Staff at Margate Winter Gardens and the Theatre Royal, as well as Dover Town Hall, are in redundancy consultation as employer Your Leisure continues to be impacted by the effects of the Covid pandemic
As the sector struggles to cope with the impact of Covid-19, prominent theatres around the UK have announced or warned of redundancies and now the Your Leisure hospitality sites join that list.
The venues closed in March as pandemic restrictions were brought in to try and flatten the spread of the virus but, despite the government giving the green light for socially distanced performances indoors to restart from August 15, guidance on how that can be done has been thin on the ground.
Issues also surround small venues where socially distanced audiences will not be viable when weighed up against operating costs.
Entertainment and media union Bectu says around 5,000 theatre industry workers have already lost their jobs due to the pandemic. A £1.57bn recovery fund was announced by government in July to protect arts, culture and heritage but many venues are yet to receive a share of the funding. Others say it has come to late to save them.
The ending of furlough
Staff at the Your Leisure theatres and venues have been retained through the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme but this ends on October 31.
Your Leisure say this has protected employment but when it finishes it will become difficult to fund salaries and wages without any income due to continued closure and a mostly empty 2020 schedule as events have been moved to 2021.
It is understood around 30 people are at risk of redundancy, although this figure has not been confirmed.
Hospitality and Entertainments Manager of the venues Paul Palmer said: “When lockdown was enforced, our income stopped overnight and with no clear date when productions or events will start again, we have been forced to explore restructuring to reduce our costs.
“It is important to make clear that no decisions have been made at this point. We are consulting with affected employees about the risk of redundancy.”
Managing Director of Your Leisure, Kevin Fordham (pictured above), said: “We are committed to paying our team until the end of October, but sadly due to the changes in the Job Retention Scheme we simply cannot afford to offer ongoing financial support beyond that point without any further Government intervention.
“Your Leisure is in the process of submitting an application to the Cultural Recovery Fund but it is not clear if we will receive the support required so have to make these difficult preparations.”
No decision has been made with formal consultation exploring ways to avoid making redundancies or to try and reduce the number of job losses involved.
Your Leisure say the Covid situation is changing daily and will be continually monitored with action taken being in line with the latest Government guidance and instruction.
Any changes in relation to the future of the entertainment and hospitality side of the business will be taken into account during the consultation.
Margate Winter Gardens, Theatre Royal and Dover Town Hall will remain closed until complexities around social distancing and enhanced hygiene practices have been outlined in more detail by the government.
A report released by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee says the rescue fund was released too late for many venues and better guidance should be in place with more notice on the next steps.
The committee says there should be a sector-specific recovery deal for performing arts that includes continued workforce support measures and technological solutions to enable audiences to return without social distancing.
According to publicly available trading figures Your Leisure were already making a six figure loss in the last year their accounts were submitted.
Whilst Covid has obviously had a devastating impact they were clearly on the ropes well before Covid hit.
This is such sad news, such talented staff, historic building, surely government should give financial help in the same way as they gave restaurants and pubs,
Yet they are both in a dreadful state as a result of decades of successive councils doing as little as possible to look after them. What are the odds that they end up onnthe disposal register in the fullness of time.
Forget Dreamland and Turner Contemporary, The Winter Gardens and The Theatre Royal are Margate’s two greatest assets. Let’s hope things can get back to normal sooner rather than later.
But councilors money gone to other projects
Its never been high on tdc list or kcc.
I now work for kcc.
I blame the poor management of your leisure Ltd
The government have a “one size fits all ” approach. They are running down the furlough scheme for EVERYBODY all at the same time. Yet it is clear that some sectors eg theatres, would suffer if the scheme was ended this soon whereas others, eg some manufacturing sectors with good protective working practices, would be able to be up and running long before he furlough scheme stops.
So the government should identify which workplaces need to continue to get the furlough support and which won’t need it. Then the help can be focused where it is needed.
Perhaps we can all put pressure on the government to be a bit more flexible in it’s thinking on this.
After all, the government backed down when faced with a movement of dismayed teenagers over the exam/algorithm scandal, so they are weak and confused already.
Their leading ministers are only in post because they supported Brexit so they have little experience and little grasp of most issues that they face. They can be pushed if they feel under pressure.
Similarly thanet has a council comprising largely enthusiastic but inexperienced /idealistic councillors, its been this way throughout my 30 odd years in thanet, during which time the area has lurched from crisis to crisis on the back of poor decision making , usually as a result of being do desperate to push forward pet projects that there is an inability to see through the barely concealed inadequacies of policy decisions.
In the current situation no government would get it right in this country as they’ll all play to the crowd. As for central gov support for the likes of the winter gardens and theatre royal, they are both places in terminal decline due to neglect, keeping them limping forward in the absence of very substantial sums to save the physical structures and make them fit for the age we live in , is just prolonging the agony and allowing the disrepair to continue. No doubt some wizardwheeze to theoretically save them will be conjured up ( like that used for the ramsgate museum buiding) but as above there’ll be no experience/ability to deterine if any such scheme is viable, but this’ll stop nothing as those involved congratulate themselves ifor offloading a liability from the books thus freeing up cash for some ill planned aforementioned pet project that is soon forgotten when the council goes through one of its many changes of management.