Hundreds of theatres, music venues and art spaces will light up red tonight to draw attention to the devastating impact of Covid-19 on the UK’s events industry.
This comes as the Government announced a £1.57bn rescue package last night to protect England’s arts, culture, and heritage industries, with Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland also set to receive £97m, £59m and £33m, respectively.
The event organisers said in a statement: “While we welcome the rescue package from the Government, we await clarification about what this means for freelancers, suppliers and those in the wider theatrical and events industry.
“We continue to light buildings red this evening to show we are still standing by to reopen.”
Co-creator and project manager Steven Haynes said: “Our goal is to light up 1,000 buildings all over the UK. We’ve already got 530 registered in just nine days, including theatres, music venues and production companies, plus many homes and shop fronts.”
Artistic director of Teddington Theatre Club at Hampton Hill Theatre Lottie Walker said: “We plan one to two years ahead for our community theatre club, but had to pull the plug on everything.
“The last production we did ended mid-March a week before lockdown and we don’t know when we can next raise the curtain.
“The government’s five-point plan is pointless for us because, until we know we can open a show, we have nothing to rehearse. We need to know the implications of when we open and if we have to social distance, because this will affect how many cast and backstage crew we can have. Until things are made clear for us, we can’t plan anything.
“It’s not just about one company, it’s everyone else in the chain – how long can people afford to go on? We’re an amateur theatre company, so don’t pay our actors, but the building still needs to be paid for and we can’t live forever without generating income. We’ve got no bar income or ticket sales income.
“Others, like Plymouth Theatre Royal, have just made all its staff redundant, but what is often overlooked is that for every pound spent in these ‘destination theatres’, perhaps ten get spent in a local hotel, pub or restaurant.
“There’s no concept of the fact that theatre is about more than people prancing about on stage and that’s insulting. This is the land of Shakespeare and Milton and we’re just watching it die.”
Inspired by Germany’s #NightOfLight2020, Mr Haynes joined forces with Backstage Theatre Jobs co-founder and #LightItInRed co-creator Phillip Berryman, supported by the Professional Lighting and Sound Association (PLASA) #WeMakeEvents campaign.
“We’ve had no work since early March, and all staff in our Warwickshire production company have been furloughed,” Mr Haynes said.
The government announced that venues can open from July 4, but live performances are on hold.
“As lockdown restrictions start relaxing for other industries, we’re still waiting for the government to set a date to restart live events.
“We were the first out and will be the last back in and we urgently need government guidance and financial support. The creative industries generate £111bn for the UK economy and it will have a huge economic effect if it collapses,” he said.
Philip Berryman said: “We’re desperate to get back into theatres, but obviously we’ve got to be safe and abide by the rules.
“A lot of theatres just won’t survive unless they get help. We’re hearing that pantos are being cancelled, which is the biggest source of income that keeps many theatres alive.
“We’re not an industry that has deep pockets; we usually live from show to show and this is really hurting a lot of people.
“Right now, venues are shuttered, companies and suppliers are closed with employees furloughed or laid off, and tens of thousands of self-employed freelancers are not eligible for any of the government’s Covid-19 financial assistance schemes.
“Theatre is all about collaboration and community and it will be an absolute travesty if we lost that. Many theatres and charities run community outreach programmes, which are an entry path for a lot of people,” he said.
Sarah Berryman of Backstage Theatre Jobs said: “These local, independent community theatres rely on public money to survive, and the lack of funding and clarity is affecting these smaller organisations just as much as larger theatres, if not more.”
The event organisers urge everyone to stay safe when attending a venue.
Facebook: @lightitinred / Twitter: @LightItInRed / Instagram: @light_it_in_red
Featured image by Jill Stickland