70% of theatres will be closed over the Christmas period!
Whilst we have no specific data regarding the city it is not difficult to postulate the position. Portsmouth Festivities and Victorious Festival have been cancelled. The financial surviva of many of our performance venues depends upon the lucrative Christmas period. Our arts venues are closed and the consequences of this for many which struggle financially in the best of times and are maintained by charities is likely to be bleak. Similar problems exist for galleries, arts clubs and educational organisations and our museums and heritage venues. In a city with many problems and significant pockets of poverty, we cannot contemplate the long term social impact of a loss of culture and non-statutory educational provision. Additionally, culture, heritage and the arts are essential to the economy of a city heavily dependent on tourism.
In a recent One Show interview Sir Kenneth Brannah expressed his deep concern for the survival of the arts reminding the audience that they are crucial for social and mental welfare as we attempt to recuperate in a damaged economy and that the arts more than pay their way in job creation and tax revenues. Prince Charles has called for the government to commit to ongoing financial support to prevent the sector being devastated describing the losses as “a total, utter tragedy”. Last week nearly 100 leading theatre figures including Olivier nominees Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Andrew Scott warned that British theatre is “on the brink of ruin”. This view has been endorsed by The Stage in an article by the editor warning of devastating redundancies. Research published by The Stage indicates that the creative industries are ‘heading towards a “cultural catastrophe” with losses of £1.4 billion a week and more than 400,00 jobs under threat of redundancy! In an interview with the Stratford Herald yesterday, Gregory Doran of the RSC warned “my fear is that the government will keep the flagships and then leave everyone else to look after themselves / Sitting where I am now at the RSC I wouldn’t be here without the huge and now very fragile ecology (of regional arts)” [https://www.stratford-herald.com/110030-gregory-doran-interview-rsc-fight-survive.html]
Whilst we must remain positive and the Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has pledged to work with the industry to develop “innovative ideas” enabling venues to reopen; previous experience locally and nationally over the past 50 years has shown that the arts are too readily dismissed or overlooked and there is little concrete indication so far that the government will rise to this challenge.
In Portsmouth, we cannot afford to wait for the cavalry to arrive. We need to take positive action if our creatives, venues and the communities they serve are to be protected from outcomes which this city cannot socially or economically afford.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Write to both the city MP’s and the Secretary of State (DCMS) to remind them of the catastrophe facing the sector and the social, health and economic benefits it brings to the city and encourage them to actively encourage the government to include culture in its planning and financial provision. (Addresses below / feel free to cut and paste from this document if you wish)
Rt Hon Oliver Dowden CBE MP, Secretary of State, DCMS
Rt Hon Penny Mordaunt (Portsmouth North) email@example.com
Rt Hon Stephen Morgan (Portsmouth South) firstname.lastname@example.org
SIGN THE PETITION
That you sign the ‘Public Campaign for the Arts’ petition now being circulated by 38 degrees [https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/save-the-uk-s-arts-and-cultural-industries] and encourage your friends and colleagues to do likewise.