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Royal Albert Hall boss fears lack of events insurance as theatre and music venues react to budget

Craig Simpson
·2-min read
The Royal Albert Hall has lost the majority of its income along with other venues
The Royal Albert Hall has lost the majority of its income along with other venues

The Royal Albert Hall’s chief executive has warned that lack of a Government-backed insurance scheme for events could harm venues, as the UK’s theatre and live performance sector reacted to the budget.

Rishi Sunak yesterday announced an extension of the furlough scheme, expansion of support for the self-employed, and £408 million for the arts on top of the initial £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund.

West End theatres and the UK’s live music sector, together worth more than £2.4 billion to the economy, have suffered a near-total loss of income and broadly welcomed continued financial support for “vital support mechanisms”.

But industry experts have criticised the omission of a Government-backed insurance scheme, which they argue would be needed to make planning shows at risk of cancellation viable while the insurers refused to offer Covid-19 cover.

Royal Albert Hall chief executive Craig Hassall said: “Uncertainty remains and the lack of insurance for Covid-related cancellation is a huge concern.

“What we, and the entire live sector, want, is to be allowed to trade safely out of this situation and once more welcome people to come together for extraordinary shared experiences at the Royal Albert Hall.”

Julian Bird, chief executive of the West End umbrella organisation the Society of London Theatre (SOLT) and UK Theatre, added: “In order to reopen, theatre and the performing arts continue to need insurance cover, and we call upon the Government to put this in place as for other sectors.”

But leading movie in sector agreed that the budget was vital for theatres, with industry charity the Theatres Trust’s director Jon Morgan stating: “This is much needed as the pandemic’s impacts have continued longer than originally anticipated and it is unlikely that many theatres will be able to reopen viably before fuller audiences are permitted from June 21 at the earliest.”

While leading West End producer Cameron Mackintosh welcomed “all the increased help the Government are able to give us” and the “West End reopening in full splendour later on this year”, concerns remain over the future of freelancers central to the industry.

The group Freelancers Make Theatre Work has estimated that 65000 people in the sector are excluded from support, and has stated that: “Freelancers are painfully aware that this money is not reaching freelance workers. “.

The SOLT Mr Bird said: “We urge the Government to continue to look at the plight of other individuals who have fallen through the gaps of furlough and self-employed support.”