Staff at Wiltshire Creative will be consulted over redundancy brought about by the COVID-19 closure, which reduced earned income by 92%. About 40% of jobs could be at risk.
Salisbury Arts Centre and Salisbury Playhouse closed to the public in March and productions of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Hay Fever cancelled. Also hit were 2020 Salisbury International Arts Festival.
No government guidance on when the venues can fully re-open to capacity audiences without social distancing, has led to this year’s Christmas pantomime Cinderella being taken off.
With evidence of audiences being reluctant to return in significant numbers for the foreseeable future, Wiltshire Creative believes a restructure and reducing the staff numbers, and scaling back will help protect its.
Tim Crarer, Chair of Wiltshire Creative, said:
“As an arts charity that relies on audiences coming through our doors, buying tickets, drinks and ice creams, along with fundraising and venue hire, the closure of our buildings and cancellation of all activity has had a devastating effect on our financial position. Despite this, we have done everything possible to protect jobs for as long as possible, including furloughing many staff and honouring contracts with companies and freelancers who were due to work with us.
“The trustees have explored all options but have now concluded that this is the only way to give the organisation the best chance of survival. We are all devastated, but this is an inevitable result of the crisis. Our primary focus now is a duty of care to all our loyal, skilled and committed staff at what is a very difficult time. The sad reality is that most arts organisations are in similar positions.”
Planning for the pantomime had continued and more than 4,000 tickets had been sold for the six-week run, but Cinderella could be staged in 2021.
Gareth Machin, Artistic Director of Wiltshire Creative and director of Cinderella, said:
“It is devastating not to be able to present a pantomime at Salisbury Playhouse this Christmas. We know that our loyal audiences will be very disappointed and I know that it is equally disappointing for our dedicated colleagues and volunteers who would be working on the production. But we know it is the sensible thing to do and we will do everything possible to make sure that the production can happen next year.”
Wiltshire Creative plans a phased re-opening of Salisbury Playhouse, Salisbury Arts Centre, and other projects outside its venues, beginning in Autumn, working within current government and industry guidelines, and put on a programme of Christmas entertainment.
Sebastian Warrack, Executive Director of Wiltshire Creative, said:
“We are enormously grateful to those customers who have chosen to donate the value of their cancelled tickets to the organisation, and to those who have made individual donations during this hugely challenging period. We are also grateful for the ongoing support of our key funders, Arts Council England, Wiltshire Council and Salisbury City Council.”
No final decision on redundancies will be made until the consultation process is complete. Meanwhile, donations can be made via the Wiltshire Creative website at www.wiltshirecreative.co.uk