At 4pm today Blackpool Grand Theatre (Arts & Entertainment) Ltd, the charity which operates The Grand, began a consultation process with its entire staff team to examine ways to help the theatre survive in these difficult times, reports the theatre's website.
Since it closed its doors on 17 March, the Grand, which normally earns 91% of its income through sales, has been reliant upon the Government’s Job Retention Scheme (JRS) and an emergency grant of £193,000 from Arts Council England these funds have been used to furlough staff, continue to pay bills and run a much-reduced creative learning programme online. Gradually, week by week, the theatre has seen its planned autumn productions either cancel or move into 2021. At the moment, pantomime remains on sale and the company will learn from its producers shortly whether it will go ahead.
Speaking to the staff, The Chairman of the charity, Anthony Stone, said
“While we can see that offices, restaurants and the like are re-opening, the Theatre is unique in that it must have productions in the pipeline to re-open for. Here is where we do not have the certainty and foreseeability of work that we would like. You have been kept appraised of all the productions that have been cancelled and / or postponed. We are of course regrettably not alone in this as Britain’s world-leading performing arts sector has effectively been brought to its knees and faces a very uncertain future which we must plan for.
“That said, with a view to best safeguarding the Theatre, I must now announce that we will be commencing a period of collective consultation with all members of staff. This will effectively be a discussion process in which we will be seeking your views as to how best to move forward. We will also develop some proposals which we will also wish to discuss with you. To be clear, I would have to say that all options are on the table given the uncertain future ahead and unknown length of time it will take to get back to anything near to business as usual.
“I am very grateful for your commitment, patience and support so far. We are looking to our amazing staff to find a way through this together, as we move through this pandemic and try and get back to as normal a state of play as soon as possible”.
Chief Executive, Ruth Eastwood, said “The Government’s 5 step road map to reopening has only reached step 4 – theatres can reopen so long as they adhere to the social distancing rules, implement deep cleans between every performance and, should a performer or staff member be asked to self-isolate for 14 days through track and trace, see that they are obliged to do so. This combination of factors has made it too financially risky for many producers to invest in the creation of shows to tour to theatres like the Grand.
In addition, as a 126-year old Grade II* Listed heritage building, with narrow corridors, cramped back stage areas, small toilet blocks and limited internal public space, The Grand faces even bigger challenges in implementing social distancing rules whilst maintaining a financially viable capacity.
The Grand theatre has furloughed the 53 staff who were working with us when we closed in March and has just 6 staff members working to handle cancellations, refunds and postponements. The Job Retention Scheme changes in August, when companies must begin to contribute financially, and ends altogether in October. So, with great regret, given these unprecedented circumstances, the charity has no choice but to begin a collective consultation”.