Labour’s Shadow Arts Minister, Barbara Keeley, has today warned that it could be the final curtain for some treasured local theatres which have been left exposed by the cost-of-living crisis and a decade of Conservative neglect.
Theatres are an essential feature of our high streets and a leading force in both our cultural identity and the UK’s international standing as a world-leader in the arts. They employ 290,000 people and contribute boundless benefits to local businesses. Yet this year many people will have seen their local Christmas shows staged with smaller casts and for fewer days.
Having weathered the challenges of the COVID pandemic theatres are now grappling with increased energy and operating costs and a cost-of-living squeeze on their audiences.
Many theatres are warning that government is not doing enough to keep these local treasures open. The government left theatres off the list of Energy and Trade Intensive Industries that will receive enhanced support for their energy costs and they will face higher bills in April when Theatre Tax Relief is reduced by 15%.
In a speech to the Theatres Trust today, Labour’s Shadow Arts Minister Barbara Keeley MP will warn about the scale of the problems facing theatres, including that:
- The Conservative cost-of-living crisis is having a significant impact on people’s decisions to spend money on entertainment, with the vast majority of people indicating that they will scale back on entertainment spend outside of the home as a direct result of financial pressures caused by our crashing economy.
- Average audiences outside of London’s West End are down by 17% on pre-pandemic levels.
- Analysis from the House of Commons Library shows that, as a result of a decade of the Tory funding squeeze, real terms spending by local authorities on theatres and public entertainment fell by over a third (-35%) between 2010/11 and 2021/22.
- The areas with biggest reductions in local authority funding between 2010/11 and 2021/22 were the South West, East Midlands, North West and West Midlands, while 89% of the theatres on the Theatres at Risk Register are based outside of London, flying in the face of the Government’s failed commitment to levelling up.
- The Conservative failure to secure our energy supplies, and retrofit buildings means that theatres are facing sky high energy bills with fuel costs more than tripling for some theatres.
- The price of making infrastructure improvements to save energy has rocketed in the last year, and the increasing prices of building materials has meant the cost of making sets is up by around a third.
In her speech Barbara Keeley MP will praise the theatre sector and the work of the Theatres Trust, which campaigns to protect the UK’s theatres. Keeley will call on the Government for greater support for theatres and set out Labour’s plans to back the sector, including through the £700-million scheme for organisations to invest in energy-saving technology to cut costs in the long term.
Barbara Keeley MP, Labour’s Shadow Minister for the Arts, said: “Labour has always recognised the value of theatres in acting as vibrant cultural and community hubs. Local theatres provide jobs, boost local businesses and offer world-class performances that can delight, stimulate and inspire.
“But the cost of living crisis means it could be the final curtain for some, with theatres under threat like never before. A decade of Conservative Government failure makes a farce of levelling up, with areas like the Midlands and the North West hit the hardest.
“Labour in Government will grow our economy and usher in a clean energy revolution lowering bills and helping organisations to reduce costs in the long term.”