Bosses at Scarborough Stephen Joseph Theatre join the call for the Government to save performing arts

Leaders of the  Stephen Joseph Theatre  have joined the forces lobbying the Government to save the performing arts.

Monday, 22nd June 2020, 12:38 pm
Updated Monday, 22nd June 2020, 3:24 pm
Bosses are lobbying for its survival
Bosses are lobbying for its survival

Chief executive Caroline Routh and artistic director Paul Robinson are lending their voices from UK Theatre and Society of London Theatres to plead for actions and cash.

Lockdown restrictions are costing theatres millions of pounds each week.

Robinson said: “Theatres attracted a combined audience of more than 34 million people and created ticket revenue of nearly £13 billion a year – twice that of the Premier League.”

One of the West End’s leading producing Sonia Friedman warned 70 per cent of performing arts companies may go out of business by the the end of the year. Cameron McIntosh has closed his shows until next year.

The Stephen Joseph is among thousands of venues which have been closed since March 23. This should have been the height of its summer season.

“We are existing on reserves and most of our staff are on furlough. We also get support from the Arts Council and Scarborough Borough Council,” she said.

But if its is not making theatre then it is not making money. It is not just the ticket sales for the plays and films.

The theatre rakes in cash from its bar, ice cream, refreshments and programme sales. Lack of audiences also has knock-on effects for the wider economy. “We contributed £4.6 million to the region last year,” said Routh, who joined the venue last year.

“More than 90,000 people attended the Stephen Joseph Theatre last year. Forty per cent of are audience live more than an hour away and are likely to stay in a hotel, go to restaurants and bars,” said Routh. The theatre is one of the town’s major cultural draws. It offers theatre unique from that of the Spa or Open Air Theatre – whose closures are also costing the town millions.

Neither Routh or Robinson can say when the theatre will re-open or how it will look when it does.

Audience surveys show people are cautious about coming back and, said Routh, you cannot make a show pay if social distancing is in place.

Financially the loss is calculable: culturally it is not.

Routh echoed the sentiments of Alan Ayckbourn, who is intrinsically linked to the Stephen Joseph, when she said: “Nothing beats sitting in a theatre. It is a unique experience shared with an audience and performers. Each day is different.”

Rather than making theatre, Routh and Robinson spend their days making a case for it.

“We are submitting data to the Department of Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and having number-crunching conversations in support of how vital theatre is to the financial and cultural well-being of the country,” said Routh.

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