Subject: The devastating effect of COVID-19 on Wales Millennium Centre
Wales Millennium Centre, our national arts centre is now closed, alongside every theatre across the UK.
Wales Millennium Centre is worth between £70-80 million to the economy
Wales Millennium Centre receives 1.6million visitors annually making it Wales’ most visited tourist attraction
Wales Millennium Centre employs 420 staff
Our site is home to 8 resident partners such as Welsh National Opera and National Dance Company of Wales
Overall over 1000 people are employed through the national arts centre’s site
We have welcomed the Government’s announcements to date, and we are most appreciative of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme which has allowed us to defer job losses for our staff . However, it seems likely that the theatre industry will be amongst the last to reopen at the end of the lockdown period and at the end of the furlough scheme we will not have income to pay staff. Hence, we remain extremely concerned about the devasting impact on staff as well as the sector’s recovery and long-term survival.
The immediate impact on Wales Millennium Centre is as follows:
• The loss of income for a 12 month closure will be £20M. We believe that a sensible timeine for re-opening is currently April 2021 and we are planning accordingly
• We will be ‘mothballing’ the arts centre until then
We know that the impacts will last well into 2021/2022 as we are already seeing touring shows cancelling visits in the next financial year.
We have furloughed 76 permanent staff and 126 casual staff (from 1 May 2020)
• There is a risk of redundancy for nearly all staff. We will soon have to issue risk of redundancy notices to 109 permanent staff and 152 casual staff
• Insurance: In common with other theatres, we do not have insurance that covers communicable diseases such as Covid-19. We urge Government to think about other measures to aid us in getting through the next few months.
• Refunds and exchanges: The Consumer Rights Act 1985 levies a statutory requirement to process a refund or exchange within 14 days. This is nearly impossible now due to the volume being processed and the lack of staff to do them. We are, therefore, requesting a temporary stay of this requirement.
We have significant concerns for the medium and long term. When the pandemic has been beaten and the country is starting to recover, we will not automatically be able to put on shows and relaunch our community and artistic work. We need to understand as soon as possible how long our closure might last whilst social distancing measures are in place. This timescale is essential for staff retention and forward planning. We believe that extra support is needed for theatres for an additional period of recovery.
We also have serious concerns about how quickly supply chains can get up and running since many of the smaller production companies with whom we work may not survive this crisis.
• 85% of our revenues come from ticket income. All our profits are used to fund our artistic and charitable activity, which are now on hold and at risk.
This means that:
o the young people we support through our skills training schemes are now without training and employment opportunities. We work in depth with 132 young people on our programmes weekly and they are part of our family. This work was expanding.
o the young Welsh talent with whom we work to create new productions are now without a platform for their talents and will be unemployed. New Wales Millennium Centre Productions which were under-development and/or had plans to tour are now at risk. For example, we had secured a venue for one of our forthcoming productions (Es & Flo) in a high-profile slot at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival which is cancelled for this year. We had started international touring plans for our most recent production The Beauty Parade which was led by disabled artists. We would like to give opportunities to Welsh artists to develop and make ambitious new work with us, and to showcase the best of Wales to the world .
Rebuilding our community:
• We also urge you to consider that when the UK comes through these testing times, arts venues will have a key role in reuniting and healing communities
• Wales Millennium Centre, as a national arts centre, may have an important role to play as we rebuild our community. We would like to continue to offer young people opportunities to be creative, particularly those with adverse experience, through programmes such as our Together Stronger partnership with Valleys Kids and our youth led radio programme among others. We have a strong community volunteering programme with 300 participants which for many provided their main source of weekly social contact. And we want to continue to celebrate the strength of our communities through our leadership role in Black History Month in Cardiff, for example, or our commitment to participatory budgeting opportunities which empower decision making within those communities.
• We want you to help us ensure we are still operating and here to provide these services, our productions, and employment.
• 70% of the theatre workforce, on average, is self-employed or a freelancer. Despite the recent welcome announced measures, there are many that fall through the gaps (such as new entrants to the workforce since April 2019 and many of those who do mix of self-employed and PAYE work.)