January 2021

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27 January - Hardship fund established for Manchester's arts freelancers

Manchester City Council has set up a hardship fund for freelancers working in the city’s creative sector, to help alleviate financial difficulty caused by loss of work

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27 January - Supporting freelancers would be 'relatively cheap'

A year’s worth of income support payments for arts sector freelancers would cost an estimated £880m – less than 1% of the subsidy bill to date.

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26 January - Arts workers still 'in serious need of help', Equity tells government

Arts union Equity has written to the chancellor and culture secretary to say most of its members are still “in serious need of financial help”.

Government schemes so far have proved “inadequate and patchy at best”, its general secretary and president said.

“Creative workers need action now,” they wrote, adding that many were “struggling to stay afloat”.

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26 January - Equity demands 'urgent financial support' for creative workers

Equity is calling on the government to urgently increase financial support for creative workers, who it argues have endured almost “a year of devastating blows” since theatres first closed due to Covid-19.

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26 January - EU’s creative sector ‘faces economic devastation from Covid’

Europe’s cultural and creative sector has been hit harder by the coronavirus crisis than every other industry except aviation, according to a study that calls for major public and private investment to avert possibly irreparable long-term damage.

According to the report, revenues in the sector – which includes TV, cinema, radio, music, publishing, video games, the performing and visual arts – plunged by 31.2% last year compared with 2019. It was hit even harder than tourism, which lost 27% of its income.

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25 January - HMRC waives penalty for late filing of self-assessments

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has announced that it will waive fines for self-assessments that miss the 31 January deadline, as long as they are filed online by 28 February.

Typically, not meeting the deadline would result in an automatic £100 penalty.

The tax agency said more than 8.9 million customers have already filed their tax returns.

However, taxpayers are still required to pay their tax bills by 31 January.

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25 January - NT’s Rufus Norris calls for next CRF round to be ‘ring-fenced’ for productions

National Theatre director Rufus Norris has called for money awarded in the next round of the Culture Recovery Fund to be “ring-fenced” for productions, claiming this will help support freelancers who have so far not been eligible for support.

Speaking to the BBC’s Newsnight programme, he addressed the timelines for CRF grants, particularly in the next round – in which the money is to be used by the end June.

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25 January - American theater may not survive the coronavirus. We need help now Jeremy O'Harris

Recently, I was in a taxi and the driver asked me what I did. When I told him I’m a playwright, he looked back at me with true pity. “I feel for you people. I’m real poor on money right now, like most cab drivers, but at least I can work … for hospitality and the arts it’s like the light just got turned off. It ain’t right.”

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25 January - UK government working on 'realistic return date' and exploring insurance 'challenge'

Responding to The Times over the weekend, the UK government issued a statement of intent for the reopening of venues.

Rather than a firm schedule, the government pledged that it was looking for a “realistic return date” – which may be in line with the current tier restrictions currently in place and the ongoing vaccination process.

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25 January - This year’s tax return is salt in the wound for struggling freelancers

There’s one conversation theatre freelancers hate. I’ve noticed it in dressing rooms, pubs and in the chatrooms for the Green Room feature – mention tax returns and you’ll instantly be shut down.

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25 January - Roll up, roll up: why circus owners want to help with the vaccine effort

With capacity for social distancing and experience travelling up and down the country, the Circus’s use in the vaccine roll-out is no joke

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25 January - We all want theatres to reopen, but responsible producers know patience is a virtue

I admire the stance of Kenny Wax, producer of Six and The Play That Goes Wrong, who said he won’t necessarily reopen West End shows as soon as all over-50s have been vaccinated because “I have a responsibility to my cast”. He said: “Even if the over-50s have been vaccinated by May, most of our cast members and a high percentage of our audience are under 50, so how can we put them all at risk? I would need a great deal of reassurance from the scientists.”

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25 January - Lloyd-Webber battles to bring Broadway-style bailout to West End

Theatre producers will prioritise reopening shows on Broadway before the West End as Joe Biden’s government launches generous support packages for productions in America, British impresarios fear.

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22 January - 44% drop in BME female arts workers branded ‘highly alarming’ by unions

The number of black and minority ethnic women working in the entertainment sector has dropped by 44% over the past year, according to new data.

Entertainment unions Equity and BECTU have described the findings as highly alarming, and said they confirmed fears that the pandemic has disproportionately affected the arts’ minority ethnic workforce.

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22 January - 44% drop in BME female arts workers branded ‘highly alarming’ by unions

The number of black and minority ethnic women working in the entertainment sector has dropped by 44% over the past year, according to new data.

