The Government Is Failing The Arts Sector… Again

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At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, Boris Johnson left theatres and performance venues in an impossible position as he warned the UK to ‘avoid pubs, clubs, theatres and other such social venues’, but chose not to order these venues to close for a further four days.

This meant that the public were aware that they should not be attending events with mass gatherings, but left venues in limbo of having to choose to close for public safety, but facing uncertainty about what would that would mean for their staff and building. As the government didn’t immediately make it mandatory for cultural venues to close, it meant that they were unable to claim any compensation for cancelled performances. This left venue managers in the turmoil of facing financial loss, trying to keep customers happy as some were against going to shows but others were more than happy to as lockdown hadn’t been brought into affect yet, as well as wanting to keep their own staff safe.

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Newcastle’s Theatre Royal (image taken from their Facebook page)

Eventually when the government did announce that all theatres, bars, nightclubs, and restaurants needed to close back on 20th March, it at least meant that the decision had been taken out of their hands. However, since this occurred there has been absolutely no financial support offered specifically to the arts and culture sector. The furlough scheme has been introduced, however, which does allow many businesses to continue to offer monthly pay to their staff rather than make them redundant. But, within the live performance industry many staff are freelance, which means that they may not receive furlough at all, and also zero hour contract staff who also may not see much benefit of the furlough scheme.

Now, the affects of venues such as theatres having to remain closed for many months, with no reopening date in sight yet, is proving critical. Venues in other areas of the country such as Nuffield Southampton Theatre and Southport Theatre and Convention Centre have already sadly gone into administration. Even the iconic Shakespeare’s Globe theatre in London has warned that it faces permanent closure and insolvency as a result of lockdown.

In Newcastle, it has come to light that some of our own venues are struggling too. As theatres and venues rely on ongoing tickets sales and revenue from merchandise and bars to keep going, it’s more than understandable that our venues face insecure futures. In the past week, The Evening Chronicle has broken stories about both the Tyneside Cinema and Newcastle Theatre Royal facing mass staff redundancies, as they are in serious risk of their venues closing indefinitely (links below).

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People’s Theatre in Heaton (image taken from their Facebook page)

It goes without saying that buildings such as these cost a lot of money to maintain, even when they are not in use, and without ongoing performances it is increasingly difficult for venues to continue to exist without making cuts and without being able to rely on income from future shows. As the government is currently unable to offer the cultural sector any information on when live performance venues may be able to reopen, and under what circumstances that may be, it’s also going to become harder for theatres to go ahead with this years panto season. Although pantomimes generally don’t start until the end of November, there is a lot of work and investment that goes into them that usually ramps up in the summer and autumn time to prepare shows. However, lockdown restrictions may continue to put a big halt to these types of productions, leading the People’s Theatre in Heaton to already cancel their panto for 2020. Panto is one of the most crucial income generating times of year for many theatres, so the loss of it will result in a huge financial hit.

The Theatre Royal’s panto is usually a huge success (image taken from their Facebook page)

As people fear the worst for the UK’s theatre and arts sector, petitions and calls on the government demanding further support for the industry are being amplified across the country. As well as providing entertainment and culture for the public, performance venues are instrumental to the economy. They not only provide jobs for thousands of people, but also offer enrichment, charitable experiences and skill building for vulnerable people, and bring in millions of pounds each year in both local spending and tourism. If the arts sector suffers, this will then have an effect on local restaurants, bars, shops, hotels, taxi firms, beauty salons, the list goes on.

But still, the government is failing to offer any direct support to the UK’s arts and culture venues. In a week which has seen the reopening of nonessential shops and zoos, arts venues are still being left out and unsupported. A pattern which perhaps comes unsurprisingly to arts professionals, as arts and culture funding has been gradually and consistently cut since 2010, even before the pandemic began.

While the spirit and passion of arts workers and culture lovers remains strong, support from the countries leaders remains nonexistent.

The Tyneside Cinema (image taken from their Facebook page)

Links;

https://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/whats-on/whats-on-news/tyneside-cinema-consult-111-staff-18427146

https://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/theatre-royal-newcastle-jobs-panto-18405534

https://www.change.org/p/the-uk-government-government-need-to-support-arts-organisations-in-c19-recovery

How To Find Out If Your Show Has Been Postponed

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In the last two months theatres, concert venues and music halls have been forced to postpone or cancel all of their immediate shows, due to Covid 19.

Of course, this has left many people who had purchased tickets for events unsure of what will happen next. It’s also been a very difficult time for the venues themselves as they try to navigate through this period of uncertainty. Many of them are also only able to operate with skeleton staff at the moment.

However, customer bookings are a priority to live performance venues, and from what I have seen so far, I know that a lot of venues here in the North East have been working their hardest to make sure that customers with tickets to any cancelled performances are helped as soon as possible.

But, the staff at these venues are only human and can only sift through each of their bookings personally at a certain speed. This has led to a number of these venues being inundated with queries from clients who want to find out what to do with their tickets. Staff from relevant ticket sellers should be in touch with you either by email or over the phone, to let you know of any changes to your booking, but there may be a delay in this if there’s a backlog. It’s also worth noting that if you have purchased tickets through a website such as Ticketmaster or Eventim, then they should be sending out emails to bookers with further information too.

However, to try to help the situation, I’ve put together some information of where to find details of postponed or cancelled shows for a collection of venues in the North East.

