Report highlights devastating impact of pandemic on performance venues

A group of Norfolk and Suffolk’s most-loved performance venues have come together to assess the devastating impact caused by the COVID-19 crisis and shutdown.

Every year these venues entertain and engage over 1m people with a huge variety of gigs, concerts and performances as well as workshops and participatory activities for people of all ages. The region’s venues are also major economic players, collectively generating £43.5m in income in the 2018/19 financial year and directly sustaining over 500 full-time equivalent jobs.

Since the closure of these venues in mid-March, 1,605 performances have been caused to cancel and just 700 have been able to be re-scheduled. This has resulted in the venues projecting a total collective loss of income until the end of September 2020 in excess of £15m.

The impact survey and analysis was undertaken as part of the work of the New Anglia Cultural Board. Chair, Helen Wilson, said: “The cultural sector is a vital part of both the social and economic fabric of our region and our performance venues are at the heart of that

“The interventions so far have been very important, but are clearly not enough. A strong cultural sector coming out of this crisis is critical to our region’s recovery and regrowth as a key contributor to the visitor economy sector, the second largest employment sector in the region.”

The venues fear that it will take time for attendance levels to return to pre-shutdown levels and, if current social distancing restrictions remain in place until the end of 2020 and there is no sector-specific intervention, 85% will be forced to make major and potentially devastating organisational changes in order to still be financially viable at the end of October 2020 when the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme runs out.

If the venues are not able to stage their Christmas seasons, 15% will have no choice but to close permanently by 1 January and if there is a prolonged period of closure, 50% will close by 1 April 2021.

Stephen Crocker, Chief Executive of Norwich Theatre said: “Our region’s venues are at the heart of life across Norfolk and Suffolk and make these counties the incredible places that they are but the risk to their future is stark.

“What we do goes way beyond the act of staging performances or delivering activities, it is about bringing people together to share in an experience. In a post-Coronavirus world when social distancing is a thing of the past, I cannot imagine something more important than this. It is clear we need further interventions and this comes at a cost, but the value of the role we have to play as we recover is inestimable.”

The venues are: Dance East, Ipswich; Diss Cornhall; Eastern Angles Theatre Company, Ipswich; Fisher Theatre, Bungay; Maddermarket Theatre, Norwich; Marina Theatre, Lowestoft; National Centre for Writing, Norwich; New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich; Norwich Arts Centre; Norwich Puppet Theatre; Norwich Theatre; Quay Theatre, Sudbury; Seagull Theatre, Lowestoft; Sheringham Little Theatre; Snape Maltings; St George’s Theatre, Great Yarmouth; The Garage, Norwich; Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds and Wells Maltings, Wells-next-the-Sea.

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