Theatres need to know whether ‘Christmas is cancelled’, MPs told

Theatres need clarity to know whether “Christmas is cancelled”, an industry figure has told MPs.

Society Of London Theatre and UK Theatre chief executive Julian Bird said the festive period is crucial to theatres around the country.

“Christmas for theatres is absolutely essential… Pantomimes, Christmas musicals, Christmas shows… It’s where they can make profits that they use later in the year for other productions”, he said.

“It’s vital… Do I think it’s cancelled yet? I very, very much hope not.”

But he added that the industry needed to know what help it would get.

“The sector needs understanding around the support that might be available to it,” he said.

“We need that in a timely fashion because most theatres have to make a decision around their Christmas production by early August.”

He warned that 70% of theatres, which are at the “heart of our communities”, could run out of cash by the end of the year and said: “I don’t think we should underestimate, if they go away, what that means for the future of our country.”

The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee was also warned about the state of the music industry as a result of the pandemic.

Horace Trubridge, general secretary of the Musicians’ Union, told MPs: “All the work – live work, studio work, orchestras, everything – just fell off a cliff, it all disappeared.

“Our members have had no income whatsoever from work since the middle of March and it’s had a devastating effect on the profession…

“Our wonderful industry is so dependent upon audiences and we can’t see a point… When we will be able to put an audience in a venue to see a live performance for quite some time.

“We’re very different to other areas of the economy which are poised to step forward to resume their activities. Our industry isn’t like that.

“That’s been recognised in other countries where they’ve set up cultural funds to make sure they don’t lose the arts and culture in their countries which is so valuable to them.”

He added: “Our position on the world stage is envied all over the world but we will not retain it unless we can keep these people in the profession.”

He also said musicians were suffering because they are not being paid fairly in the streaming world.

“There’s a fundamental problem… We’re calling for a full investigation into the streaming world and where the money is going because it’s not finding its way into the pockets of musicians.”

He said of the pandemic: “It’s a desperate situation for live music. We never imagined something so catastrophic could come along to kill live music for a period of time.”

The committee took part in a minute’s silence for George Floyd at 11am.

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