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Select committee hears that theatres and arts festivals are facing a "double whammy" of increasing costs and lower demand for tickets due to ongoing cost of living crisis.

Choir performing at Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod
Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod.

Creative Commons

The economic viability of theatres and festivals is at serious risk due to the impact of the cost of living crisis, MPs have been warned.

A select committee meeting heard that following enforced closures due to Covid restrictions, theatres and festivals are suffering from low ticket sales because potential customers are facing financial pressure from inflation.

Meanwhile, organisations are facing higher costs themselves for utilities and supplies, leaving them in a precarious position.


As part of an inquiry into culture and tourism in Wales, the Welsh Affairs Committee heard that the issues faced by theatres and festivals across Wales are mirrored across the UK and that support is needed to ensure their survival.

Giving evidence, Graeme Farrow, Artistic and Creative Director at the Wales Millenium Centre, said: "There is a real danger that we could see theatres close around Wales. I hate to be too pessimistic but over the next few years they simply won't be able to trade. 

"Wales Millenium Centre is different - we are facing difficulties as well, but we will be able to cope. I do fear for theatres in more rural locations. They won't be able to trade their way out of this. 

"You've got a double whammy of declining income and increasing costs, which just doesn't work in any business."


Camilla King, Executive Director of the annual Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod, which has been running for 75 years and has featured Luciano Pavarotti, said rising costs such as transport and electricity are a huge issue. 

She said there is "continued caution" from older audiences who are concerned about safety and the risk of contracting Covid, combined with "a huge amount of concern over cost of living and people starting to tighten belts with a view that this might continue for a few of years".

"I'm hearing from colleagues across the arts festival industry in Wales and the UK that there is a lot of worry about our audiences coming back following the pandemic," she said.

"For us that's a scary position to be in, because if people can't buy tickets, but all our other costs are going up, it makes it very very hard to make the finances work. Our ticket sales are very low so far. 

"There are trends for ticket sales to increase significantly in the final week before an event or in the last 48 hours before an event, but in terms of forecasting financially and balancing all the other budgets, that is tough. 

"You have to put the investment into the site, the events and the artists and sit tight up to two days before you go live. That is quite nerve wracking for me six weeks out."

Core fanbases

Fiona Stewart, Managing Director of Green Man Festival, due to take place 18-21 August, said that although the event has sold out, she is acutely aware of the impact of rising costs, with spending on diesel fuel rising from £30,000 in 2022 to £110,000 this year.

"We have sold out [but] I think it is very split at the moment. There are organisations that have sold out - ones which have very core fanbases.

"There is a real problem out there ... there is a psychological thing about returning to big events, but I think it will come back.

"There is concern among food traders that cost of food is going up and oil for frying. Everyone is feeling this, and it's really challenging. 

"It is time for support for those organisations so they can recover, because the loss of that resource to Wales and the United Kingdom would be horrendous."


A number of events due to take place in England have been cancelled in recent weeks including This Is Tomorrow in Newcastle, Brainchild in East Sussex, and Summerfest in Blackburn. 

SummerFest had been scheduled for 27-29 May to feature The Human League, Midge Ure, Boy George and Culture Club, and UB40, but has been postponed until next year.

All tickets from this year's event will be automatically rolled over to 2023.

A statement issued by organisers blamed "the current economic climate causing increased costs out of our control", resulting in "an impossible task of delivering a high-quality event in 2022".

A statement issued by organisers of This is Tomorrow, which was to run from 26-28 May said that "due to an oversaturated market and ongoing economic crisis, 2022 is not the time for the festival to expand further and build on last year's success".