MAYFLOWER chief executive Michael Ockwell is calling on the Government to give the theatre a 'lifeboat to ride the storm of this crisis'.

The celebrated Southampton theatre, which contributes in excess of £75 million to the local economy annually, has joined forced with four other major theatres to lobby for emergency funding to recover from closure due to Covid-19.

Mayflower Theatre, Birmingham Hippodrome, The Marlowe Theatre, Newcastle Theatre Royal and Norwich Theatre are calling on the Government and Arts Council England to come up with an aid package.

The five large-scale regional theatre venues, which are run as independent charities and receive no regular funding support from Arts Council England (ACE), have seen a loss of 96% of their income since they were asked to close their doors in March.

This is the equivalent loss of £5.9million per venue over a prolonged six month closure period.

As the performing arts industry face an open-ended period of closure, the five theatres have issued an urgent appeal to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and Arts Council England (ACE) asking for emergency funding equivalent to the Emergency Response Fund made available by Arts Council England to their NPOs (National Portfolio Organisations) in order to help them navigate this crisis.

Michael Ockwell told the Daily Echo: Michel Ockwell, Mayflower Theatre Chief Executive said, “As a venue, we are falling through the cracks of the emergency funding intervention and packages announced by ACE – a majority of this funding will go to National Portfolio Organisations. To put it simply, we need a lifeboat to ride the storm of this crisis. We give on average 25% of our programme to the regular touring NPO companies including Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures, Dance Consortium, Northern Ballet, Royal National Theatre, Birmingham Royal Ballet, Welsh National Opera and Rambert. In presenting these companies we support them to almost a quarter of a million pounds each year in lower financial retention and technical support. With pressures to drive ongoing annual cost savings it is sad to say that my commercial head will have to rule over my artistic heart. This will erode the healthy touring ecology of ACE-funded work.”

With a combined age of over 600 years, the five venues present a wide range of quality artistic work from both subsidised and commercial organisations. They are vital to the regular touring circuits of major NPO companies including Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures, Dance Consortium, Royal National Theatre, Royal Shakespeare Company, Birmingham Royal Ballet, Welsh National Opera, Rambert, and many others.

In 2019, they generated £18.3million in gross box office income for productions presented in their venues by ACE National Portfolio Organisations (NPOs). This represents collective reach of this work to 491,000 audience members and a collective total of 453 days across the five stages.

With a commitment to new work and community engagement, each theatre also delivers a rich programme of studio performances, artist development and community and education work. Last year they collectively invested just under £1.2m of their own funds to deliver over 9,000 events reaching approximately 585,000 people.

So far the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has provided much needed support through the crisis, however due to the scale of operations, lack of annual public subsidy and higher reliance on ticket sales and self-generated income, the five venues are in desperate need of extra funding if they are to fully recover.