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RSC secures £19.4m loan as redundancies loom

The Royal Shakespeare Company today (Friday) announced that the Company has been successful in an application for repayable finance to the government’s Culture Recovery Fund. The loan of £19.4 million will help to secure the immediate future of the Company amidst the ongoing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the theatre industry.

However it also said that redundancies were imminent, with a potential loss of 17 per cent of its permanent workforce.

The company has been unable to stage full productions since the start of the pandemic, resulting in an expected loss of 86 per cent income outside the RSC’s Arts Council England (ACE) grant, a loss of approximately £46 million for the current financial year. Throughout the crisis the RSC has used its reserves and ACE grant to support the Company’s activity, alongside fundraising income from trust funders, donors and partners as well as donations from audiences, Members and Patrons as part of the Keep Your RSC campaign.

The RSC (43513842)
The RSC (43513842)

The RSC also furloughed up to 90 per cent of its staff, benefitting from the Government Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, and is reaching the end of a formal consultation with staff on redundancies and changes to terms and conditions.

Since the temporary closure of the RSC’s theatres in March, the company has retained a company of 35 freelance actors and stage managers at the heart of its work, continued to support young people and teachers with its far-reaching education activity, celebrated the power of Shakespeare through initiatives such as #shareyourShakespeare, staged free outdoor summer performances in its Stratford-upon-Avon gardens, talked Shakespeare online with RSC alumni and audiences, and streamed productions for free on iPlayer.

This repayable finance will ensure the Company’s financial stability in the short-term helping the RSC to:

• stage Tales for Winter, the current programme of live streamed performances

• open full productions in Stratford-upon-Avon and London in Spring 2021

• continue essential education work in schools and communities in collaboration with 11 regional theatre partners across the country supporting hundreds of thousands of young people

• recommence national touring with the RSC’s partner theatres

• work with commercial partners to invest in new productions that can generate potential income for the Company

• deliver a major piece of work as part of the City of Culture in Coventry 2021

• capture the rest of Shakespeare’s canon through Live From cinema broadcasts which are streamed free to schools

As the company’s programme of work expands the RSC will be able to engage significant numbers of freelance actors, musicians and creative team members alongside the RSC’s permanent workforce.

RSC Artistic Director Gregory Doran (43513844)
RSC Artistic Director Gregory Doran (43513844)

Commenting on the announcement Gregory Doran, Artistic Director, and Catherine Mallyon, Executive Director, said: “We are relieved to receive news that the RSC will receive Culture Recovery Fund repayable finance following our application, and thank the government, through DCMS, for their significant backing.It has been reassuring to see the thousands of companies around the country receiving crucial grants over recent weeks.They are the lifeblood of communities, support the local economy and enable strong health and well-being of our towns and cities.

“It continues to be a challenging time for theatres big and small, and for all those in the arts and culture sector. We are very grateful for the support we have received from our audiences, donors and partners, but without any regular income from our work on stage, and currently no confirmed date for the full re-opening of the theatres, we must plan for a different future.

“The finance will help the RSC to recover, and in the medium-term reopen our Swan and The Other Place theatres which will remain closed in 2021. All our activity will increase the work available to our essential freelance workforce, which in turn supports the wider arts and culture industry.

“The loan agreement requires us to be financially sustainable by the end of the 2021/22 financial year so that we can move towards repaying the loan, together with the interest that it will accrue.Rather than being a grant, it provides cash flow to help with paying our essential expenditure during the crisis.

“Even when we reopen fully it will take time to return to pre-pandemic income levels.We will need to continue to make savings, as well as rebuild income, to cover the loan repayments, which will not be completed until 2040. This sadly means that we must complete our formal consultation with staff on proposed redundancies and changes to our terms and conditions.Combined with the loss of work and lack of income support for many of our freelance colleagues, this is a source of profound regret.”

See more on this story in Thursday’s Herald.

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