The UK theatre industry has seen job losses skyrocket from 3,000 to 5,000 in a month, according to figures from the Bectu trade union.

Bectu, which represents workers in the entertainment industries, said London accounted for about 2,700 of the job losses, which include redundancies of those who are permanently employed, and lay-offs of casual workers and zero-hours contract staff.

The government announced a £1.57bn arts recovery package a month ago and since then the 2,000 additional job losses have stacked up.

Most recently, the Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG), one of the biggest employers in British theatre, announced it would lay off 1,200 casual staff in September.

Meanwhile, the Southbank Centre and the National Theatre, which have both announced the loss of 400 jobs, faced protests over the weekend.

Philippa Childs, head of Bectu, said: “The clock is still ticking to save the future of the theatre industry and these figures demonstrate the scale of the crisis it is facing. Despite details of the arts recovery package being announced we are still nowhere closer to the money being distributed.

“Freelancers are crying out for help and support and having to rely on charity and their entrepreneurial instincts of going out to find a job in other parts of a heavily damaged economy. Their future in the industry is deeply uncertain. Funding from the arts recovery package is expected to reach theatres in October. That must be fast-tracked and the money must be made available to theatres and its workforce in the coming weeks, not months.”

Theatre Community Fund

A new theatre fund has been created by Fleabag creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge, co-star Olivia Colman and producer Francesca Moody to support the industry’s professionals that have been impacted by COVID-19.

The fund has raised more than £1m ($1.3m) so far from founder donors who include Gillian Anderson, Richard Curtis, Tim Bevan, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Daisy Ridley, Danny Boyle and Andrew Scott, among many others.

These donors will pay an initial lump sum and fixed, confidential percentages of their incomes over the next two years.

The fund, which has amassed £500,000 so far, will be separated into two strands dispersing up to £3,000 in the form of hardship grants, and creation grants for artists to produce work.

It will be dispersed and monitored by The Royal Theatrical Fund (RTF) in partnership with the Fleabag Support Fund (FSF). The RTF have been working in partnership with FSF since its inception in April 2020 to award hardship grants to those in the theatre profession who have been directly affected by the pandemic.

The initiative joins the already existing Theatre Artists Fund, spearheaded by Sam Mendes and supported by Michaela Coel and Emma Thompson, which distributes one-off grants to freelance theatre artists impacted by the pandemic.

Image: Andrew Dupont / CC BY-SA 2.0/ Edited for size