Local election manifesto 

a signpost signalling a polling station
27 Apr 2022

With many local councillors up for re-election next week, Chris Walker outlines his manifesto for increased local authority spending on theatre and the arts.

A hard time to be a leader

on stage production of Les Miserables
01 Dec 2021

After a hugely successful eight years at the helm at Mountview, its two directors are handing over the reins. Here, Sarah Preece reflects on the leadership challenges facing the drama training sector.

Phoenix Dance Theatre reverses layoff decision

26 May 2022

Phoenix Dance Theatre will no longer lay off four employees in June as previously planned.

Under plans revealed by performers' union Equity, the Leeds theatre intended to pay those laid off £300 of guaranteed pay every three months, during which time they would be expected to be available if required.

The decision to reverse the layoffs follows a demonstration outside the Northern Ballet building, home to the theatre, led by Equity on Monday (23 May). An online petition against the move received more than 2,000 signatures.

The theatre will move ahead with separate plans to end the contracts of five dancers, one freelancer and four on fixed-term contracts, but confirmed all other employees will be retained.

A statement from the theatre said layoffs were proposed but decided against while a strategic review is underway, adding it remains committed to safeguarding jobs wherever possible.

It called Equity’s decision to make the process public “disappointing” and said the theatre “strongly refutes their account of our actions”. 

Dominic Bascombe, Equity’s Regional Office for North East, Yorkshire and Humberside, said he was delighted for the two dancers and two creatives affected.

“They have been overwhelmed by the support of the public, trade unionists and fair-minded people everywhere.”

Drama education should not just be for the elite

26 May 2022

Drama and theatre education are curriculum entitlements for all children and young people, not just the privileged few, says Geoff Readman.

My Gurus: Be the change you want to see

24 May 2022

Founded in 2000, Slung Low is a theatre company based at the Holbeck in Leeds – Britain’s oldest working men’s club. Its Artistic Director, Alan Lane pays tribute to the people who have inspired him.

Evidence Centre to provide theatre sector analysis 

24 May 2022

Society of London Theatre (SOLT) and UK Theatre, two of Britain's leading industry membership associations, have announced a partnership with data and insight specialists Baker Richards to develop an Evidence Centre that will provide analysis of the theatre sector.

The centre will use the latest technology to gather data from multiple sources, including automatically extracted ticket transactions, data on demographics and infrastructure, as well as attitudinal survey data and open government data.

It will allow SOLT and UK Theatre to identify trends in sales and audiences, evaluate theatre's economic impact, classify workforce data and demographics and present in-depth analysis that contributes to demonstrating the value of theatre to national and local government. 

“Over nearly two decades, Baker Richards has developed a rich understanding of the UK’s ever-changing theatre industry, promoting and creating measures and metrics which have been widely adopted,” said Robin Cantrill-Fenwick, Chief Executive of Baker Richards. 

For the new Evidence Centre, analysts will use innovative approaches including experimentation with machine learning and AI. The first iteration of the data tool is scheduled to be ready for use at the end of the year. 

President of SOLT Eleanor Lloyd said the new centre will be “a fantastic resource for our members to access”, facilitating “more sophisticated data and business intelligence, to assist our members with their marketing campaign planning and budgeting”.

Stephanie Sirr, UK Theatre President, said that while making the case for government support of the theatre sector during the pandemic, they had identified “some gaps in what we evaluate in order to make a well-rounded and informed case for theatre in a way that corresponds with government evaluation tools”.

“This new Evidence Centre will give us access to sales and economic data at a deeper level, which will help our members make the strongest argument yet for supporting UK theatres as key strategic partners in their many communities,” she said.

Equity launches self-tape guide for commercials

19 May 2022

A code of best practice for self-tape and Zoom auditions for commercials is now available.

Launched by Equity, it is the first of its kind for commercials in the UK and follows a best practice guide for scripted dramas released last August.

It includes a recommended two-day minimum turnaround for self-tapes, avoidance of anti-social hours for taping, and safeguarding guidance on requests for artists to audition fully or partially nude. 

The union hopes the guide will lead to improved standards in commercial auditions, which tend to be less regulated than other areas of production, meaning terms and conditions can be less favourable.

