Full-Blown Crisis - The UK's small music venues are experiencing a "full-blown crisis" - with many forced to close over the last year, a music charity has said. The Music Venue Trust says the future of "world-beating" artists is under threat and has asked the chancellor for an extension of the 75% business rates relief introduced in April this year. It is due to come to an end in March 2024.
In an open letter to Jeremy Hunt, the charity said: "The grassroots music sector is in the middle of a full-blown crisis. One hundred and twenty-five venues have shut their doors for live music in the last 12 months, 15.7% of all such spaces in the UK. It represents the loss of 4,000 jobs, 14,250 events, 193,230 performance opportunities, £9m of income for musicians, and £59m in lost direct economic activity."
Calling the closures "an immediate economic, social, and cultural blow" to local communities, they said the now dark venues had been "treasured places that bond our communities together, foster pride in the places we live, drive creativity and create aspiration".
Women in Theatre - Some 84% of female theatre workers would like to see specific funding for women in the industry, saying they still feel impacted by the effects of the pandemic. The Women in Theatre survey update, released on 26 October said it was "time to take action" on gender disparity, as it revealed only 6% of respondents believe there has been an increase in opportunities for women in the sector since a previous survey in 2021.
Of the 155 women who responded to the survey, 75% called for childcare support to help address gender inequality within the sector, with one respondent saying they were "astonished" that areas of the industry such as the West End lack a "dedicated childcare service for performers and backstage workers".
The survey, an update on research released in 2021, was published to coincide with the launch of the Women in Theatre Lab, a project intended to nurture a new generation of female playwrights. Many respondents cited the enduring legacy of COVID as a factor in the failure to increase opportunities for women in theatre, arguing that pay and conditions have worsened since the pandemic.
Another recurrent concern was that many theatres have become risk-averse in order to woo theatregoers with "known plays, which historically have been written by men and include more male parts".
Education Needs - Industry organisations are calling for “significant investment” into music education, as a study reveals parents and schools are facing a 6.6% increase in the price of lessons. Earlier this month, Music Mark undertook a survey of 87 music hubs and services, which represent 76% of those across England. It found that cost-of-living salary rises and additional pension costs - an estimated £9m to £12m - were driving costs up.
This has resulted in increased prices for lessons. However, a number of hubs and services said that even with the price increases, it “won’t be enough” to meet the additional costs they are currently facing, according to the results of the survey. Music Mark concluded that the cost-of-living crisis had resulted in increased demand for access to subsidised lesson costs and bursaries, which are “further stretched” as a result of the need for lesson prices to go up.
Luvly Jubbly - Only Fools and Horses the Musical is to embark on a tour across the UK next year, following four years in the West End. The production, based on the John Sullivan television show, will tour for 2024 and 2025 and will end with a run in Dublin.
The musical, featuring a script and original score by Paul Whitehouse and Jim Sullivan, son of the television scriptwriter, will open its tour at Bromley’s Churchill Theatre in September 2024. Directed by Caroline Jay Ranger, who also directed the Theatre Royal Haymarket production in London, the show will tour more than 30 towns and cities and will finish in Dublin’s Bord Gáis Energy Theatre in July 2025.
(Jim Evans)
31 October 2023

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