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Redundancies at Shakespeare Birthplace Trust as pandemic takes its toll

Shakespeare's Birthplace. The Trust has been awarded £3million. Photo: Mark Williamson
Shakespeare's Birthplace. The Trust has been awarded £3million. Photo: Mark Williamson

The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust is to make 95 redundancies following a huge loss of income caused by the pandemic.

The enforced closure of the Shakespeare houses, shops, cafes and the Shakespeare Centre have cost the trust around £8.5million in income for 2020.

SBT has received support from Arts Council England and has invested a significant amount to maintain a limited operation, including the re-opening of Shakespeare’s Birthplace on Henley Street with social distancing restrictions six weeks ago.

However back in July SBT confirmed that it was consulting with employees about a structural re-organisation to reflect the reduced scale of operations, a move expected to lead to some redundancies.

That process has now ended and 95 employees, equating to 69 full-time equivalents, are now being made redundant.

93 of these people are leaving through SBT’s voluntary redundancy scheme.

Chief executive Tim Cooke said: “We deeply regret the loss of such valued and loyal employees and the impacts on them personally and the scale of the Trust’s work. We pay fulsome tribute to colleagues affected in this way and thank them sincerely for all they have done to advance the enjoyment and understanding of Shakespeare’s works, life and times in Stratford-upon-Avon and around the world.

“The harsh reality is that the consequences of COVID-19 have made the Trust’s current business model unsustainable. The Trust continues to be in a financially challenging situation both now and for the future. We will be working as hard as we possibly can to maintain our charitable operation in these uncertain times.”

In April SBT placed 221 members of staff, most of its workforce, on temporary leave under the Government’s job retention scheme.

The re-opening of the Birthplace in August has been heralded as a positive step for both SBT and Stratford a whole, with a healthy number of visitors choosing to visit the property since then.

However the announcement of redundancies highlights the huge pressure the organisation is under.

SBT is not the only Stratford institution facing hard times, in August the RSC revealed that job losses were on the cards and that it was consulting with staff and unions ‘to safeguard the long-term future of the company’.

The exact details of the number of redundancies at the RSC have yet to be announced.

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