It follows notifications from Equity members of short requests for turnarounds on commercial tapings, often coming in late on a Friday and expected to be returned by Saturday lunchtime.

The union says it supports the use of self-tape and video conferencing apps for auditions which, it adds, increased during the pandemic.

“If used well, this can encourage a much wider and more diverse representation of artists to enter the industry, including those who live outside of London.”

Musical theatre diner to open in West End

16 May 2022

The UK’s first theatrical diner is coming to London’s Shaftesbury Avenue.

The Theatre Cafe Diner, where trained singers will wait on guests and perform musical theatre classics, is due to open this summer.

The diner is being brought to the West End by the team who operate Theatre Cafe on St Martin’s Lane. 

Theatre Cafe founder and managing director Joe Davey said the new diner will be an “excellent companion” to the existing cafe.

“The Theatre Cafe has grown so much from its beginnings as a family ticketing business, and we are delighted to be seen as a key beacon within the theatre industry.”

‘Dynamic pricing’ to blame for £400 West End seats

12 May 2022

A spokesperson for West End play Cock says “dynamic pricing” caused tickets to be priced at up to £400.

The show came under fire earlier this week after tickets were priced as high as £400, plus a £60 booking fee, on the production’s official booking system.

With the show’s 13-week run set to end on 4 June, a spokesperson for producers Elliot & Harper said “the remaining premium ticket sales are based on supply and demand”.

They also confirmed 15% of all tickets had been sold at £20, with a daily lottery offering £20 tickets at every performance.

Cock is being staged at the Ambassadors Theatre, one of the smallest venues in the West End.

On Wednesday, theatre consultant Carl Woodward noted tickets priced in excess of £300 on Monday were now priced below £200.

Theatr Clwyd refurb gets £3.3m boost

05 May 2022

Theatr Clwyd's ongoing refurbishment has been supported by a series of major private funders.

The theatre received £1.5m from The Moondance Foundation, £500,000 from The Wolfson Foundation, £500,000 from the Garfield Weston Foundation, as well as £500,000 from an anonymous local philanthropist, all to be put towards major works on its 46-year-old Grade II-listed building.

It also received £300,000 from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation to continue community work during the build.

The donations follow a £22m pledge from the Welsh Government in March. The theatre has now received gifts exceeding the previous highest amount ever raised by a Welsh theatre.

Liam Evans-Ford, Theatr Clwyd’s Executive Director said: “When we started on this capital journey in 2017 we were told it was unlikely we would raise more than £2m of private investment for a theatre in Wales. 

"Due to the generous support of these lead funders we have already reached £3m. This is an empowering vote of confidence for Theatr Clwyd, our values, the quality of our theatre making, and our deeply important community work."

Equity claims 'landmark' holiday-pay ruling

05 May 2022

Performers' union Equity has hailed a "landmark victory" after an employment tribunal ruled that 16 of its members had a legal right to receive holiday pay.

In an action brought through the union after the 2018 pantomime season, the tribunal ruled that the members had a legal right to receive holiday pay from QDos, now known as Crossroads Pantomimes, after it was sold to the entertainment production group Crossroads Live last year.

Crossroads Pantomimes now has to agree to provide claimants with holiday pay for the affected productions or face a remedies hearing which will enforce a settlement. 

Equity General Secretary Paul Fleming, said: “The consequences of the bravery of the Equity members in this case will send ripples through the industry. 

"Crossroads through their predecessor QDos have for many years avoided industry standards and used their powerful position to deprive our members of the pay and terms and conditions which they are due, including through tactics which the judge referred to as having a ‘potentially chilling effect’. 

"A company as big and powerful as Crossroads should be using Equity collective agreements like the overwhelming majority of major commercial producers."

ALRA students join Rose Bruford College

04 May 2022

A total of 142 former ALRA students are to continue their studies with Rose Bruford College following the academy’s closure last month.

All students across undergraduate, postgraduate and foundation courses were offered a place to continue their course after the fallout.

The transferring students will work across Rose Bruford’s campuses in South West London and Wigan. The college said it has been working with a number of institutions to ensure students make a smooth transition.

Principal Claire Middleton says the transfers offer students a “secure way to complete their training after such an unsettling time”.

