North East UK news Newcastle MP Chi Onwurah calls for support for the city's theatres MetiNews.Com
MetiNews.Com - Newcastle Central MP Chi Onwurah is calling on the Government to give more clarity and support to arts venues like Newcastle’s Live Theatre
Breaking News ! I grew up in Newcastle and it’s now just over 10 years since I was first elected to represent my home town, but I am still finding out wonderful new things about this great city. I’ve visited the Tyne Theatre on Westgate Road before, often, to see great shows from national and local performers. But I’ve never been backstage until this week. So I did not know that it boasts the most complete set of Victorian stage machinery in the world - aa well as a couple of ghosts and a cannon ball…. The reason for my visit, however, was less inspiring. It was to discuss their financial predicament. Chi Onwurah. (Image: Newcastle Chronicle) Tyne Theatre is a charity, run by a trust. It doesn’t get Government grants but over the last few years, with a small, dedicated team and the help of lots of freelance theatre staff, it has done a tremendous job to bring popular shows from all over the country here to Newcastle, and make a little bit of money to keep its Grade One listed building in such stunning shape. But of course the pandemic brought all that to an end. Ticket sales were replaced by ticket refunds. Although they have had no income since March they have not made anyone redundant, even freelancers have continued to be paid, mainly through the furlough scheme but the Theatre will be paying a portion this month and next. Tyne Theatre has tried to do the right thing – BA might like to take a leaf out of their book. But they can’t go on much longer without any income. As a charity they are not eligible for any grants, but they still have lots of outgoings, buildings as beautiful as the Tyne Theatre aren’t cheap to run. The Labour Party has been calling on Government to set out urgent sector specific help. And to give clarity to theatres and our entire cultural economy which makes such a difference to all our lives. The Government did announce an emergency support package to ‘help protect the future of theatres, galleries and museums”.
. He did patronisingly add that he wanted to help “every part of the UK”, which I guess includes Newcastle. But he has yet to get round to saying how that help will actually get to the Tyne Theatre – or the Sunderland Empire for that matter. Crucially, this weekend was the very last date by which theatres can decide if they are going to stage a Christmas pantomime.
Gateshead talent Robyn McEnaney won the role of Snow White in this year's panto and will take to the stage opposite Matt Pagan as the Prince
(Image: newcastle chronicle)
But not only do we not know what help is coming, we don’t know if they will be able to open to stage pantomimes or other performances. For most theatres the pantomime is what they live off for the rest of the year. It’s also how freelancers and casual staff make it from job to job. Without clarity on pantomimes, and no help from Government, our theatres won’t survive the winter. And that matters. Here in the North East we need every stage we have to tell our story – and train the next generation of actors, musicians, stage hands, costume designers, writers, future TV producers and Oscar winners! When I think about theatre I’m not thinking of Mr Dowden’s ‘crown jewels’. I’m thinking of the Tyne Theatre and the Theatre Royal’s pantomimes, for many the start of Christmas and their one trip to the theatre all year. Or the People’s Theatre, scene of my brother’s stage debut at the tender age of two! Or Northern Stage’s fantastic Youth Theatre which gives opportunities to young people to write and perform their life experiences. Or the tiny Alphabetti Theatre’s intimate and innovate productions. Or the award-winning Open Clasp Theatre, which celebrates Northern women. Or Live Theatre’s original local plays and musicals which so often go on to tour the country and the West End. There is a hard time coming for our region as furlough ends and job losses grow. We need the Government to recognise these ‘Geordie Jewels’ and protect them, and the jobs they support, for generations to come.
Source = MetiNews.Com