Entertainment unions Equity and BECTU have described the findings as highly alarming, and said they confirmed fears that the pandemic has disproportionately affected the arts’ minority ethnic workforce.

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22 January - Government stalls on insurance scheme for UK music festivals

Culture minister claims getting start date for events is first step, but organisers say festival planning is impossible without cover, as offered to the film and TV sector

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21 January - New horizons: has Covid helped to spark positive change in the industry?

During the first lockdown, some felt this seismic shock offered a chance for the industry to rethink and reset, but how true has that proved? Theatremakers speak to Natasha Tripney about the developments that give them hope

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21 January - 'The total confusion about post-Brexit rules adds to the distress': classical musicians speak out

“Fuck business,” Boris Johnson is alleged to have said while Foreign Secretary. (He didn’t deny it). We have seen enough over the past three weeks of the impact of Brexit on fishermen, hauliers, wine merchants and a host of business people to know that he wasn’t joking.

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21 January - Brexit will leave UK theatremakers stranded from the world unless ministers act now

Desperate for a vibrant re-emergence in 2021, UK theatre could yet be scuppered by another crisis, this time imposed by the government’s flawed EU deal. Selladoor Worldwide chief David Hutchinson says cross-border artist exchange must be protected

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21 January - As the cancellations mount, so do the fears about theatre's likely return

From Les Misérables to Disney’s Frozen, cancellations are piling up in the West End. The vaccine isn’t enough to rescue the arts just yet

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21 January - The West End is facing its most radical shake-up in decades

Throughout its history, the West End has leant heavily on its long-running shows: those durable bankers that are Theatreland’s economic backbone, whose brands are as strong a sales pitch to audiences as a star actor.

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20 January - #LoveDanceScotland announces recipients of £70k award

Recipients of a new £70,000 award to help sustain Scottish-based independent dance artists during the pandemic have been announced.

Dance Base Scotland, Dundee Rep Theatre, Scottish Dance Theatre and Tramway in Glasgow have partnered for the first time to award the #LoveDanceScotland Commissions.

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20 January - MPs demand answers over lack of Covid support for self-employed

Parliament’s spending watchdog has called on the government to explain and fix issues with the tax system that have denied whole groups of freelancers and self-employed workers financial support during the coronavirus pandemic.

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20 January - Kenny Wax: ‘I will not put my casts at risk – even when over 50s are vaccinated’

Producer Kenny Wax has indicated he would be reluctant to remount his shows even when over 50s have been vaccinated in the spring, warning he would not want to put his cast members at risk.

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20 January - Musicians 'failed by government' over EU touring, stars say

Some of the UK’s biggest music stars have written to the government demanding action to ensure visa-free touring in the European Union.

Sir Elton John, Liam Gallagher and Nicola Benedetti are among 110 artists who have signed the open letter.

It said they had been “shamefully failed” by the government over post-Brexit travel rules for UK musicians.

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19 January - Producers call for government cash to kick-start touring theatre market

Independent commercial producers are preparing to launch a joint bid to Arts Council England for funding that would underwrite touring productions, warning that social distancing will make taking work around the UK untenable.

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19 January - Allowing vaccinated older Britons back to theatres is a dangerous idea

The German foreign minister’s proposal shows a lack of foresight about what spreading Covid to entertainment staff could cost the industry

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19 January - Returning to normality is a long way off, but vaccine passports could help

As the vaccination programme continues across the UK, hopes rise of a gradual easing of restrictions later this year. But we need a globally accepted proof of vaccination for things to change across the theatre industry, says Rob Halliday

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18 January - UK reimposes Covid-related travel restrictions on film and TV crew

Film and TV crew are no longer exempt from coronavirus restrictions related to job travel, it has emerged. The UK government’s list of jobs that qualify for travel exemptions has been updated to remove “television production” and “high end television production and film”, which means that executives and crew arriving in the UK will have to isolate for 10 days.

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18 January - Nimax Theatres to launch West End Covid testing 'centre' when reopening is allowed

A significant amount of uncertainty remains over when exactly venues will be able to re-open for live performances (though recent reports are now suggesting the tier system may be re-introduced from early March) but we are starting to know what exactly to expect when shows are able to get up and running, even with socially distanced audiences.

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18 January - Seize the moment, theatremakers – we’ll regret not doing what we can today

When theatre shut down at the start of the pandemic, I considered it might be an opportunity to finally read War and Peace. In the end I didn’t, because I thought that surely theatre would return a few weeks later, before I was even halfway through.t

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18 January - 'Another rocky road': UK theatre bosses eye 2021 with resilience and realism

Artistic directors at four venues look ahead to what challenges this year might bring

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18 January - Keep the light burning – theatre has a bright, inclusive future post-Covid

Though things may seem hopeless right now, we must remember the flashes of light we have seen and felt in the past year, says Stephanie Street

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17 January - Further £3m granted to Covid-hit Scottish performing arts organisations

The Scottish government has allocated an extra £3 million to three performing arts charities as part of the £185 million of targeted Covid-19 funding announced last month.

