Horsecross Arts, the creative organisation and charity behind Perth Concert Hall and Perth Theatre, is launching a collective consultation process with staff on potential redundancies as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
The charity's trustees said the decision was a "painful last resort" to secure the long-term future of the organisation, safeguard as many jobs as possible, and to retain its cultural programmes for the region's communities after all other options were exhausted. Around 70 part-time and 50 full-time employees at all levels of the organisation may be affected.
Horsecross Arts pledged to provide every support to the employees affected in the weeks ahead and remains committed to reopening the venues when the situation improves.
Culture organisations across the UK are facing an unprecedented challenge from Coronavirus. Perth's two premier arts venues have been closed since shortly before lockdown in March and hundreds of events have been cancelled or rescheduled, resulting in a 70% drop in income.
Most of the 168 staff employed by the charity and the venues are now on furlough, but the Government's Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is due to wind down and close completely by 31 October 2020.
With an increase in employer contributions under the scheme from August, no clarity over when the curtain will rise on music and theatre performances, and continued uncertainty and Covid-19 restrictions impacting the economic viability of live performance, the charity was facing a financial cliff-edge by November.
Horsecross Arts Board Interim Chair Steven Stewart said:
"This is a painful last resort and a decision we were forced to take after all other options were exhausted. Even with the government support and some public funding, we rely on ticket sales, our conference business, and our cafes and bars to meet our monthly outgoings. We’ve done everything possible to cut costs and protect our staff, including freezing non-essential expenditure, deferring payments where possible, and ensuring our people are covered by the government's Job Retention Scheme. With no clear picture as to when and how our venues will be able to open again, the Board had no alternative but to take these steps now.
"We will do everything we can to support colleagues affected in our Horsecross staff family in the weeks ahead. People across the country are desperate to see a return to that human connection and shared experience you get from live performance. When the situation allows and the time is right, we are determined to bounce back, reopen our venues and once again be at heart of the community."
Horsecross Arts Chief Executive, Nick Williams said:
“We have an incredibly talented and dedicated team of people and it is devastating to have to take this decision. Live performance is our lifeblood and, while some organisations have room to adapt to continue trading, our income stream has been turned off overnight.
"We had been making good progress in turning our fortunes around after a challenging period when the pandemic hit the UK and we went into lockdown. Even at this difficult time, we have continued to try and lift people’s spirits with online activity and we appreciate all the support we have had from our customers, funders and local communities.
"However, we have reached the point where the continuing uncertainty means we have had to take this sad step. The unprecedented situation is impacting the culture and arts community across the UK and has even seen some theatres go into administration. We decided it was best to take these difficult decisions now so we were in the best possible health to protect the future of the charity for everyone.
"We will do everything we can to help and support our staff family and minimise the impact on jobs. We remain hopeful that, when we do have clear guidelines on when and how we can reopen, we’ll find a way to work with some of these wonderful people again.”
Karen Reid, Chief Executive of Perth & Kinross Council said:
“Considering redundancies is a very last resort after weighing up all the alternatives. It is a matter of deep regret that Horsecross Arts may not be able to continue to fund a number of positions because of the impact of the current challenging situation. My heart goes out to those who may be affected by this, and I can assure them that we will offer all possible support. I am reassured that Horsecross Arts will take all appropriate steps to mitigate the impact on individuals.
“Perth & Kinross Council is committed to investing in arts and culture, including the recent restoration and redevelopment of Perth Theatre and investment in other creative projects, because we know the positive impact it can have on the local economy: generating employment, revitalising the city centre, and bringing joy and entertainment to so many. This commitment is unwavering. Creativity will continue to flourish in new and unexpected ways while we adjust to this new way of living, and once the current crisis is over, I look forward to being amongst audiences in the Theatre and Concert Hall once more.”
Perth Concert Hall and Perth Theatre will remain closed until at least September. Work goes on behind the scenes to ensure that the venues are ready to reopen safely, with all necessary adaptations, as restrictions are lifted, and Horsecross Arts is staying in close contact with promoters and performers throughout this process.
Members of the Box Office team will continue to contact ticket-holders with details of rescheduled shows and process refund requests.
Friday 26 June 2020