BackinBusiness.org.uk has 10 asks of the Chancellor

BackinBusiness.org.uk has been up and running for twelve weeks. We’ve spoken to dozens of small businesses and self-employed people. We’ve heard their concerns and what they would like to see the Government do to help them survive the Covid 19 crisis and thrive in the future.

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To be or not to be…back treading the boards that is. Sadly there are to be no live performances in the theatre for the time being and what is the theatre without live performance

GUEST AUTHOR: Adam James – Theatre & television actor

Broadway’s announcement that theatres will stay closed for the rest of the year sent shivers down the spines of the UK’s actors. It seems likely the UK will follow suit. You may have seen Dame Judy Dench on Channel 4 after the continuing closure of theatres was announced making an impassioned plea for additional help for the theatres. I don’t think I’ve seen her so eloquent nor so despondent. 

The MP Julian Knight chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee was interviewed after Dame Judy and was definitely of the mind that theatres and the arts are far too important to the economy and the UK’s cultural life to be boarded up and left to the cats and the ghosts. He made the important point that actors who are mostly freelance depend on the hospitality sector for work when they’re resting between jobs and that’s not an option at the minute either.

If we lose our theatres we won’t get them back. We mustn’t lose what is after all a source of national pride and international significance nor lose the next generation of talent which follows us or the huge steps we have made in diversifying our audiences and our workforce.

Theatre around the country brings in £1.3 billion to the treasury’s coffers every year made up of a combined audience of over 34 million, with the West End alone drawing in audiences of 15.5 million last year, more people see a theatre show each year than attend all League football matches in the UK. The loss of VAT payments on tickets sold in London alone is £130 million. The cultural sector contributed £112 billion to the UK economy (an increase of 43% since 2010) and this is fuelled by live theatre which in turn feeds the UK’s multibillion-pound film and TV business (Netflix spent £300 million pounds on The Crown, and it originated from a play in the theatre “The Audience”). The ecosystem is so intricate, multi-layered, evolved and is the product of years of investment. If it is left uninvested in, the fear is that this ecosystem will be lost entirely. Investment in keeping this priceless national asset alive will be infinitely cheaper that the expense of mass redundancies, bankruptcies and closures of buildings that will be irrevocable due to the inordinate costs of re-opening.

I’m an actor not an economist, but even I can see that that contribution in economic terms alone will be missed, especially given that public funding for the Arts makes up just 0.05% of Government spending yet delivers and extraordinary return on investment. For every £1 spent at the theatre, £3 is spent on food, drink, accommodation and travel in the local area and typically delivers £5 in taxes for every £1 invested. 

I’m more interested of course in the contribution theatre and actors make to the general wellbeing of the theatre loving UK audiences. At times of trouble we in the UK make a beeline for arts and cultural venues to be cheered, provoked, inspired and come away well and truly entertained. 

On a local level, the theatre is part of the fabric of the community as well as the economy, bringing not only spending visitors who dine out beforehand and indulge themselves in local hostelries post play, but jobs, creative businesses and facilities for local community groups and organisations. None of that is factored into the £1.3 billion. 

The Wimbledon MP Stephen Hammond said in an interview for BackinBusiness.org.uk that his local in Wimbledon, widely known for pantomime and musicals, is a hugely vibrant part of the local culture. He also mentioned the Polka Theatre, one of the few children’s theatres in the UK. It pulls in huge audiences. Mr Hammond was a co-signatory to a letter to the Chancellor recently. 

The Chancellor may feel he can’t afford a special package for every beleaguered sector of business that writes him a begging letter. I would suggest to him that in this case he can’t afford not to and it’s far from a “begging letter” or “bailout” that we are looking for, just continued investment! The loss will be far bigger than the economic one for individuals, the people who work in the sector, and for the communities of which the theatres are a hugely important part. 

ABOUT ADAM JAMES:

Adam was born on 9 September 1972. Adam trained at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, graduating in 1996.

He worked extensively in both TV and Theatre early on in his career, receiving a Best Newcomer nomination at the M.E.N awards for his work at the Royal Exchange and then coming to prominence in 2001 in ‘Band of Brothers’. This followed a string of notable guest leads in such popular shows as Extras, Ashes to Ashes, Hustle, Dr. Who and Foyles War.

In 2010 he performed in New York in ‘The Pride’ along side Ben Whishaw and Andrea Riseborough for which he won the Lucille Lortel Award for Best Actor in a Featured Role and also received the Drama Desk Nomination. He would return in 2013, this time Off Broadway with the critically acclaimed and Olivier Award winning play “Bull”, only to return to Broadway once more in 2016 with the Olivier and Critics Circle award winning play “King Charles III” in which Adam played the Prime Minister, and later received the Clarence Derwent Award for Best Supporting Actor.

In 2015, the same year in which he appeared in another Mike Bartlett hit “Dr.Foster”, he married the former actress Victoria Shalet. Their first child was born in September 2016, and Adam has an adult daughter from a previous relationship.

Adam then continued his collaboration with Mike Bartlett by filming both the much anticipated second series of Dr.Foster alongside a TV film version of King Charles III for BBC2. He has since returned to the stage and London’s West End in the Olivier Award Winning “Girl From The North Country” at the Noel Coward Theatre and the hugely critically acclaimed “Consent” having transferred with it from the National Theatre. More recently he reunited with Rupert Goold for the world premiere of Anne Washburn’s new play “Shipwreck” at the Almeida Theatre.

He has most recently starred in Julian Fellowes’ new period drama and highly anticipated “Belgravia” for ITV and Epix in the US (produced by Carnival the team behind Downtown Abbey) and has an upcoming new TV series this September “Life” for BBC1, reuniting him yet again with Mike Bartlett and produced by Drama Republic (the same team behind both Dr.Foster and King Charles III).

He is currently appearing in the hit show “I May Destroy You” for the BBC and HBO, a new 12 part series written, performed, produced an co-directed by Michaela Coel and is currently shooting a new 6 part thriller “Vigil” made by World Productions for BBC1. 


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