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Octagon succumbs to financial pressures

The new Octagon: no date for reopening, and now redundancies.
The new Octagon: no date for reopening, and now redundancies.

Bolton Octagon has joined the list of theatres that have made full-time staff redundant despite receiving emergency funds from government and other sources.

It has been revealed that the theatre has made six people redundant and will not replace six others who have left following the application of formal redundancy notices in November.

The Octagon's early predictions of a £500,000 deficit for 2020 have proved wildly adrift; the theatre now says 2021/22 could see the theatre £2.6 million down on where it might have expected to be.

This is despite the favourite Bolton venue receiving over £620,000 from the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund and, this week, another £320,000 from a charitable foundation, not to mention public donations of tens of thousands more from an early-lockdown crowd-funding appeal.

The theatre says redundancies were a last resort to protect the future of a theatre that had been dark for many months prior to the pandemic while a costly rebuilding project was completed. The new theatre was expected to open last summer, but there is currently no schedule for that to happen.

The dire financial situation has led to the loss of three stage management team members and three others. Six more vacancies, caused by voluntary departures and jobs expected to be created by the theatre reopening, will remain unfilled.

The change is not temporary: management intends not to engage permanent stage management staff in future but will hire people production-by-production when operations resume.

The cuts have raised widespread union criticism. Equity has accepted temporary variations in employment agreements with theatres to reduce the impact of severe financial restrictions, but admits disappointment that Bolton and others have announced redundancies after coping for much of a year.

The theatre says it no longer had any choice but to review staff size, and that “painful decisions” had been needed to protect against the uncertainty of a reopening date.


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