The New Wolsey Theatre in Ipswich have issued a statement:
“Following the recent ministerial statement that social distancing will be required within theatres at least until November, with no certainty on when these measures and associated Covid-19 protocols might be removed, the management and Board of the New Wolsey Theatre have taken the extremely difficult decision to cancel the current programme, including our popular pantomime. As a consequence it is also with deep regret that we start the consultation process with a significant number of staff about redundancy. As custodians of a registered Charity and a publicly funded organisation, the Trustees and senior executives have a responsibility to do all they can to protect the long term future of the organisation. Employees affected by the consultation include 17 staff contracted on regular hours (from a total of 41 staff contracted on a regular hours basis, which equals 41%) and 6 staff employed on ‘hours as required’ contracts (from a total of 46 contracted ‘hours as required’)”
Detailed work has been carried out to understand the financial implications of opening the New Wolsey Theatre while social distancing is a requirement within the building and auditorium. The primary concern has been for the wellbeing and safety of staff, cast and audience members.
A spokesperson said “We have determined that it is not financially viable to stage our current programme of productions, including our pantomime, Jack and the Beanstalk, until social distancing is no longer required. The consequent loss of income, especially from the pantomime, makes our current operating budget untenable. We do not know how long this situation will last and what kind of landscape will emerge for theatre and performance or participatory live art, but it is clear that we are looking at a re-modelled theatre landscape which requires us to re-imagine our operation, business plan and personnel structure.
“The strategy will be to reduce core costs to a minimum and ensure the maximum flexibility in our future programme, enabling us to adapt to changing social distancing and Covid-19 protocol requirements. Theatre Trustees are determined that the New Wolsey will continue to play a leading role in the artistic life of Ipswich for many years to come.”
The Box Office will be contacting ticket holders as soon as they can to offer a refund, including an opportunity to roll over their purchase to productions next year or convert it into a donation.
Statement from Sarah Holmes, Chief Executive
“Over the last few months we’ve received generous donations from our many loyal supporters. Each and every one of these has been appreciated and has made a difference, not only to our bank balance but also to our morale. It has been heart-warming to know that the people of Ipswich and beyond want to see us survive this crisis and they’ve been willing to put their hands in their pockets. Donations will continue to buoy us through what may be the most difficult period of all – the next few months. The continuing support of our principal funders, including Arts Council England, Suffolk County Council and Ipswich Borough Council is equally valuable and will be vital to ensure that these difficult decisions have the intended outcome: to secure a healthy and viable future for the New Wolsey Theatre.”
Statement from Richard Lister, Chair of New Wolsey Theatre Trustees:
“I would like to pay tribute to those dedicated, hard working and often long-serving members of staff who are now facing the prospect of redundancy. They have been responsible for creating, supporting and delivering some extraordinary work over the years and helped build the New Wolsey’s reputation for the quality of its work and its customer service. It will be little consolation, but we are making these difficult decisions now in order to secure the prominent place the New Wolsey Theatre has earned in the cultural life of Ipswich, Suffolk and beyond, for many years to come. This is not a prelude to closure but a plan to re-imagine the organisation in a Covid-19 context.”
Statement from Peter Rowe, Artistic Director
“When Sarah Holmes and I arrived in Ipswich nearly twenty years ago the Wolsey was closed, mothballed and covered in dust. Over those years, with the support of our audiences, colleagues, funders and friends it has become a thriving enterprise offering a wide-ranging programme and entering the current crisis in rude health. Despite the difficulties we now face, and the very painful process of consulting about redundancies, we are determined that we will maintain the theatre through this crisis and into the future. It will require ingenuity, imagination, resilience and support from all sides – exactly as it did twenty years ago. It’s our twentieth birthday next year and, whatever the circumstances, we will find ways for us all to mark the occasion and look forward to many happy returns”