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National Theatre urged to rethink redundancies as Royal Lyceum ‘hibernates’

Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum has gone into a “period of hibernation” due to COVID-19, as the National Theatre is considering redundancies and Australian festival FOMO goes into liquidation…

The Royal Lyceum

The Royal Lyceum theatre in Edinburgh is the latest cultural institution to face financial difficulties due to COVID-19 after announcing losses of more than £700,000.

The 658-seat theatre has postponed all its remaining performances and events for 2020 and warned employees that they could be made redundant as it enters a “period of hibernation.”

The theatre’s artistic director David Greig said, according to the Guardian newspaper: “Entering this period of hibernation will allow us to conserve the limited resource we have through the dark winter of Covid-19 and emerge, hopefully in the spring, with enough capacity to make theatre again with the brilliant theatre-makers of Scotland for the people of Edinburgh.”

He also noted he had been left with the “stark choice” of either a redundancy process now to reduce expenditure, or “total closure before Christmas – an alternative that would leave the Lyceum shut long after the pandemic has passed”.

Earlier this month, both the Nuffield Southampton and Southport theatres announced they were going into administration because of the impact Covid-19 had on revenues, while the Royal and Derngate in Northampton, Shakespeare’s Globe and the National Theatre in London have all issued warnings about their futures.

Australian festival

Australian festival FOMO has gone into liquidation due to the financial strain COVID-19 has placed on it.

The one-day rock and hip hop festival reportedly has debts of close to A$6m ($3.27m/£2.67m/€2.87m), according to accounting firm by Hall Chadwick, which took over its affairs last week.

A statement from the company announced: “The Liquidator will provide a report to the company’s creditors within three months providing an update on her investigations, the likelihood of any dividend to creditors and any possible action that may be taken for the benefit of the company’s creditors.”

The festival, which was set up by Sydney-based Brown Bear Entertainment (BBE), launched in Brisbane in 2016, and expanded to Sydney and Adelaide in 2017 and then Melbourne in 2019.

Its January 2020 headliner was Lizzo, while previous acts have included Post Malone, Nicki Minaj, Skepta, and Jamie xx.

An estimated 11,387 attended FOMO attended the festival last year in Melbourne.

National Theatre

UK trade union Bectu, which represents workers in media and entertainment industries, has urged the National Theatre to rethink its redundancies decision.

The Royal National Theatre in London has informed staff that it is looking to make 20 to 30 per cent of its workforce redundant due to COVID-19 pressures.

Bectu said it believes the decision is “premature” and has encouraged the 1,160-capacity theatre to continue to use the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) rather than “pre-empting further decisions regarding the scheme from the Chancellor.”

CJRS is the UK government’s flagship support measure for organisations during the COVID-19 pandemic. It offers grants to cover up to 80 per cent of the salaries of furloughed staff up to a maximum of £2,500 per month.

The scheme, which kicked off on March 1, will run until October, though will change after July 31 and may be available only for employees that have already been furloughed.

Bectu said in a statement: “In the short-term government must bring clarity to how the CJRS will continue to operate to stop employers taking such serious decisions.

“However, we are aware that many theatres across the country are weighing up their options and considering how they can continue to operate in the future. This latest news demonstrates how deeply concerned theatres are about their finances in the future.”

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