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Britain's iconic Old Vic theatre facing financial collapse due to pandemic

The Old Vic in London, UK.
The Old Vic in London, UK. Copyright Flickr/Studio Sarah Lou
Copyright Flickr/Studio Sarah Lou
By Judith PrescottEuronews
Published on Updated
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The institution's funding primarily derives from ticket sales. British theatres and cinemas do not yet know when they'll be able to reopen.


Britain's theatre industry is calling for more government support as one of the country's most iconic theatres, The Old Vic, is facing financial collapse due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

London's Old Vic theatre has had to furlough most of its staff since the government shut down cultural institutions around the country to contain the spread of the deadly virus. No date yet has been set for when theatres and cinemas may be allowed to reopen.

The Old Vic receives no government support and as a not-for-profit organisation gets its funding for ticket sales, donations and sponsorships.

When the order to shut down came, it was "a couple of weeks from the end of a very successful un of Beckett's End Game and I was at the end of rehearsals for the play which was supposed to follow which was 4,000 Miles with Eileen Atkins and Timothée Chalamet," artistic director Matthew Warchus told Euronews.

"Having to close all of that down and then close the building as well, that was a huge thing. And then the next big hurdle was how to calibrate and assess the financial situation of the institution," he added.

The situation is the same for theatres across the country.

Adam Penford, artistic director, Nottingham Playhouse, told Euronews that up three-quarters of the theatre's turnover is generated by ticket sales.

"The government's furlough scheme has been helping but the minute that finishes, if there's a gap between the end of furlough and the start of us generating ticket sales again, then we can be in really big financial difficulty," he said.

"The arts and theatre specifically do need more help because until we can get back on our feet, until we can get the audiences in, we're not going to be able to become financially stable," he added, stressing that the theatre subsidises some of its plays every year through the Christmas pantomime and that this could be in jeopardy this year.

He called on the government to extend the furlough scheme beyond the October date already announced.

"For every pound of subsidy that goes into the creative industries, it's estimated that between five and six pounds are given back into the economy so it makes sense to invest in us as a sector because in the long term we are generating money for the economy," he argued.

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