YORK Theatre Royal will be bathed in “emergency red” tonight as part of the nationwide #LightItInRed campaign.
The 9pm event was announced before the Blues came to the arts industry’s aid in the dead of night last night when the Government suddenly announced a £1.57 billion grant and loan package after the Covid-19 pandemic left theatres and music venues in the dark, both physically and as to when they might re-open both safely and economically viably, stymied by social-distancing measures.
The choice of red has turned out to be prescient, given the most well-worn reaction of the day being that “the devil is in the detail”.
Organised by Clearsound Productions in partnership with the Backstage Theatre Jobs, the #LightItInRed project sees theatres, arts and music venues up and down the country lighting their buildings in red to “raise awareness of the difficulties facing the UK events industry as a result of the Coronavirus crisis”.
Unlike for other industries, no set date is in place for live events, shows, festivals and performances to re-start after the COVID-19 lockdown, against the backdrop of the “creative sector” usually generating around £110 billion annually for the UK economy, based on figures from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
Since mid-March 16, however, major events have been prohibited, leaving more than 25,000 businesses without any income. York Theatre Royal, for example, has lost £650,000 in expected income since its closure on March 17.
In a statement today, the Theatre Royal “welcomes, with gratitude, the announcement that the government will support the arts with a £1.57bn funding package and keenly awaits the details of how the funding will work”.
Before the late-night announcement of a deal thrashed out by Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden and the Chancellor, Richmond MP Rishi Sunak, the Theatre Royal’s executive director, Tom Bird, had warned that “the clock is ticking” after Dowden initially announced a road map for theatre’s return “that a child could have drawn up”.
Others had called the five-step plan – short on detail, devoid of dates – a road map to nowhere, a faulty SatNav leading only to a cliff’s edge.
Today Bird called for a “clear time frame” for urgent action beyond the words. “York Theatre Royal makes a huge social and economic impact in our city, and we have been working very hard behind the scenes to ensure we come roaring back with an epic programme for all the community to enjoy,” he said.
“We are delighted and grateful that the Government have committed £1.57bn to support the arts sector. However, our theatre remains closed, and we currently have no clear time frame as to when our doors will be able to re-open.
“Just 11 per cent of our annual income comes from state funding, the rest is made up by our audiences: the thousands of people who come to be entertained and inspired by us every year.
“We are pursuing all possible sources of funding, including the Government support, but we ask that you join the many who have already supported us by donating to us.”
Tom continued: “This is a difficult time for our building, but it is an incredibly difficult time for the freelancers who make up such an important part of our theatre family. 70 per cent of people who work in theatre and performance in the UK are freelance, and it’s for this workforce that the impact of the current situation is most acute. Our freelance family are very much in our thoughts and plans for the future.”
The Theatre Royal is asking people to share photos of the red-lit building in St Leonard’s Place on social media, using the hashtag #LightItInRed. Donations to York Theatre Royal can be made online at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.
Tonight, York Theatre Royal, the National Theatre and the Royal Opera House will be among 564 “iconic landmarks” to be lit up in “emergency red to draw attention to the critical condition of the live events and entertainment industry”, in a campaign inspired by Germany’s #NightofLight protest in June that triggered €1billion in emergency arts funding.
A spokesman for #LightItInRed said: “While we welcome the rescue package from the Government, we await clarification about what this means for freelancers, suppliers and those in the wider theatrical and events industry. We continue to light buildings red this evening to show we are still standing by to reopen.”
Taking part too tonight will be the Joseph Rowntree Theatre, whose chair of the board of trustees, Dan Shrimpton, said: “We want to show our support for this movement. Our theatre is all about involvement and community and because of the generous support given to us by local company Technical Stage Services, we’ve been able to get the ‘Emergency Red’ lighting set up quickly. “
Shortly before the closure of theatres, the JoRo, in Haxby Road, York, launched its Raise The Roof appeal to raise a £90,000 shortfall for roof repairs, with the remaining costs coming from reserves.
“A prolonged closure will result in the theatre needing to dip into those reserves to meet running costs, so the charity will be keeping a watch to see if it will be able to apply for grants or loans from the government’s scheme,” said Dan.