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Future of Shakespeare’s Globe Theater Threatened by Lockdown

2020-05-21 11:37:17

Shakespeare’s Globe, a celebrated institution in London that showcases some of the world’s most recognizable stage plays, is in danger of permanently closing if it does not receive emergency funding to help make up for revenue it has lost during the coronavirus lockdown.

“Despite being well-managed, well-governed and — crucially — able to operate without public subsidy, we will not be able to survive this crisis,” the Globe said. The theater’s closing would be “a tragedy for the arts, for the legacy of England’s most famous writer, but also for the country, if our iconic site on Bankside stands empty,” the Globe added, referring to its location on the south bank of the Thames.

The theater recently submitted written evidence to Parliament saying that, after the lockdown ends, it will need at least 5 million pounds (about $6.1 million) in emergency funding before it can reopen and begin generating income from productions and event bookings. It is also asking for donations on its website so it “can continue to thrive in the future.”

The theater said it “is well-run, well-managed and financially resilient, but in the face of a crisis such as this one, there is no mechanism to help us.”

In its memo to Parliament, the theater said its income had already declined by 25 percent before it closed on March 18 because people were avoiding public activities as the virus spread. Now the theater is spending down its reserves, imposing “radical” cost-cutting measures and furloughing members of its staff, it said. It also said it needed to cover the cost of security and the operation of its website to keep its audience engaged before reopening.

The theater told Parliament that if it were to reopen later than September, it would have “significant difficulty in maintaining current levels of operation,” and it might experience a “long-term erosion of income-generation channels.” Income from ticket sales may suffer, it said, if audiences are reluctant to return before a vaccine is available.

Julian Knight, the chairman of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee in the House of Commons, wrote a letter on Monday to Oliver Dowden, the culture secretary, expressing concern about the impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on Britain’s cultural institutions.

“The threat to the U.K.’s cultural landscape is stark,” Mr. Knight wrote, citing “world-renowned institutions such as Shakespeare’s Globe warning of insolvency and closure.”

He called on the government to step up its support of cultural institutions and to provide financial support for those in creative industries who were either ineligible for or had unsuccessfully applied for emergency public funding through Arts Council England, a government-financed body that distributes subsidies to the arts.

In response to the letter, Neil Constable, the chief executive of Shakespeare’s Globe, said in a statement that the theater was “proudly part of the U.K.’s national identity and cultural landscape” and that its survival depended on help from the government to get through the lockdown period.

“Together, we are determined to come back after this crisis,” he said. “However, the arts must be protected and we need urgent financial support to survive in any recognizable form.”


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