Theatre by the Lake has announced new measures to ensure the venue can reopen in 2021, following its closure due to COVID-19, including making staff redundancies.
Public funding accounts for just 20 percent of the theatre’s turnover which means that the theatre is heavily reliant upon earned income.
Normally, over £2.5m each year is taken in through trading, donations and, most of all, ticket sales; so this has been severely affected by the closure and the loss of this earned income.
Theatres nationally are reporting that they are at significant risk, with some venues having already entered administration or announcing the risk of redundancies.
Theatre by the Lake’s proactive plan is intended to protect the future of the theatre.
Some of the theatre’s sustainability plans include:
- The cancellation of the Christmas production of The Borrowers
- Managing and maintaining the theatre with a significantly smaller team who will plan for reopening at the appropriate time in the future, whilst continuing to creatively engage our communities
- Implementing staff redundancies
Measures already taken include the cancellation of the annual summer season.
The cancellation of the planned Christmas show, The Borrowers, comes as significant financial investment would have been required in advance of the production.
This is because the theatre would not be able to achieve strong audiences due to social distancing and audience concerns.
Following the recent announcement of changes in the Government’s Job Retention Scheme, the theatre has also confirmed that they are having to consider significant staff redundancies.
This is to reduce their annual payroll costs of just under £1m and it will be consulting with staff over the next two months.
The theatre has reluctantly concluded that the best way to preserve jobs in the long-run is to ensure that the company comes through this crisis.
Executive Director James Cobbold and Artistic Director Liz Stevenson said: “Our industry is facing an exceptionally challenging situation for the foreseeable future.
“We’ve come to the incredibly difficult conclusion that we have to take action now to ensure Theatre by the Lake survives this challenging period of disruption and uncertainty.
“Our staff are talented, knowledgeable and creative people who care deeply about the work they do and the difference they make in their community.
“However if there is to be theatre in Keswick, and if we are to provide employment opportunities in the future then we have no choice but to consider these actions in the short term.”
Theatre by the Lake is the only year-round producing theatre in Cumbria, one of the few repertory theatres in the country and one of the largest employers in Keswick.
It serves one of England’s most rurally isolated counties and, with audiences of 120,000 annually, significantly contributes to the visitor economy.
In 2019 it celebrated its 20th birthday, had its most financially successful year to date, and appointed a new Artistic Director whose inaugural season included several world premieres, exciting partnerships and national tours.
Whilst the theatre has been closed, the team has been planning a number of digital initiatives to engage audiences including Come to Where I Am with Paines Plough to co-commission four Cumbrian playwrights to write a short play about where they live.
Over the coming months they will continue to deliver an artistic programme that responds to the needs of the local community during this challenging time.
Adding their voice to the industry’s calls on the Government to consider specific support for theatres, they added: “For the theatre industry to survive this crisis, we must see further investment quickly.
“Over recent years, theatres have worked hard to operate on reducing levels of public subsidy by increasing their reliance on high ticket sales and as a result are at greater threat in this unprecedented crisis.
“Britain’s world-class reputation for theatre, its vital positive impact upon audience’s health and wellbeing, and the significant contribution it makes to the economy must be protected for the future.”