Job losses loom at Bromley and Dartford theatres

Job losses loom at a number of theatres across the UK, including the Orchard Theatre in Dartford and Bromley’s Churchill Theatre, as furlough payments are set to stop at the end of this month.

HQ Theatres has announced that furlough payments will end imminently for around 600 casual staff across 12 venues, and that it will no longer be able to keep staff on paid leave from September.

The Government’s coronavirus job retention scheme is being phased out, with employers slowly paying more and more, and bringing with it a fresh sweep of job losses in the wake of Covid-19.

HQ Theatres said it had made the “sad and incredibly difficult decision” to inform casual staff members they will no longer receive furlough payments after the end of August.

A statement from HQ Theatres chief executive Julian Russell has said that casual worker agreements will be kept in place for furloughed staff affected by the decision, and that the company hopes to re-engage as many of them as possible after the Covid-19 crisis.

“Today we have made the sad and incredibly difficult decision to inform casual staff-members that they will no longer receive furlough payments after the end of August.

“We have met the costs of retaining casual staff on the scheme until now but, as the job retention scheme tapers away, it is not possible for us to do so moving forwards.”

The theatre boss went on to explain how the enforced closure of venues and the lack of clarity about reopening buildings without social distancing had forced the company to take this “difficult step”.

This announcement will impact 600 of its staff working in box office, front-of-house and other roles across 12 venues in the UK.

Venues under HQ’s management include Cliffs Pavilion in Southend, G Live in Guildford, Orchard Theatre in Dartford, Bromley’s Churchill Theatre, Wycombe Swan Theatre and Crewe Lyceum.

The other venues affected are Watford Colosseum, Wyvern Theatre in Swindon, Beck Theatre in Hayes, White Rock Theatre in Hastings, Palace Theatre in Westcliff and Swindon Arts Centre.

Both established south east London cultural destinations, the Orchard Theatre and the Churchill Theatre have been closed since March and will likely remain so until at least January 2021.

The Dartford theatre recently announced that its pantomime show has been postponed.

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