The Daily Express Raise The Curtain crusade which is fighting to ensure the survival of Britain’s world-leading network of theatres is today backing Monday night’s Light It Red protest. We want all of the country’s 1,000 plus theatre venues to mark the event, with concert halls, arenas and grassroot music venues joining in the mammoth display. And our vast army of readers can also help by displaying their own red lights to signal their support for Raise The Curtain.
Collectively the creative sector contributes £110bn to the UK economy but is desperate for special government support because unlike other industries such as art galleries, there is no set date for live events, theatre productions, festivals and music performances, to restart after the Covid-19 shut down.
The Light It In Red action was inspired by an event in Germany last month which saw more than 9000 buildings, monuments, structures, towers, landmarks, castles, offices, houses, spaces and places illuminated red to raise awareness and grab the attention of the public and the government.
It is also hoped the UK response will also take over social media under the hashtag #lightitinred.
Steven Haynes from Coventry-based Clearsound Productions initiated the protest plan with colleague Phillip Berryman from The Backstage Theatre Jobs Forum.
Steven said: “If we could get every venue in the country lit red then it would be a dramatic signal that we think the government would be unable to ignore.
Theatres are facing closures as coronavirus cuts revenue
“The sector is in a unique situation being left unable to do anything.
“The furlough scheme has been crucial but once that comes to an end then we are facing a total disaster.
“The day after the event in Germany, talks with the Government led to a rescue plan being formed.
“We desperately want the same to happen in the UK and it is amazing to have the Daily Express’s support.
“Lockdown has shown the importance of creativity and the arts to the people of Britain, but it doesn’t bear thinking about the grey existence we would lead if it was taken away from us.”
The original aim was to get 1,000 buildings illuminated but Steven believes that with the support of our Raise The Curtain campaign it could surpass the German response.
Her Majesty’s Theatre will not reopen until 2021
He added: “Right now venues are shuttered, companies and suppliers are closed with employees furloughed or laid off, and tens of thousands of self-employed freelancers have not been eligible for any of the government COVID-19 related financial assistance schemes.
“This thriving, vibrant, innovative industry that brings so much enjoyment and so many incredible memories to so many simply must receive more support to survive and re-energise.”
Yesterday Britain’s theatre industry was left reeling after Manchester’s Royal Exchange – one of the top producing venues in the country – announced it faced having to make 65 percent of staff redundant.
The Royal Exchange relies heavily on income from its box office, bar and restaurant, and venue hire which accounts for three quarters of income.
In a statement bosses said: “At the moment, we simply can’t trade, as live performances are not allowed in theatres.
“Even if we were allowed to open, whilst there are still social distancing measures in place, it is just not financially viable within our current structure.”
Artistic director Bryony Shanahan said: “Access to culture for all should not be a luxury but a right, and so we must value it as such as we heal and move forward from this time.”
On Wednesday, Norwich Theatre Royal announced that more than half of its workforce is now at risk of redundancy.
Last week, the culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, unveiled a “roadmap” for the reopening of the UK’s performing arts venues which was criticised for failing to offer any timeline or financial recovery package.
Comment by Roy Alexander Weise
The only way through this tremendously difficult time is to have unwavering optimism; keeping our eyes firmly on the goal of building again a vibrant hub of creativity and connection for Greater Manchester.
This catastrophe sadly forces us to change drastically to brace the world’s uncertainty but we look further ahead with hope to becoming a theatre which benefits more people than ever before, brings our community relationships into sharper focus, and helps us to employ and sustain more talent in the future.
The Royal Exchange Theatre may be forced to make over half of its staff redundant
Theatre will survive because as human beings we crave stories to make sense of our existence and imagination will help us to create a future.
Our Engagement work with community participants never stopped during Lockdown, and we have been committed to people remaining connected with us and each other.
We have learnt through this time that we can do and be so much more for the people of this great city.
Theatre, arts and culture will be needed more than ever to support our collective recovery.
When we eventually open our doors, we will be a pillar of strength, love and resilience for all.
• Roy Alexander Weise is Artistic Director of the Manchester Royal Exchange