Bristol Old Vic bosses have said it is with “enormous regret” they have started a process that could see the workforce cut by more than a third.
More than 20 jobs are at risk under the proposals the theatre is considering due to the devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the industry.
The announcement comes just two years after Bristol Old Vic, the longest continuously running theatre in the UK, proudly reopened its historic building following a major transformation and four years after it celebrated its 250th anniversary.
But with coronavirus measures taking away 75 per cent of the theatre’s income, it is left in an “extremely vulnerable position”.
Speaking about the potential job losses, the theatre’s artistic director Tom Morris paid tribute to the workforce, saying “such a brilliant team does not deserve this process”.
“Over the last ten years, the team at Bristol Old Vic has worked with a rare passion to create inspiring work and to share this beautiful building with more people from Bristol and the region. This has been achieved through colossal hard work in the face of steadily declining subsidy and increasing commercial pressure.
“Our successes are entirely due to the generosity, skill and dedication of our wonderful staff, who have again and again achieved miracles with decreasing resource, and the talent and skill of the freelance artists who have worked with equal brilliance to create the programme which has rebuilt our reputation. Around this work, Bristol Old Vic staff have also worked tirelessly to reinvent our business as we completed the refurbishment of the site and reopened so joyfully in 2018.
“We are fighting to protect as many jobs as we can, but of course have to support and implement the board’s decision to prioritise the survival of the theatre so that we can regrow it healthily and once again entertain our loyal, generous and growing audiences as soon as circumstances allow.”
The theatre launched a season of streamed shows when lockdown measures came in but the loss of income from box office sales has had a devastating impact on the theatre industry as a whole.
Tobacco Factory Theatres bosses have already said they may have to cut their workforce by as much as 70 per cent.
Bristol Old Vic’s executive director Charlotte Geeves said her team is enormously grateful for the support the theatre has received to keep it afloat and donations to its reopening fund, adding: “However, there is no avoiding the fact that the current circumstances mean that we will be unable to recover the income levels we’ve built up over the last decade with any speed or predictability.
“Therefore, in order to ensure Bristol Old Vic survives and is able to emerge, we have to reshape our business.”
There are plans to reopen the theatre gradually over the coming 18 months and further announcements about the programme are due shortly.
Liz Forgan, chair of Bristol Old Vic, added: “It is with enormous regret that Bristol Old Vic has begun a consultation process to reduce the size of its workforce due to the COVID-19 crisis. The last five years have brought astonishing success for Bristol Old Vic and the board are very clear that these successes have been achieved through the skills and dedication of our wonderful workforce.
“Nonetheless, by taking these steps now, we are putting ourselves in a position to emerge flexible, solvent, and fighting fit to meet the challenges of the post-Covid world.”
Main photo by Philip Vile