O2 City Hall, Newcastle

Utilita Arena;

The arena’s ticketing partner for their events is Ticketmaster, so information regarding events should come from them. But to make things as easy as possible, the Utilita Arena have curated an easy to use guide specifying which of their events have been cancelled or moved. This webpage is also being updated as and when necessary with any updates;

https://www.utilitaarena.co.uk/news/view/coronavirus-covid-19-update-and-event-information/

They have also stated on this page that; “If an event is not listed below we currently do not have any information to provide so please keep checking for updates”. So, if you have tickets for an event that is not currently on this list, then they likely won’t be able to give any further information on it at this time.

You can also view all upcoming shows at Utilita Arena to purchase tickets, here;

https://www.utilitaarena.co.uk/events/all/

Theatre Royal;

The Theatre Royal in Newcastle have recently issued the following statement;

“We are working hard to contact all customers who are awaiting refunds as quickly as possible. We are aware some customers have been waiting for a few weeks and we are extremely grateful for your patience.

We are also working hard to contact customers who have tickets for upcoming performances with more details regarding cancellations. We are trying to reschedule as many performances as possible so you don’t miss out on the excellent shows we had planned; depending on our progress with this not all show cancellations will necessarily be announced and processed in chronological order. Please rest assured that we will contact you in due course.

We’re doing our best and appreciate your support.

Stay safe”

The Theatre Royal haven’t issued a specific list of performances that have been cancelled, however they are giving regular updates on their social media as to what’s happening. Understandably, as a lot of the theatre’s performances have long runs at the venue then it may be a more lengthy process for them reschedule shows.

You can view further information from the theatre, here;

https://www.theatreroyal.co.uk/whats-on/performance-cancellation

Tyne Theatre and Opera House;

The Tyne Theatre is currently working very hard to contact each of their customers individually with information on their tickets. They are working with minimal box office staff at the moment so there is currently a delay. The theatre have previously issued information regarding cancellations and refunds, here;

https://tynetheatreandoperahouse.uk/coronavirus-update/

In this, they have stated; “If a show is rescheduled: Tickets will remain valid for the rescheduled date. We do encourage ticket holders to hold onto their tickets where possible in this turbulent time for the events industry – which needs your support now, more than ever. However, If you are unable to attend the rescheduled date, refunds will be available from your point of purchase”.

And; “If a show is cancelled: Refunds will be available from your point of purchase. If you booked through our ticketing agent Eventim, your payment card will be refunded automatically. If you booked via our box office we will be in touch to issue your refund (please bear with us at this busy time). If you booked through another ticketing agent, please contact them with any enquiries regarding your refund”.

A list of their upcoming cancelled and rescheduled events can also be found on their website, here;

https://tynetheatreandoperahouse.uk/whats-on/

Tyne Theatre and Opera House, Newcastle

O2 Academy, Newcastle;

The O2 Academy are giving regular updates on their social media pages about which shows are no longer going ahead. You can follow their Twitter account for updates.

They have confirmed on their website that currently all shows at the O2 Academy until at least the 7th May are temporarily postponed. You can view their statement and further information, here;

https://academymusicgroup.com/o2academynewcastle/content/safety-and-security

They have also listed a helpful set of FAQ’s on their website, here;

https://academymusicgroup.com/faq

O2 City Hall;

The City Hall joined forces with O2 last year, and their comms are now very similar to that if the O2 Academy’s. They are also posting regular updates about shows to their Twitter page, and have released further information on their website, here;

https://academymusicgroup.com/o2cityhallnewcastle/content/safety-and-security

All of their current shows up until at least 7th May have been temporarily postponed, and further updates will follow after the Government’s advice after this date. Ticketing staff will be contacting purchasers directly if your tickets have been affected.

The Sage;

The Sage have announced that all shows and other events at their venue will not be going ahead until further notice. They have also said that their box office team are working to contact customers of cancelled and postponed shows directly. For more information you can view their statement in full, here;

https://sagegateshead.com/coronavirus/

This link will also take you to a list of rescheduled performances and further run formation on them individually, further down the page.

Northern Stage;

Northern Stage are another organisation working incredibly hard to contact customers who have been affected by rescheduled performances.

The venue have released the following statement regarding all Covid related cancellations and postponements;

https://www.northernstage.co.uk/news/coronavirus-update-northern-stage

So, currently all performances up until 31st July have been suspended, and the box office team are working very hard to contact all customers in due course. If you have any urgent queries for Northern Stage, then please email them rather than call, and be aware that there may be a delay in response.

People’s Theatre;

The People’s Theatre are a community based theatre and so it’s current closure is difficult for the box office team there.

All performances there have currently been cancelled for the remainder of their Spring/ Summer season. They have assured customers that their box office will be in touch with customers directly and are also regularly updating their Twitter page with news and updates.

You can also visit their website for any further information, here;

https://www.peoplestheatre.co.uk/

If you have any problems at all in reaching out to any of these venues, or any others in the country at the moment for that matter, please be patient. Live venues are are currently dealing with a lot of uncertainty and stress in trying to mange the situation. But their priority is bringing the stage back to life and inviting you all back through their doors as soon and as safely as they can.

Have any further questions? Contact me at Tickets in Newcastle and I’ll help as best I can!

The Sage, Gateshead