Today we are announcing that we have had to take some heart-breaking decisions to enable us to navigate the devastating impact of Covid-19 on Sheffield Theatres. We can now share that we will not fully reopen until spring 2021; the Lyceum and Studio Theatres will remain closed and only the Crucible will open through the autumn to host a ‘pop-up’ festival of work. I am also devastated to say that we have entered into a consultation with our staff team which could reduce our numbers by 29%.
With the closure of our theatres on 16 March we lost all income overnight and the future remains uncertain. Though the Government has announced that theatres are able to reopen to socially distanced audiences in August, we are still awaiting detail on this. Equally, we don’t have confirmation of when we could reopen to full audiences – a vitally important step in us being able to operate effectively. The Arts Council’s Emergency Funding will sustain us until September and then we hope to apply for some money as part of the Government’s £1.57bn package, though we don’t know any details of how much this could be or whether an application would be successful.
What we do know is a socially distanced Christmas just isn’t financially viable and that the shows that tour to us have cancelled or rescheduled to next year. We know that it will take some time before customer confidence, in being able to come together to the theatre, will return to the level that we need in order to make things work. We could not survive another local or national lockdown if we were to reopen and then had to close again. We are certain that we can’t afford to take this risk.
Fundamentally, with no certainty of when we will be able to return to producing or presenting work on our stages, when we will be able to welcome full, non-socially distanced audiences back to the buildings, and whether we will be successful in securing any further funding, we have had to take the decision that we can’t deliver our current programme and we will not return to this level of activity again until spring 2021.
The Lyceum and Studio Theatres will remain closed until spring 2021. We will postpone our pantomime, Sleeping Beauty to Christmas 2021 and we are working with our partners to find new dates for our musical, Standing at the Sky’s Edge.
With two of our three theatres closed for at least six months, I am sad to say that we won’t have work for our entire team for a while. And so, it is with an even heavier heart that we have commenced a consultation with our team which will affect 29% of our colleagues. Alongside redundancies we are asking all staff to reduce their hours of work and some part time working. Although this is a hard sacrifice for everyone, we believe it will help us to keep as many people employed as possible.
We have an incredible staff team at Sheffield Theatres. Their work creates experiences that wow our audiences, their passion and dedication shines through everything we do and helps us win accolades such as Regional Theatre of the Year. We have done everything we could to protect everyone’s jobs for as long as possible, however we have had to make this agonising decision to secure the long-term future of the Theatres. I want to thank our team for their loyalty and support throughout this challenging time.
I also want to thank everyone who has donated or credited their tickets to account during the last four months and everyone who has posted on social media and told us how much they miss us. By buying a ticket or making a donation, you’re making a difference to our future, and we can assure you that you can buy with confidence knowing that you can get a refund if any future event is cancelled.
We are committed to doing everything we can to continue to create theatre for our audiences, and so we are planning a limited pop-up programme of work from October through to April 2021. This will include an outdoor Shakespeare production and, in the Crucible, a series of events including a ‘pop up panto’ featuring our much-loved Dame, Damian Williams. More details of this pop-up programme will be announced in September.
Later in July we are proud that we will become a pilot venue for ‘elite sporting events’ and will be testing the Crucible with a reduced, socially distanced audience for the World Snooker Championship. We will be even prouder when we can again create bold and brilliant theatre for everyone in our city and beyond.
Finally, I want to assure you, we will not be closed, just reduced. Christmas is not cancelled, it’s just different. We have not gone bust, we are being prudent and planning for the future. We are not sitting back, we are fighting for our future. We want to be back as soon as it is safe to do so.
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