Aberdeen Performing Arts, which operates His Majesty’s Theatre, the Aberdeen Music Hall and the Lemon Tree, will get the largest portion of the money, £1.4 million, taking its total emergency Covid-19 funding to £2.38 million.

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15 January - A plague on all your houses: when Shakespearean theatres went dark

During the Elizabethan era, London was repeatedly hit by plague – leading to periods of extended theatre closures and quarantines. Historians Will Tosh and Giles Ramsay tell Natasha Sutton Williams about how it affected actors and theatremakers

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15 January - Empower artists to get Britain back on its feet

Tony Haynes thinks creative artists and artist-led companies are well placed to help develop a strategy for cultural regeneration, Simon Tait says the government must provide wholehearted support, and Katie Beardsworth points out the contribution the arts make to the UK economy

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15 January - Theatres set to win lockdown insurance payouts after Supreme Court ruling

Venues fighting insurance claims after being forced shut by coronavirus are set to receive payouts thanks to a landmark Supreme Court ruling.

Theatre industry companies that have outstanding business interruption claims will be among thousands of firms expected to benefit from the judgement, while in some cases payments to theatres will also increase, a leading entertainment lawyer has said.

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15 January - Has Covid ruined Britain’s next generation of stars?

Practically every British A-list actor has come through drama school. A mixture of Covid rules and Government incompetence threatens that

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15 January - Musicians' Union presses prime minister for urgent resolution to EU touring debacle

The Musicians’ Union has written to prime minister Boris Johnson, urging him to negotiate a solution to European touring arrangements for performers as soon as possible, as the government and the EU continue to blame each other for the failure to reach an agreement..

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14 January - EU blames UK after outcry over end to visa-free touring for musicians

The EU has insisted it was the UK government’s choice to end visa-free touring for musicians on the continent, following an outcry from performers.

Officials in Brussels told the BBC that the UK “refused” a plan that would have let musicians tour without visas.

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14 January - Major Covid testing initiative announced – with plans for rehearsals and streamed performances

A major programme of asymptomatic testing has been announced.

First unveiled by the government on 10 January, the scheme will see those who are unable to work from home (for example, artists working on streamed performances) able to use lateral flow testing to guarantee they are Covid-free.

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14 January - Theatres call for CRF grants to be extended to prevent them ‘going under’

Theatres are calling for Culture Recovery Fund grants to be extended beyond the March deadline, warning their futures are at risk without it.

They are asking the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, and Arts Council England to allow funds to cover their activity until the end of June at least, and say the extension is needed following the announcement of a third national lockdown, which has thrown theatres’ plans into disarray and left them unsure of when they will be able to open.

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14 January - Brexit and the arts: why the battle isn’t over for this beleaguered industry

So, how are you finding that new Brexit deal? Whatever your view on the matter – and no, please don’t tell me – I think we can all agree that it’s a relief at least that we got one. Unless, unfortunately, you work in the performing arts. For this industry, already so pummelled by Covid, it was a signal that life is about to get even harder.

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14 January - The internal tug of war over whether to leave theatre or recommit is exhausting

Already struggling in a precarious industry when Covid shut the theatres, director Sophie Ivatts retrained as a teacher. But in beginning a new career, she has discovered there is still much to admire in the theatre industry

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13 January - Andrew Lloyd Webber interview: ‘There will be an explosion of live theatre once this is over’

As our theatres remain on their knees, Andrew Lloyd Webber tells Nick Curtis about the toll of Covid, volunteering as a vaccine guinea pig and why the show must go on

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13 January - Boris Johnson agrees to urgent meeting over EU touring visas for creatives

Prime minister Boris Johnson has committed to meeting with MPs over the need for a creative visa arrangement with the EU, amid growing pressure for the government to resolve bureaucratic barriers to touring in Europe.

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13 January - How 8 Countries Have Tried to Keep Artists Afloat

In December, owners and operators of theaters and music halls across the United States breathed a sigh of relief when Congress passed the latest coronavirus aid package, which finally set aside $15 billion to help desperate cultural venues. But that came more than six months after a host of other countries had taken steps to buffer the strain of the pandemic on the arts and artists. Here are the highlights, and missteps, from eight countries’ efforts.

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