Bristol Old Vic commences consultation process with staff

29 Jul 2020

In the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, Bristol Old Vic has embarked on a consultation process with affected staff in the face of a significant reduction in the work it can undertake and the income it can generate. This follows similar announcements from theatres across the regions. It is anticipated that over 20 roles from its full-time workforce of 60 could be at risk. 

Bristol Old Vic’s Chair, Liz Forgan, said: 

“It is with enormous regret that Bristol Old Vic has begun a consultation process to reduce the size of its workforce due to the COVID-19 crisis. The last 5 years have brought astonishing success for Bristol Old Vic and the Board are very clear that these successes have been achieved through the skills and dedication of our wonderful workforce. Nonetheless, by taking these steps now, we are putting ourselves in a position to emerge flexible, solvent, and fighting fit to meet the challenges of the post-COVID world.” 

Executive Director Charlotte Geeves added: 

“The unprecedented circumstances of this crisis, forcing all theatres to close and taking away 75% of our income at a stroke has left us in an extremely vulnerable position. The Government’s Job Retention Scheme has kept us alive, as it has kept businesses alive in every part of the economy, and we are hopeful that the Government’s Cultural Investment will support our survival further as we prepare to reopen the theatre gradually over the coming 18 months. The theatre plans to make further announcements about the programme shortly. 

We are also enormously grateful for the support we have received so far and the donations made to our Reopening Fund. Donations such as these are hugely important and will directly fund our work as we emerge from the COVID crisis. 

However, there is no avoiding the fact that the current circumstances mean that we will be unable to recover the income levels we’ve built up over the last decade with any speed or predictability. Therefore, in order to ensure Bristol Old Vic survives and is able to emerge, we have to reshape our business.” 

Artistic Director Tom Morris said: 

“Over the last 10 years, the team at Bristol Old Vic has worked with a rare passion to create inspiring work and to share this beautiful building with more and more people from Bristol and the region. This has been achieved through colossal hard work in the face of steadily declining subsidy and increasing commercial pressure. Our successes are entirely due to the generosity, skill and dedication of our wonderful staff, who have again and again achieved miracles with decreasing resource, and the talent and skill of the freelance artists who have worked with equal brilliance to create the programme which has rebuilt our reputation. Around this work, Bristol Old Vic staff have also worked tirelessly to reinvent our business as we completed the refurbishment of the site and reopened so joyfully in 2018. 

Such a brilliant team does not deserve this process, which is caused by the unprecedented impact of the COVID-19 disaster and the forced contraction of our economy that has followed it. We are fighting to protect as many jobs as we can, but of course have to support and implement the Board’s decision to prioritise the survival of the theatre so that we can regrow it healthily and once again entertain our loyal, generous and growing audiences as soon as circumstances allow.”

Bristol Old Vic is the longest continuously running theatre in the UK, and celebrated its 250th anniversary in 2016. The historic playhouse aims to inspire audiences with its own original productions, both at home and on tour, whilst nurturing the next generation of artists, whether that be through their 350-strong Young Company, their many outreach and education projects or their trailblazing artist development programme, Bristol Ferment.

They use their funding to support experiment and innovation, to allow access to their programme for people who would not otherwise encounter it, or be able to afford it, and to keep their extraordinary heritage alive and animated.

On 24 Sep 2018, Bristol Old Vic completed its 2-year multi-million pound redevelopment project, which transformed its front of house space into a warm and welcoming public building for all of Bristol to enjoy, created a new studio theatre and opened up its unique theatrical heritage to the public for the first time.

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