It appears as the Coronavirus crisis deepens the impact is having an effect on all areas of our lives. The latest announcement sees one of our largest, and most prestigious venues closing its doors until at least January 2021. The impact on the Wales Millennium Centre is being felt everywhere, not least among the 300 members of staff who face an uncertain future.
We have already reported on the devastating impact the pandemic is having, and will continue to have on the theatre industry. Theatre Producer Sonia Friedman gave a stark warning a matter of weeks ago, claiming that ‘theatre is on the brink of collapse.’
Sir Cameron Mackintosh also said recently that he believes ‘theatre won’t come back till next year.’ It now appears those statements are indeed true.
Productions at the Wales Millennium Centre that have been cancelled or postponed include The Lion King, Welsh National Opera’s autumn season, The Book of Mormon and The Phantom of the Opera, which were all due to take place in the Centre’s 1,850 seat Donald Gordon Theatre. TheCentre’s annual international festival, Festival of Voice, will also not go ahead as planned from 29 October – 1 November 2020.
Up to 250 roles could be affected and 85 permanent staff are at risk of redundancy. The closure will also affect the Centre’s 300 volunteers’ roles and will impact freelance and local artists whose work is performed in the Centre’s performing spaces, including the 250-seat Weston Studio and 160-capacity Ffresh Cabaret venue.
Wales Millennium Centre shut its doors on 17 March 2020 when social distancing advice around mass gatherings was announced by the UK Government. It is anticipated that the Centre may have to remain shut for even longer and a decision on closure up to April 2021 will be made in September. If the Centre remains shut for a year, it is anticipated that the organisation will lose around £20 million in revenue.
Wales Millennium Centre’s Managing Director, Mathew Milsom said:
“It is with deep regret that we have made the difficult decision to close Wales Millennium Centre until January 2021. The Coronavirus pandemic has had a devastating effect on theatres across the UK and, like many others, we have concluded that we won’t be able to put performances on our stages again while social distancing measures are in place. Under these circumstances we can’t open the theatre in a way that provides a good audience experience and that is economically viable for the Centre and the producers who present their work here.“
“The safety of our audience, staff and performers is of paramount importance and, therefore, we may have to consider extending the period of closure as government advice on mass gatherings becomes clearer over the coming weeks and months. We are also expecting significant disruption to the availability of touring shows for years to come, as productions are being cancelled and no new shows are being created.
We are making these decisions now to secure the future of the Centre – home for the arts in Wales – which over 1.6m people visit each year and which contributes £70m to the Welsh economy. We have lost 85% of our income overnight and are seeking funding for both the short and longer term. Whilst we are closed, we will do everything we can to keep our artistic and charitable work going, and to ensure that we are ready to reopen as soon as is practically possible”.
Wales Millennium Centre is a cultural campus and is home to eight cultural organisations, including Welsh National Opera; National Dance Company Wales; and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and its 350-seat Hoddinott Hall. Up to 1,200 jobs are supported on the Wales Millennium Centre site.
Ticket holders for affected shows are currently being contacted to arrange refunds and/or to rearrange for future dates. Changes to performances are reflected on the website – WMC
On a personal note, here at SOUTH WALES LIFE we have worked with the Centre on many occasions, previewed shows and events and featured your reviews on a variety of productions. This is a harsh reminder that while the pandemic is affecting businesses, across all areas, at the heart of this crisis are people. People with homes, families and lives outside of all this.
Our thoughts go out to everyone working so hard at the Centre, and indeed all of us affected by one of the most testing and difficult periods in our recent world history. Times could not be any tougher, but we will get through this.