“We were encouraged to see the outpouring of support for them from across the industry,” she added.

Lloyd Webber's Cinderella closure sparks protests

Protestors gather outside Gillian Lynne Theatre
04 May 2022

Current and future cast members must be compensated, Equity says, after brandishing the abrupt closure “unacceptable”.

Cornwall theatre creates friends scheme

03 May 2022

A Cornwall theatre has launched an audience support scheme to support local music and performing arts.

The Friends of The Acorn scheme will see residents become a ‘friend’ of the Penzance theatre through an annual donation.

Funds raised will go towards supporting the local community, through initiatives such as discounted theatre space hire for local groups and bursaries for children and young people to take part in the venue’s community classes.

Friends will also receive notice when The Acorn’s new shows are listed and an e-newsletter of behind-the-scenes information.

Theatre Manager Richard Cawley says the launch of the scheme follows a difficult two years for the charity.

“[Friends of The Acorn] gives our supporters, who love the shows we put on, a way to regularly support us and become part of The Acorn family.”

E-marketing in the time of GDPR

Alice - A Virtual Theme Park
27 Apr 2022

Charlie Morley unpicks how the legislation introduced to protect customer data has had unintended consequences for staying in touch with audiences.

Sex education theatre cancelled after threats

22 Apr 2022

A sex education theatre show for children has been cancelled amidst threats and complaints.

Bristol’s Tobacco Factory, where the Family Sex Show was due to premiere in May, said its building and team received “unprecedented threats and abuse” following widespread backlash.

The show, created by ThisEgg, features non-sexual nudity and conversations around consent, pleasure and queerness, targeting all audiences above age 5. 

Developed in conjunction with safeguarding and education specialists, ThisEgg said it hoped the performance would open up conversations around relationships.

An online petition branding the event “wholly inappropriate and a blatant attempt to sexualise children” gained more than 38,000 signatures.

ThisEgg said on Twitter it was “regrettable that violent and illegal threats and abuse” forced the cancellation.

“We believe that what has happened is reflective of structural and societal attitudes towards relationships and sex education as well as art, culture and who is allowed to create and what we are allowed to engage with in the UK.”

People who booked tickets will be offered refunds.

Threads connecting costumes to communities

Costume Day 20 August 2021
19 Apr 2022

A project on the history of costume making has created meaningful new relationships with communities outside the theatre walls, write Emma Gibbons and Tara Johnston-Comerford.

Performers need protections from AI abuse

19 Apr 2022

Performers are increasingly losing their jobs, faces and voices to artificial intelligence, a new report claims. What can be done about it?

Unions blame DfE for ALRA closure

14 Apr 2022

The Department for Education (DfE) bears "significant responsibility" for ALRA's sudden closure, unions say.

In a joint statement, the University and College Union (UCU) and performing arts workers' union Equity say ALRA’s financial difficulties were the "predictable consequence of the poor regulation of private providers and an ideological reliance on fees".

"The Government’s vindictive attacks on funding for creative and performing arts and its refusal to support these subjects in higher education form the background to ALRA’s collapse."

Claiming ALRA’s senior management handled the situation "disgracefully", the unions said they are offering advice to their members and encouraging other institutions to make offers of alternative employment.

They warn ALRA will not be the last higher education institution to suffer unless the Government abandons its fee-based funding model in favour of secure public funding. 

"This cultural vandalism must be brought to an end," their statement concludes.

Brexit scuppers British Phantom run

07 Apr 2022

A decision to replace a British production of Phantom of the Opera with a Chinese one "speaks volumes about the impact of the Government’s approach to supporting touring creatives".

The statement from DCMS Committee Chair Julian Knight comes after Jessica Koravos, President of the Really Useful Group, told MPs it was "more straightforward and less expensive" to tour the Chinese show in the EU.

Knight said this exemplifies the damage done to arts touring by Brexit.

"The mask has well and truly slipped on the true extent of the problems faced by the UK arts sector.

"The current EU visa arrangements are proving economically disastrous for our cultural industries by forcing them to play second fiddle to their international competitors, while having a hugely detrimental effect on the ability of the UK to exercise soft power by promoting Britain abroad post-Brexit.”

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