Norwich Theatre has today been forced to announce a major restructure of its 217 staff working across Theatre Royal, Playhouse and Stage Two. This is due to huge financial losses already incurred as a result of a prolonged period of closure due to Coronavirus and a projected period of at least another 6 months before the organisation can regain full scale operations, in particular before it will see large-scale productions coming back to Theatre Royal.
At a meeting of staff representatives this morning, 113 employees (53% of the workforce) were informed that their roles are at risk of redundancy with a further 59 employees engaged on irregular zero hours contracts receiving confirmation that they will no longer receive any work. A formal process of consultation with all staff will now begin.
A large proportion of Norwich Theatre’s staff are employed to directly support the presentation of major productions at Theatre Royal which often see around 10,000 people attend the venue each week. Due to the devastating impact of Coronavirus on the whole of the theatre ecology, all large-scale shows previously planned to tour to Theatre Royal for the August-December 2020 period have now been postponed. Furthermore, Norwich Theatre has also made the difficult decision to postpone its annual pantomime from Christmas 2020 to Christmas 2021. This means that there will be no large-scale productions at Theatre Royal until January 2021 at the earliest.
Michael Newey, Chair of the Trustees of Norwich Theatre, said: “As Trustees we are custodians of Norwich Theatre and it is our duty to ensure that we protect our charitable mission and our ability to carry out that mission into the future. The Coronavirus lockdown saw us immediately lose 95% of our income and this scale of ongoing financial loss is no longer sustainable. With no large-scale productions able to go ahead until next year, no clear date for when we will be able to operate at full scale again and no public funding intervention forthcoming, we have been forced to mandate the Chief Executive to begin a major restructuring project to reduce our costs. We know that this is a devastating decision for our staff and every trustee wishes that we had a different way forward. They will all be fully supported by the Chief Executive and his team during this difficult time as the consultation process begins. Without Government support, we have been left with no other option if we are to make a guarantee to our audiences that we will survive this crisis and welcome them back to our buildings next year.”
Stephen Crocker, Chief Executive of Norwich Theatre, said: “Our staff are the lifeblood of our organisation and my team and I have done all we can to support and protect them over these past few months and will continue to do so as we explore all options through this consultation process. On their behalf I remain shocked and angry that the government is standing idle as an industry that has delivered so much to this country and is so vital to its recovery is being allowed to fade into dust. I will continue to fight hard for our staff, our theatres and our whole industry but this is an incredibly dark day for us and for arts and culture in Norwich, Norfolk and the East of England. I am simply heart-broken.”