RED ALERT as Theatre and event sector in Wales on verge of collapse
Iconic buildings and venues across Wales will light up in red tonight, Tuesday 11th August 2020, as part of a UK-wide day of action highlighting the urgent government help the sector needs during the Covid-19 crisis. The live events industry across the UK will come together in solidarity to host a series of creative action to help save the live events and entertainment sector which is on the verge of collapsing without financial support from the government. Hundreds of venues are expected to turn their lights red at 9.00pm in over 20 cities across the UK to symbolise the industry going into Red Alert.
In Wales, in excess of 50 venues and events businesses have signed up to turn red to stress the need for support. A large collective from the industry made up of trade bodies, businesses, freelancers and venue staff, currently on furlough, will gather in groups of no more than 30 (in line with government social distancing guidelines) in front of each venue to support the #WeMakeEvents #LightItInRed campaign. Whilst Wales-based events companies will light up their trucks as they lay empty on forecourts.
Sarah Hemsley-Cole, Director of SC Productions Ltd, an events production company based in Cardiff told RedHanded Magazine, “Covid-19 has had a devastating effect on the live events and arts sector here in Wales, not only our theatres, but our touring shows, stadium shows, live music venues and outdoor arts have been decimated by the pandemic.
The ecosystem of our creative industry – skilled professional such as technicians, designers, actors, performers, musicians and suppliers are now fighting for survival.
In Wales alone there are in excess of 7000 individuals employed within the creative industries, and with the governments furlough scheme ending in October, and with no sense of a time line when events and venues can re-open – many are being forced in to poverty debt and despondency.
With no timeline or criteria having been issued by the Welsh Government for their administration of the cultural recovery fund, unlike the Welsh Arts Council who have released their timeline for applications, this delay will leave the whole industry extremely vulnerable and at risk of extinction. We urgently need the financial support across the creative industries extended, we need support now in order to support anyone and everyone from falling through the cracks, and we need grants not loans for the supply chain.
All live events, including sporting events, provide both a massive part of many many people’s social calendar and a huge amount of employment. SC Productions Ltd as an example, employ five staff full time, but over a Summer this will increase to around 200 with the companies work schedule.
In Wales we stand together to be recognised for our contribution to the economy, our cultural contribution, and to draw focus on the urgency of the situation in order to sustain and support our cultural life moving forward.” The call to action hopes to raise awareness for over a million professionals at risk of losing their jobs, 600,000 of whom deliver outdoor events, around 70 per cent of the workforce are freelance. The imminent closure of the self-employed income support scheme at the end of the month threatens their livelihood. Unlike other industries, events, festivals, and performances have been unable to safely reopen due to social distancing guidance and may not reopen until early 2021 – and opening times keep being pushed back. With no government support on the horizon for the event supply chain, redundancies have already begun, research indicates that 25 per cent of companies will have served redundancy notices by end of August, this rises to 70 per cent by the end of December. Over 19 trade associations from the live events sector are collaborating for the first time to save help save their industry - the initial #WeMakeEvents campaign by PLASA issued a ‘Red Alert’ last week, to symbolise the imminent danger the industry is in. The socially distanced call to action will shine a light on the collaborative nature of the industry, showcasing a creative experience and live displays containing messages from established figures. Platinum-selling artists Peter Gabriel, The Cure, and Imogen Heap are just few of the many voices giving their support to this UK-wide cause. Whilst in Wales, artists such as Catrin Finch, Mike Doyle, Sophie Evans and Owen Money have lent their voice to highlight the campaign. RedHanded Magazine spoke with Mike Doyle, Welsh actor, singer and comedian who said “I work as a self employed entertainer and have done for 40yrs from achieving a level of success to living the up and down life of an entertainer/actor until that moment the phone rang...“sorry Mike but ALL your contracts with ALL the cruise lines have been cancelled and you will not be paid for any of these” then...another phone call...“sorry Mike the rest of your Rocking With Laughter tour is off”....with trying to make sense of this my son was in Hospital on a ventilator with COVID-19.
I carry a 5 piece band and a support act a full PA System and lighting rig that’s 10 people just in my little show that are also effected, the knock on effect is huge in industry with the amount of people that help make the magic work on stage.
Struggling through with a Government Grant and a few voice overs I’m still here....next another phone call...“sorry Mike Panto is off” again a huge amount of creatives out of work to say I’m worried is an understatement! I do hope the Government look after us self-employed freelancers it’s all we know. I’ve paid TAX all my life and now we need help! None of this was our fault!” Peter Heath, MD of PLASA, comments: “The live events industry supply chain, essential to every single event in the UK, is set to completely collapse without financial support from the government, due to social distancing prohibiting mass events. Large Scale events are not expected to reopen until Spring 2021 at the earliest, and the reality is that the sector can’t wait that long. We’ve issued a ‘Red Alert’ after using #WeMakeEvents because the sector is on its last legs, and now the whole industry is coming together to ask the government to ‘throw us a line.”
Phil Sheeran, Managing Director at Cardiff’s Motorpoint added “This isn’t just about our venues and the staff specifically associated with them. Nor just about the companies directly involved in live events. This is also about the hotels and their staff where fans stay pre and post concerts. Restaurants, bars and pubs where for lots of concert goers the evening begins. Taxis, bus companies, trains and even airlines. Probably every business in a city like Cardiff benefits in some way or another from the economic impact of the live events industry at whatever venue size you can think of. The risk is huge for many, many people and sectors. We need to get back to work without restrictions. If that cannot happen then the support mechanisms like furlough, grants – not loans, and an extension to the self-employment scheme must be continued.”
Welsh venues confirmed to turning red are:
Cardiff and Newport: Cardiff Castle, Principality Stadium, City Hall, Motorpoint Arena, Wales Millennium Centre, New Theatre, Chapter, St Davids Hall, venues on Womanby St, USW Atrium, Dolman Theatre, ICC Wales
South Wales Valleys: Blackwood Miners Institute, Newbridge Memo, Borough Abergavenny, Theatr Brycheiniog
North Wales: Venue Cymru, Theatr Colwyn, Pontio
West Wales: Ffwrnes Theatre Llanelli, The Lyric Carmarthen, Miners Hall Ammanford, Pontardawe Arts Centre
Industry professionals from across Wales and the UK will take action on Tuesday 11 August at 9.00pm. More details can be found on the event Facebook page:
Wales - We Make Events / https://www.plasa.org/we-make-events/