Independent producers call for lifeline


Scenes like this could be wiped out in 24 hours by a case of Covid - now producers want real help
Scenes like this could be wiped out in 24 hours by a case of Covid - now producers want real help

Independent theatre producers say their part of the industry faces “grave risks” unless the government offers support to avoid a looming touring crisis.

The warning comes from the League of Independent Producers, which has around 100 prominent independent touring producers in its ranks and sits alongside Theatre UK and the Society of London Theatres in representing the majority of UK theatres and producers.

LIP says tours might collapse and months of work for freelance workers - already the industry’s worst-hit workers - might be lost unless the government and Arts Council help to avert the pandemic-led crisis.

The group reinforces the claims made for months by the two larger groups that without a proper insurance scheme, isolated cases of Covid among casts and crews could lead to the shutdown of tours, causing huge cash losses. It accuses the Arts Council of having “no lifeline or strategy” for the prevention of tour collapse.

The league says major tours over the next six months are at serious risk: up to February next year, it estimates, its members have organised over 700 weeks of touring that face potential disruption. Over 80 weeks have already been cancelled and almost 140 weeks postponed.

Letters to Arts Council England and the Department of Culture suggest ACE hasn’t seriously considered the sector’s problems and the government’s Culture Recovery Fund lacks support for commercial producers. The recently-announced government-backed insurance scheme has already been widely criticised for its high cost to producers and lack of consideration for long-running shows. Eligibility rules for emergency support prevent most productions from applying for help, says the group.

In its letter to ACE the group points out the massive knock-on effects of the closure or cancellation of tours, including the absence of shows for UK theatres to present and the consequent loss of work for theatre staff, plus huge losses for night-economy businesses such as taxis, bars and restaurants.

The group wants a recovery fund specifically for regional touring, the almost £30million cost of which would be partly repayable to government; a workable and useful insurance scheme at a reasonable price, and an extension of the reduced VAT rate for another seven months.

The Arts Council says it will address some of the problems of touring shows with special support from a relaunched National Lottery programme in the autumn: “We are under no illusion about how difficult the next few months are going to be for the sector,“ ACE added.