Government accused of ‘ripping the heart’ out of UK night-time economy

a man standing in front of a monitor: Photograph: Tolga Akmen/AFP/Getty Images

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Photograph: Tolga Akmen/AFP/Getty Images

The government has been accused of abandoning the night-time and theatre sectors with its winter economy plan, which critics say will usher in a wave of mass redundancies and venue closures before the end of 2020.

Sacha Lord, Manchester’s night-time economy adviser, told the Guardian that the government fundamentally did not understand the sector and had decided to turn its back on it.

“Nightclubs have been closed since March, they’re facing another six months now – how can they possibly survive? We’re going to see the vast majority close,” said Lord.

Michael Kill, the chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association, said the sector felt like “an industry in exile” after Rishi Sunak’s economic plan was released last week, along with the decision to introduce a 10pm curfew.

He said: “Night-time businesses were already on a cliff edge, this current measure will see the sector collapse in days, with many businesses deciding to close as they are unable to sustain the financial losses.”

On Friday, the popular south London venue, Canavan’s Peckham Pool Club, announced it was closing its doors because it was not able to pay rent.

Lord, who became Manchester’s night-time advisor after successfully running the Warehouse Projects events, added that he expected to see more clubs shutter for good during a fourth quarter where “mass closures and mass redundancies” will become the norm.

“I don’t understand why, when countries like Spain, France and German turn around and said you know we’ll stand by and support you, for at least 24 months,” he said. “This government is going to be remembered for ripping the heart out of many cultural organisations.”

The criticism follows comments from West End producer Sonia Friedman, who launched an attack on the chancellor’s economic plan saying it was “an almighty blow” to theatres which she said had been left “high and dry” by the government.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Friedman – who has had success with productions including The Book of Mormon and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – said Sunak’s plan was insulting and continued the government’s stance of refusing to see “what [theatres] are worth”.

Sunak’s winter economy plan prioritises support for what he described as “viable” jobs, but representatives from the creative sector union Bectu have said it will not be enough to “save theatres that are still not able to open due to government restrictions”.

Friedman echoed those sentiments. “The chancellor’s implication that our businesses are unviable is outrageous,” she wrote. “In reality, the government is relying on our viability to drive its economic recovery by drawing people back into towns and city centres throughout the UK.”

Simeon Aldred, co-founder and co-owner of Printworks, poses for a picture at the temporarily closed nightclub in south London.

© Photograph: Tolga Akmen/AFP/Getty Images
Simeon Aldred, co-founder and co-owner of Printworks, poses for a picture at the temporarily closed nightclub in south London.

“We’re not just viable, we’re one of the most valuable, innovative and essential industries on the planet, but without sector specific support to cover our temporary crisis, we are being abandoned by a government content to throw in the towel.”

The producer said the government should provide proper support to theatre’s workforce, publish clear guidance on the public health conditions and safety measures required for theatres to resume performances, and underwrite the cost of insurance.

A DCMS spokesperson said the government had provided unprecedented support to the arts with its £1.57bn cultural recovery fund. “We have supported theatres to reopen and are continuing work with the sector on how we can safely get audiences back,” the spokesperson added.

The government has been asked to consider a Seat Out to Help Out scheme that would subsidise theatre tickets and give the sector the opportunity to make new work. The #OneVoiceCampaign has sent its proposals, which would see the government invest £500m over a six-month period, and is inspired by the Eat Out to Help Out scheme for the hospitality sector.

Co-founders of the #OneVoiceCampaign, Andrew Staples and Sam Evans, said the plan would help theatres open sustainably because at present physical distancing rules mean many cannot turn a profit with capacities reduced to 30%.

“Social distancing regulations mean that venues and art orgs can’t afford to put on work. This plan is a way to make that possible financially and safe for everyone,” said Staples.

“The bailout was designed to subsidise hibernation, but we need a plan to stimulate making work,” added Evans.

Video: CBI chief defends job support scheme (Sky News)

CBI chief defends job support scheme



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