The operators of Margate Winter Gardens and the Theatre Royal are appealing for support to save the venues as the impact of the Covid pandemic continues to devastate the performing arts sector and sees the venues reaching ‘tipping point.’.
Margate’s historic theatres, like all theatres across the UK, are at serious risk of permanent closure.
Across the country theatres of all sizes are facing the largest threat to their existence in living memory and, without urgent aid, the UK could become a cultural wasteland as venues close for good.
The theatre sector, with the financial constraints of social distancing rules still firmly in place are facing an entire year without hosting events. There is currently no Government guidance as to when restrictions will end for theatres and, on average, theatres need to sell around 75% of the available seats to be financially stable, social distancing lowers potential capacity to just 25%.
Last month it was confirmed that staff at Margate Winter Gardens and the Theatre Royal, as well as Dover Town Hall, are in redundancy consultation with employer Your Leisure. It is understood up to 30 jobs are at risk.
Paul Palmer, Hospitality and Entertainments Manager for the Winter Gardens and Theatre Royal, said: “When the COVID pandemic caused the nationwide lockdown, Margate Theatres lost all of our regular ticket and bar income overnight; the pandemic shutdown the theatres and forced the mass cancellation and postponement of all shows and events, including the Margate Soul Festival and other marquee events that we rely on to keep the theatres running.
“We have applied for the Government funds that are available, however, it is unclear how much support we will receive, and we need more than is on offer to ensure Margate does not lose its iconic theatres.
“So far, we have done, and continue to do, everything in our power to fight off the threat of Covid-closure, however, as March has now become September, we’ve reached a tipping point.”
The company has been using the Government Job Retention Scheme, however, this ends on October 31.
A fundraising page has now been launched. All donations will go to ensuring Margate Theatres can overcome the threat of Covid-19.
Paul Palmer added: “We can guarantee that any advance ticket sales money is ring-fenced and secure. You can continue booking tickets safe in the knowledge that your money is safe with us and that a full refund would be offered if we were unable to host the event. But we need to raise funds.”
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.