Our Safety Curtain is down for now, but we are still lighting the way for culture in Harrogate
Today we are announcing that the Safety Curtain will remain down at Harrogate Theatre until 2021. This has been an extremely difficult and very sad decision to make, but we feel it is the most sensible action under the current circumstances; not only to protect the safety of our audiences, volunteers and staff but to safeguard the future of Harrogate Theatre.
Our business model relies on at least half of our auditorium being occupied to break-even. To produce our much-loved pantomime, we need to sell close to 90% of our seats over two months of shows. With social distancing in place across this beautiful Victorian building, we can only fill 20% of the auditorium. This is not financially viable. Neither can we take the financial risk of paying for and then cancelling shows if the theatre is bouncing in and out of closure, due to possible quarantines or lockdowns. Therefore, we are suspending or moving all planned activity for this year at Harrogate Theatre into 2021.
As a direct result of the pandemic, and the dramatic loss of income associated with it, we have no other choice than to scale back the organisation and reduce our overheads in order to survive. This means that we have been forced to make the incredibly hard decision to enter a period of redundancy consultation with our staff. At the end of this period we may have to make up to 60% of permanent roles redundant.
We are extremely grateful for the funding received from Arts Council England and Harrogate Borough Council to cover losses incurred from March through to September. Whilst we welcome the governments new Cultural Recovery Fund, we still require clarity as to what specifically we can access from the fund, having already been in receipt of Emergency Funding, and there is no certainty of success.
To make it through to next year we will still need to continue our emergency fundraising campaign. Our audiences and the wider community have been incredibly supportive during these extraordinary times. From the kindness of donations to the publicly led fundraisers, we have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and generosity shown towards the theatre. We accept our responsibility in this special town and must continue doing all we can to secure the future of the theatre. Thank you all for your help and commitment so far.
The majority of shows in our Autumn season are moving to next year and Cinderella will be dancing at the ball in 2021. If you have tickets for a show during this time, we will contact you to let you know the rescheduled dates of performances. As you can imagine, this is a huge task for our small team so please bear with us and where we haven’t been able to find a new date for you, please consider donating your tickets to the theatre.
We are working closely with the Harrogate Convention Centre and Royal Hall regarding the use of those venues as a Nightingale Hospital. The action at the theatre does not as yet affect these venues however, we will contact bookers if and when shows are rescheduled or cancelled. Harrogate Theatre will also closely monitor what is an ever-changing global situation and will remain flexible to any changes in national policy or guidelines.
Whilst the Safety Curtain is down, we remain committed to making and sharing innovative theatre with audiences and participants and in Autumn will launch an exciting socially distanced season of special performances and events, both in person and online. Our White Rose Members will be the first to find out about these and will also get exclusive access to one-off events. Harrogate Youth Theatre and our Associate Artists will continue to be supported throughout the year. Although the doors might be closed, we will endeavour to light the way for the arts in Harrogate alongside our fellow cultural partners.
We look forward to the day we raise our Safety Curtain and once again share the magic that live performance in our building brings. Whilst we understand the impact of this decision, as custodians of our organisation we will do everything in our power to safeguard the company to be able to entertain, educate and inspire for the next 120 years.
No final decision on redundancies will be made until the consultation process is complete. Companies looking to recruit staff are asked to contact Harrogate Theatre via firstname.lastname@example.org with any available opportunities which will be circulated to all those affected.
Chair of Board
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