Today's announcement of a government backed insurance scheme for the live performance and events sectors, which is accessible also to theatres and productions is a welcome demonstration of the need for insurance to protect against the severe impacts of the pandemic. These have led to costly cancellations of theatre productions, and a major inhibition to producers, venues, and external investors from making the commitments necessary to bring our world leading theatre sector back to normal levels of activity, with all the employment which that creates, right the way across the UK.
Theatre generates £1.4bn in revenue annually and we estimate that as a sector our total economic impact including to the hospitality, travel and the tourism markets, coupled with the vibrancy theatre brings to our city centres, is worth at least treble this number to the economy as a whole. We also provide critical international earnings as our high quality productions are exported around the world. The sector will not be able to flourish and return to pre pandemic levels without an effective insurance scheme in place, that provides cover for Covid-19 related risks.
Currently commercial insurers are unwilling to offer such crucial cover without government backing. We therefore welcome government intervention to help plug the gap left by this market failure - especially in relation to possible future national or regional lockdowns.
However today's proposal addresses only some, and not all, of the major risks that theatre faces. Self- isolation regulations have been forcing the closures of shows at short notice. Social distancing audience number caps have been a constant burden to an industry which requires high audience occupancy levels to be economically viable. The threat of their possible reimposition represents a major risk, that we need to obtain insurance cover for - especially if larger, high cost productions are going to resume at normal levels. Theatre productions need long term sustainable cover for shows running daily over a considerable period of time. These risks and requirements are not addressed properly by the proposal. For any scheme to be effective it has to be comprehensive, and it also has to be affordable.
We recognise the considerable engagement that has been made by DCMS and HMT, over the past year, in working closely with the theatre sector on the issue of insurance. It is important that we continue those negotiations and discussions as we work through the specific detail of the proposal announced today, but also to find ways to mitigate cover to include more of the risks that the sector is facing due to the pandemic, and to making the costs involved significantly more viable.
Society of London Theatre (SOLT) represents approximately 230 London-based producers, theatre owners and managers, including all the major subsidised theatrical organisations in London.
UK Theatre represents approximately 240 theatres, concert halls, dance companies, producers and arts centres throughout the UK. UK Theatre also operates as a professional association, supporting over 1,400 individuals working professionally in theatre and the performing arts in the UK
Date Published: 06 August 2021