The committee identifies knock-on effect across the industry with redundancies at Birmingham Hippodrome and the National Theatre in June. However, it points out that the impact on the self-employed was even more immediate, which is particularly damaging for theatres where an estimated 70% of the workforce falls into this category.
According to evidence from Tracey Brabin, the Shadow Minister for Culture, individuals have suffered “declining income, uncertainty around maternity allowance or eligibility for mortgages, the inability to recoup money already spent on equipment, rehearsals and touring, and concerns about decreased work opportunities in the long term.”
This is inevitably leading to a “talent drain” with almost 40% of participants either already pursuing alternative employment or looking to do so.
As a separate issue, the pressure on employment opportunities within the sector is likely to lead to a reduction in diversity, reversing a trend towards equality that many have been working so hard to achieve, often against massive odds.
Theatre Peckham expresses a “fear that the number of people from culturally diverse backgrounds will be forced to leave the industry resulting in long-term loss and undoing the vital impact which we have made over the years”.
Taking the National Theatre as an example, the leading venue is looking at very substantial cuts to its 1,200-strong workforce, over one third of whom are under 40. This could lead to a generation facing mass youth unemployment.
The Government’s Disability Champion for Arts and Culture Andrew Miller expresses concern that the pandemic presents even greater threats “to health, livelihoods, social care and creativity are all frighteningly magnified for disabled people.”
The position is powerfully summarised by Caroline Norbury, CEO of the Creative Industries Federation. “We need to be on the front foot to make sure that we do not let diversity and inclusion become a ‘nice to have’. For simple business reasons, they have to be central. The creative industries have a global market opportunity. If we are to take advantage of that, we need a workforce that is diverse and can understand what it means to work in a global market. It is a central business challenge as much as a moral obligation.”
The crisis has also hit work that so many arts organisations pursue in and for the benefit of local communities. In 2018/19, 77% of adults and 96% of children engaged with the arts, and cultural activity has proven benefits for health and wellbeing.
This is now under threat as demonstrated by a consortium of regional theatre venues which collectively receive no funding from Arts Council England, but conduct development and outreach work that typically reaches more than 445,000 participants. It states that, “without funding intervention, our commitment to studio, artist development and community and education work is likely to be heavily eroded at best and wiped out at worst”.