Lyric Theatre – a note from executive producer Jimmy Fay on Christmas 2020

Enjoy amazing theatre online while we’re closed

We are now entering the seventh month of the Covid19 epidemic.

It has affected every facet of our lives from work to home life. We first thought this epidemic would last a few weeks. Then a matter of months.

We planned, organised and programmed appropriately and have been able to maintain our permanent staff throughout with the furlough scheme.

The Lyric has found new and exciting ways of creating employment for our beleaguered artistic freelance community through our online films, co-productions with the BBC and currently our season of audio plays, Listen at the Lyric. I hope we can continue to create these opportunities.

However, none of these initiatives can make up for the loss of £2 million in earned income that the Lyric achieves through the work on our stages and in our Café bar annually.

At every stage of this pandemic, we have been working towards reopening the theatre in a safe and COVID compliant way for our wonderful audiences and brilliant artists. But each carefully thought-out plan has collapsed like dominos in the howl of the ill-wind of this pandemic.

Times are indeed tough for everyone, and this sort of staggered planning is no longer possible or fiscally prudent.

The Lyric has reluctantly come to the conclusion that this year, for the first time in our history, we will not be presenting our hugely popular and unique Christmas offerings. Therefore, we will not produce any work on our stages until 2021.

This has implications for our staff, both permanent and casual workers, our audiences and, as the single largest employer of arts workers in NI, for hundreds of freelance artists we would normally employ.

The theatre reached this conclusion reluctantly. We had hoped that clarity around the level of financial support to venues and production companies would have come much sooner.  No such clarity or timetable currently exists. We hope that will be quickly resolved. The Lyric is part of a large vibrant artistic and creative community and this community is suffering thorough reduced work opportunities.

Therefore, we are asking for urgent attention to be given to what the arts and our culture sector needs through the £33 million grant. We are asking our politicians to work with our artistic community and Arts Council on this package.

By keeping our doors closed we are playing our part in helping defeat the spread of this terrible virus in our society and among our community. In 2011 the opening of the new Lyric theatre was widely seen as the symbol of a re-energised, economically thriving and creative Belfast.  Getting back to that position is our goal, and we know that our many partners across NI share that vision of a brighter 2021.

Take care everyone.

Jimmy Fay

Love Belfast
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