South West could lose 43,000 jobs in arts industry

Campaigning has intensified over the past few weeks from industry leaders for more support from government.
Campaigning has intensified over the past few weeks from industry leaders for more support from government. Credit: Bristol Old Vic
  • Report by Sangita Lal

A report predicts around 43,000 jobs could be lost in the arts industry across the south west as a result of the coronavirus.

The Creative Industries Federation has warned of a 'cultural catastrophe' as new research suggests a loss of £1.3bn across the region. Along with tourism and hospitality, creative industries are among the most affected by the coronavirus crisis.

On Monday 6 June the government announced a £1.57bn support package for culture, arts and heritage organisations in Britain, including theatres, independent cinemas, museums and the live music sector.

It followed months of campaigning from industry leaders warning that without support, around 70% of theatres were facing closure by Christmas.

Bristol Old Vic recently underwent a major refurbishment to hold more shows to bigger audiences. Credit: ITV West Country

Tom Morris is a Director at the Bristol Old Vic. He says, "As soon as theatres were forced to close, we realised the implications for our industry was potentially catastrophic.

"So almost straight away, theatres started talking to each other, to unions we work with and talking directly to government when we could, to make a case for investment. Gradually those arguments have been heard by government which is very encouraging."

Whilst many have welcomed the rescue package, many are concerned it will not save every job and may not trickle down to individuals and smaller theatre companies.

Around 70% of the industry is made up of freelance staff and many wonder who this money could benefit them.

The Theatre Royal Bath praised the government for recognising how hard the industry has been hit.

Jesse Jones is a Theatre Director and Co-Founder of The Wardrobe Ensemble. He says he lost almost all his work overnight as the country went into lockdown. To make ends meet he started selling bacon rolls to some of his neighbours.

He says, "Essentially this money is going to large scale arts organisations and we have to ask the question of how they are going to look after a workforce. There are swathes of people who need to see that money come back to them."

In a statement, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: "I understand the grave challenges the arts face and we must protect and preserve all we can for future generations… I said we would not let the arts down, and this massive investment shows our level of commitment."