An Update from our Chief Executive

9 April 2020

Touring & Cancellations   

I wanted to write to you again after my note a few weeks ago to update you on what we as an organisation are doing to support producers but to also offer some more advice on how to plan for the coming months. 

We are a unique charity whose primary aim is to support producers and we have no plans to put any of this on hold – it is our job to support the industry as we plan for the future and for theatres comeback. We still have funds for producers who have recently been or who are currently on our development programmes who have suffered significant financial losses due to the impact Covid-19 has had – for more information please see the website or email us for more information and the team will be more than happy to help. We are still planning to go ahead with development programmes (including bursary and placement schemes) in the Autumn once there is a bit more clarity around theatres re-opening. 

We have had a number of specific questions around cancellation of shows (Fringe, West End and Touring), whilst I cannot advise on every single one I thought I could explain what we have recently done about a UK Tour and the plans for its future. 

The show was midway through fit up at a venue and had half of its tour still to run. Below is a timeline of events and how we managed the situation.

Monday 16th March @ 5.30pm – Prime Ministers daily briefing advises everyone to not go to the theatre. We then hear from theatre owners (West End and Nationally) at about 6.30pm that we should stop all performances. 

First call was to the production manager to tell him to tell the casual production staff to halt the fit up. Second call is to the company manager to say that we will not need the acting company to come in on Tuesday and that more info shall follow.

Tuesday - An update goes to the cast, production team, production casuals, creative team and co-producers saying that the production is temporarily halted and that they will be kept updated on the situation. 

Wednesday - Payroll paying full salaries has already gone out so we can't change what they have all been paid for the week.

Thursday - A Whatsapp group gets set up for those working on shows so that we can all confer about the situation and communicate efficiently and quickly.  

Around this time we get clarity from SOLT that this is likely to last a while. ATG (our producing partner and venue owners of at least half of the venues we are touring to) announce they are closing all their venues until end of April.  From here we reach out to all the other non-ATG theatres on the tour to get an update from them.  Another update goes out to cast, production team, production casuals, creative team and co-producers saying that the show is closed for the foreseeable future.

Friday: Two venues near the end of the tour are not cancelling as they want to see what advice is about reopening. We have to be clear with them that the tour is now not sustainable so we’ll need to collaborate and reach a mutual agreement that the dates should be cancelled.

Subsequent actions and important elements to consider:

  • Check through all contracts with cast/production team to check notice clauses and force majeure clauses so we are prepared either way. Draw up various scenarios to see what we would end up paying them in each. 
  • Hire companies are contacted. Negotiations start about what we are going to pay and whether we can get any refunds or reductions.
  • We receive confirmation from the final two venues that they are going to cancel our dates. All venues ask if we can reschedule later this year.  
  • We agree with the venue where the fit up had begun to leave the set at their theatre for the foreseeable future. This is agreed. 
  • Work closely with the Accounts team to work out the cash position of the show and manage the cash flow closely. Accounts updates continue between co-producers to work out final cash position.
  • We settle payments with all the casual production staff and ask for all invoices to come in asap.
  • Another update goes out to cast, production team, production casuals, creative team and co-producers saying that this is the end of the show and we won't be remounting the tour at this time.
  • Final payroll goes out with accompanying update to all the cast/production team on what they will be paid. Certain staff all emailed with explanation about furlough.
  • Communication with all investors to tell them the position and give a timeline as to when we can give them a clearer financial update.  

Some additional thoughts:

At this point until we know more we are not going to commit to taking the show out again in the Autumn.  If we did decide to do that then every contract and in particular the venue contracts would have to be looked at and potentially adjusted given the nature of risk involved when the industry opens again.  

If you have a tour booked for the Autumn you should be talking to the venues now and making contingency plans that include specific dates to reach agreement about the tour happening and also on what terms. Venues, at this point, should be working with you to make any dates financially viable. Make time to go through the deal and finer points of the contract with each venue.  It’s crucial that you maintain contact and remember they need you as much as you need them. It’s a partnership. If you are planning a tour you should not be signing venue agreements and agreeing deals until you know that theatres and the industry is opening again.    

Please remember that we are not only here to train producers but to provide advice and support wherever possible – please do let the team know if you need support and we will help as best we can.

- Joseph Smith, Chief Executive of Stage One & Fiona Steed, Assistant Producer for Smith & Brant Ltd.