Blackpool Grand redundancy moves following panto postponement

Blackpool Grand Theatre. Pic: Sean Conboy

Writer:

Paul Genty

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Government emergency scheme won't arrive in time to offset costs

Blackpool Grand Theatre is undergoing redundancy procedures for many of its permanent staff following the decision to postpone its annual pantomime until next winter.

The theatre faces a large deficit with the show’s loss – well over 40 per cent of its annual box office income, which is over 90 per cent of the charity’s total income – derives from the month-long run of panto, which has been a family favourite for over two decades.

Theatre chief executive Ruth Eastwood said the loss, added to social distancing and cast isolation, meant the risk is "simply too great".

“The decision over pantomime has now put us in the position of having to begin a consultation process with our employees,” she added.

The decision by theatre bosses and panto producers UK Productions to cancel Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs starring local favourite Steve Royle, followed the government’s announcement that information on reopening theatres without social distancing wouldn’t be made until November at the earliest. This would be too late for the theatre to stage this year’s show.

The theatre has been working on a £194,000 grant from the government’s emergency fund and salary payments from the job retention “furlough” scheme, but this is not enough to see it through to next year.

Theatre bosses are currently studying the government’s complicated guidance for money from the Arts Council England-administered £1.57bn culture recovery fund, in the expectation of being able to apply for anything from £50,000-£3m.

But as the theatre admits, “there is no guarantee of success and funds will not begin to flow until the end of October, when company contributions to job retention will be at their highest.”

Contribute to the theatre's recovery fund here

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