Saturday 4 July 2020

Buxton Fringe on the Crisis in the Entertainment Industry

Fringe bunting with the Opera House in the background (credit: Dave Upcott)

While our mainly online Buxton Fringe has got off to a great start, we’ve been deeply saddened to learn of the redundancies announced this week in the Theatre industry. 65% of staff at the Royal Exchange Theatre just up the road in Manchester and all Front of House staff at the National Theatre in London are to lose their jobs.

It is a devastating blow, to those that will lose their livelihoods and to the theatre and wider entertainment industry.

We’ve seen this year that while we have an incredible 100 entries this year, that is half of what we had last year, and all of last year’s shows were happening in real life. That is a lot of artists and performers unable to work this year, and alongside them, the directors, producers, designers, technical and venue staff that all get some income and experience at Buxton Fringe.

We are aware of our place in the entertainment ecosystem, and very happy with it. Fringes like Buxton offer a place for new and emerging artists to take their first steps in the industry, and to hone their craft in front of friendly and appreciative audiences. Our Fringe is also at the centre of Buxton’s cultural life, it’s a place for local artists and performers to showcase their work, and for youngsters to have a chance to perform outside the school environment for the first time. We offer work experience to many kids on our Fringe Desk and many young people also gain wonderful experience working at Underground Venues, and other venues around the town.

We are now struggling to offer those opportunities, musicians, comedians and performers of all kinds join those in the theatre at being unable to work, and now, even the biggest most important organisations in our industry are laying off vast numbers of employees. The Buxton Opera House remains closed, and an industry of which the UK can genuinely claim to be a world leader is in danger of collapse.

And this is not just a financial and jobs consideration, culture gives us a sense of ourselves, it enriches individual lives and the national conversation. What is our country without it?

We stand in solidarity with everyone in the industry who is struggling at the moment, but let us do more.
  • If you are able, please donate to any performers who offer that option.
  • Beyond the Fringe, donate to the cultural organisations that are struggling.
  • Get active. Write to your MP and sign petitions (there's one here). Our local MP in the High Peak, Robert Largan, has written to the Culture Secretary on this issue, we thank him for this, and encourage him to continue to hold the government to account on this.
Let’s keep our theatres and performance venues open, and support everyone in the entertainment and culture industry.

Stephen Walker
Buxton Fringe

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Twitter: @buxtonfringe
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