More than half of staff at two major arts venues face redundancy

Performances Birmingham, which runs Symphony Hall and Town Hall venues, says the news is heartbreaking

Birmingham Symphony Hall (Photograph: Steve Thorne/Redferns via Getty Images)
Birmingham Symphony Hall (Photograph: Steve Thorne/Redferns via Getty Images)

The charity that runs two major concert halls in Birmingham has said that more than half of its staff are at risk of redundancy because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Performances Birmingham, which runs the Symphony Hall and Town Hall venues, said enforced closure caused by the outbreak had caused “huge losses” and it was still unclear as to when it might be possible to reopen. 

The charity, which employs 65 staff, said it had been awarded emergency funding by Arts Council England but warned that “to have a chance of survival we must now take the painful decision to reduce our staff in anticipation of the continuing uncertainty ahead”.

A statement from the charity said: “We have responded to the challenge of declining public subsidy through the unwavering enterprise and spirit of our team. The announcement today is all the more painful because of this. 

“Over the last few years we have evolved into an organisation that earns more than 90 per cent of its turnover from our trading activities and this supports every aspect of what we do, from presenting international superstars on our stages to supporting emerging talent and creating first musical experiences for children in local schools. 

“Our vulnerability to the current closure is a direct consequence of a business model that is less reliant on public subsidy than most.”

The charity called on the government to give the cultural sector a “proper road map” to reopening so it could play its part in rebuilding Birmingham’s cultural and community life post-pandemic. 

The charity had an income of £14.6m in the year to the end of March 2019. 

A spokesman for the charity was unable to confirm how much emergency funding it had received from Arts Council England. 

Nick Reed, chief executive of Town Hall and Symphony Hall said the news of potential redundancies was heartbreaking. 

“Along with the executive team, I continue to demand clearer guidance from the government on the detail of the grants and loans available and clearer guidelines for re-opening our cities cultural institutions,” he said. 

“Despite improving the reserves of our music charity in recent years, due to the hard-work of our staff, this unprecedented global pandemic will have long term ramifications for our business. 

“We have seen a vast number of redundancies across the arts and culture sector and it saddens me that we are today joining that long list. This is a difficult and sad time for all.”


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