‘Not Financially Viable’: MPs take Government to Task Over Theatres


5 Labour MPs have written to Caroline Dinenage, Minister for Digital and Culture at DCMS, including  Alan Whitehead, MP for Southampton Test, demanding action for the major regional theatres in their constituencies. The Mayflower theatre in Southampton has been shut since March. Much like the rest of the performing arts sector, the theatre is facing substantial pressures, with closure meaning that shows have had to be rescheduled or even cancelled.

The letter, dated the 23rd of June and also signed by MPs Clive Lewis and Rosie Duffield, demands that Dinenage work to address what the letter describes as being an “unfortunate inequality” between the treatment of publicly-funded and independent non-profits such as the Mayflower. The former, they argue, have been able to rely upon a cushion of public grant money, while those who do not receive this subsidy have been left in the lurch. In addition, the letter also notes that social distancing guidelines make theatres “not financially viable”, and as such they will be among the last businesses to be able to reopen. A spokesman for the Mayflower told the Daily Echo that they are “very grateful for the support of Alan Whitehead and other constituency MPs.

The theatre has been feeling the heat. In a statement released on Facebook on the 18th June, the theatre’s chief executive wrote that the theatre would be closed until the 10th December 2020 due to social distancing measures. The statement said that “the safety of customers and our staff remains my top priority”, but that the disruption was “sad and heart-breaking”, noting that the theatre generates 96% of their revenue from ticket sales and contribute £75 million to the local economy annually.

A Department for Culture, Media, Sport (DCMS) spokesperson told the Wessex Scene: “We are doing all we can to support theatre through government grants, loans, the furlough scheme and the Arts Council’s £160 million emergency response package. We are also considering ways in which we may be able to support the performing arts further on top of the unprecedented financial assistance we have already provided.” So far, they say that over 9000 individuals and organisations have been successful in applying to the Emergency Response Fund. Throughout this crisis, the spokesperson said, the department has been in direct contact with many independent theatres, including the Mayflower Theatre in Southampton. The spokesperson for did not address the letter specifically, but did say that a working group has been convened to work on entertainment and events, with input from the Newcastle Theatre Royal, feeding into the Department’s Culture Renewal Taskforce. 

Political Editor for the Wessex Scene 2020-2021. Interested in politics, foreign affairs, and just about anything within those to be honest.

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