Union leaders warn Scottish theatres may need lifeline support for three more years
Union leaders have raised the prospect of the country suffering a "huge reduction in theatre companies and theatre operators” without extended lifeline support.
Although theatres have received emergency grants of up to
£750,000 from the Scottish Government’s arts agency to help them withstand the impact of the pandemic, this is only expected to help them meet their running costs until the end of March.
An official report for Holyrood's culture committee by the Broadcasting, Entertainment, Communications and Theatre Union (BECTU) says social distancing restrictions are likely to make financially viable live theatre shows "simply impossible for the foreseeable future."
And it has called for a major rethink of how Scotland’s leading regional theatres are supported to head off the threat of “massive loss of skills, employment, inward investment and tourism” in the event of closures or buildings only being in use when they are hired out for shows.
The Citizens and Tron theatres in Glasgow, the Traverse and Royal Lyceum theatres in Edinburgh, Eden Court in Inverness, Dundee Rep, Pitlochry Festival Theatre and Perth Theatre have all had lifeline funding to keep them affloat until the spring.
The report for the culture committee states: “The essential social distancing rules and other safety guidance make financially viable live events and theatre shows simply impossible for the foreseeable future.
“For theatres to survive in any kind of meaningful way there needs to be immediate, ongoing and substantial financial support which may be necessary for anything up to the next two or three years.
"Anything less runs the risk that we will see a huge reduction in theatre companies and theatre operators and Scotland will be left with a growing number of mothballed and redundant buildings.
"Creative Scotland also needs to be given the support and direction to strategically and fundamentally revise its funding priorities.
"Regionally based theatres are the bedrock of the industry. Prioritising the funding of small-scale performing theatre companies is extremely laudable but the loss of building-based theatres or reducing them to a ‘four wall hire’ will result in a massive loss of skills, employment, inward investment and tourism which will be impossible to rebuild.
“The wellbeing effect that a strong and vibrant industry has on local populations individually and collectively cannot be ignored. Research has long identified that high quality companies and jobs gravitate towards towns and cities which have a prominent arts and theatres presence.
"The high numbers of people going to the theatre demonstrate, week in week out, the value that ordinary people place in getting away from their daily challenges with a visit.
"In addition many arts professionals, from writers to performers to administrators to technicians to producers learn their craft in regional theatres and then progress to
become internationally recognised in the film and TV world.”
Paul McManus, BECTU’s negotiations officer in Scotland, said: “The picture for live events looks particularly bleak at the moment.
"All of the Scottish Government’s emergency funds are being quickly oversubscribed with applications from freelance workers desperately seeking support.
"Theatre companies are laying off staff with no support and many of them will untimately leave the industry as they see no prospect of any real work.”
A message from the Editor:
Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.
The dramatic events of 2020 are having a major impact on many of our advertisers - and consequently the revenue we receive. We are now more reliant than ever on you taking out a digital subscription to support our journalism.
Subscribe to scotsman.com and enjoy unlimited access to Scottish news and information online and on our app.
Visit www.scotsman.com/subscriptions now to sign up.
By supporting us, we are able to support you in providing trusted, fact-checked content for this website.
Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.