Breaking headlines have revealed struggling theatres across the nation are being forced to axe thousands of jobs due to a lack of government support. As part of a string of actions to help the sector here in Portsmouth, Stephen Morgan MP has hosted a roundtable to hear concerns directly.
Bringing together representatives from the theatre, live music and venue hire sector, the Portsmouth South MP outlined the interventions he has been taking amid the pandemic before hearing concerns and agreeing a set of future actions. The roundtable follows direct lobbying by Mr Morgan to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport urging assistance for local theatres. The response received has been labelled as ‘bland’ and ‘lacking in any tangible detail’ by Mr Morgan as it generic format does nothing to address the specific local concerns outlined in the correspondence.
The Government has also been criticised by many for being focused on trying to protect theatres in the West End of London labelled the “Crown Jewels” and not doing enough to support struggling regional theatres and music venues.
The meeting comes against the backdrop of 5,000 jobs losses across UK theatres, 2,000 of which occurred after government announced its arts recovery package. With the arts and culture sector employing around 160,000 across the South East, this is of grave concern to Portsmouth’s jobs and economy.
Stephen Morgan MP said: “I have heard again that despite details of the arts recovery package being announced, we are still nowhere closer to the money being distributed. This is just not good enough.
Every day that passes without the funding being released, and a lack of certainty about when theatres will be able to re-open, is a day that risks further job losses from the sector.
Since the onset of this pandemic, I have been calling on government to support our city’s arts. It is essential they immediately release the money set aside as part of the recovery package and explore alternative support such as exemption from furlough contribution and additional measures for freelancers.”
At the roundtable, a set of further actions were agreed by the city MP. Based on the concerns raised by culture sector representatives, Stephen Morgan will be urging the Culture Secretary to visit Portsmouth for a tour of the city’s venues and theatres to hear first hand about the challenges they have been facing.
Mr Morgan added: “Following the bland response from government to my letter that lacked any tangible detail about the local concerns raised, I will be urging the Culture Secretary to visit Portsmouth’s theatres and venues to see exactly the problems arising from the one-size-fits all approach that is being adopted.
It is obvious from discussions with sector representatives today that each organisation faces a unique set of challenges. I will continue to push Ministers to acknowledge this and offer more comprehensive support to our city’s theatres and music venues – our own Crown Jewels”.
Stephen Morgan has been acting on behalf of the culture sector throughout the pandemic. Writing to the Culture Secretary to urge a recovery package, submitting written questions about cash flow to venues, and throwing his weight behind Portsmouth Creates open consultation are just some of ways he has offered support.