King’s Double Jeopardy

Sep 10 2020 | By More

Jobs or King’s, Capital Theatres tells FM

Capital Theatres has sent a stark warning to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon that without emergency funds it will either have to sack workers or risk the King’s theatre closing for good.

The charity, which runs the King’s, Festival and Studio theatres, employs 230 people across Edinburgh. As we reported in August (Threat to King’s Refurb), it needs to at least start a planned £25m refurbishment of the King’s in order to extend its existing lease beyond 2023.

The King’s Theatre

This refurbishment is in jeopardy because, having lost 90% of its annual income due to Covid, Capital Theatres is only able to pay its staff by dipping into the £2.6m fund created for the project.

It expects that by March 2021 staff costs during the pandemic will have risen to over £1m.

Capital Theatres was dropped from Creative Scotland’s rosta of Regularly Funded Organisations (RFOs) in 2018, ironically because of the resilience of its business model.

This means that while it is still able to apply for the Scottish Government’s £12.5m Performing Arts Venues Relief Fund, it will be limited to a maximum grant of £250,000 available to non RFOs.

This would represent just 1.9% of its annual £12.9m turnover. In contrast, RFOs have been able to apply for a different part of the Fund, getting up to 50% of their annual turnover as well as their regular RFO funds (see: Edinburgh venues’ £1.7m covid funds).

urgent recognition

The new letter to Nicola Sturgeon, from Joan Stringer (chair of the board) and Fiona Gibson (chief executive) has been signed by 38 producers and chairs of companies which bring productions to Capital Theatres.

It seeks “urgent recognition from the Scottish Government and Creative Scotland of the scale of emergency facing Capital Theatres”.

According to the letter: “The criteria developed by Creative Scotland to administer Scottish Government and UK Government funds effectively prohibits Capital Theatres from accessing appropriate emergency funding.

“Decision makers have failed to understand the nature of our organisation, the importance and scale of its operation, our status as a charity, and thereby the double jeopardy facing the ongoing theatre operations and the continued future of the King’s Theatre.

“As a result, Capital Theatres is unable to apply for emergency funding, which could genuinely support the organisation’s sustainability, in a way which other Scottish theatres have been able to do.

“The consequence is that we may be forced to choose between preserving jobs or closing the King’s Theatre.”

Budgets are finite

In response to the letter Creative Scotland has issued a statement saying: “We understand the significant challenges facing Scotland’s culture sector due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and the anxiety and uncertainty that this is causing.”

The statement goes on to confirm Capital Theatres’s eligibility for the Scottish Government’s Performing Arts Venues Relief Fund and that the maximum request for each organisation is £250,000, with successful applicants being notified of the outcome by 24 September.

It concludes: “Budgets are finite and the distressing reality is that, even with the emergency funding being offered, it will not be possible to meet every challenge and the pandemic will inevitably have an impact that none of us would wish.”

worked closely with stakeholders

In its own response to the letter a Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We have worked closely with stakeholders to develop guidance to help performances resume and venues reopen as soon as it is safe to do so.

“We’re determined to do all we can to help the sector though this difficult time and into recovery so that they can continue to make a vibrant and rich contribution to Scotland and will continue to consider how remaining funding is best used.”

However, neither response is likely to cut ice with Capital Theatres, which points out that spending the £2.6m designated refurbishment fund on wages puts the fund in double jeopardy.

Not only is the money no longer available for the project, but it reduces the matched funding from that likes of Scottish Heritage that had pledged to get the project over the line.

As the letter concludes: “It really is of critical importance to the sustainability of this organisation, and the continued operation of the Festival and King’s Theatres, and The Studio – three key cultural venues in our capital city – that our decision makers recognise the jeopardy and allow Capital Theatres not to be a special case, but to be a case at all.”


Tags: , , , , , , , ,