Theatre staff jobs under threat

Staff at Norwich Theatre Royal, the Playhouse and Stage 2 have been told they could lose their jobs as enormous financial losses have forced the organisation to look at a major restructuring to try to save its future.

Some 113 employees have been told that their roles are at risk of redundancy and a further 59 employees on irregular zero hours contracts have received confirmation that they will no longer receive any work. A formal process of consultation with all 217 staff will now begin.

The theatre has already incurred major losses as a result of a prolonged period of closure due to coronavirus and with theatres unable to reopen it is estimated that it will be at least another six months before the organisation can regain full scale operations.

The theatre’s chief executive has described it as “an incredibly dark day for us and for arts and culture in Norwich, Norfolk and the East of England”, and vowed to fight on.

Empty seats since the beginning of lockdown which are looking unlikely to be filled any time soon have led to enormous losses for the Theatre Royal.

Michael Newey, chair of the Trustees of Norwich Theatre, said: “As trustees we are custodians of Norwich Theatre and it is our 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 95pc 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.

“We know that this is a devastating decision for our staff and every trustee wishes that we had a different way forward. They will all be fully supported by the chief executive and his team during this difficult time as the consultation process begins. 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.”

A large proportion of Norwich Theatre’s staff are employed to directly support the presentation of major productions at Theatre Royal which often see around 10,000 people attend the venue each week. All large-scale shows previously planned to tour to Theatre Royal for the August-December 2020 period have now been postponed. Furthermore, it 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 the Theatre Royal until January 2021 at the earliest.

Stephen Crocker, chief executive, said: “Our staff are the lifeblood of our organisation and my team and I have 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 heart-broken.”

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