Shakespeare charity to consult on job losses

15 Jul 2020 News

Image credit: Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust is consulting on job losses, after announcing that it faces an £8.5m shortfall in 2020.

The charity, which is based in Stratford-upon-Avon and maintains Shakespeare heritage sites, made the announcement just a week after receiving £900,000 in emergency funding from the Arts Council England.

In a statement, the charity said that it would have to restructure to cope with large projected losses caused by the coronavirus pandemic and “a challenging financial picture” continuing into next year.

Reopening one attraction this summer

The charity said that it has lost almost 90% of its income since it closed its historic attractions, shops and cafes in March in response to the coronavirus. The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust typically welcomes 850,000 guests a year.

It plans to reopen one of its attractions, Shakespeare’s birthplace, this summer, but three other sites will remain closed to the public until at least spring 2021.

‘Reduced scale of operations’

The charity has opened a consultation with employees about creating “an organisational structure which reflects the reduced scale of operations”, and said that it hoped to avoid compulsory redundancies.

A spokesperson confirmed that the consultation will be open for 45 days.  

In 2018 the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust employed 279 full-time and part-time staff, according to the latest accounts on the charity’s website, and had an income of £10.8m. It had free reserves of £1.4m.

‘The Trust has to look at its costs’

Tim Cooke, chief executive of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, said: “Last week we received news of a £900,000 award from Arts Council England’s emergency fund, and this gives us the opportunity to re-reopen Shakespeare’s birthplace this summer. That is a real step forward. We will announce more details shortly.

“However, with the enforced closure of our properties, shops and catering venues in March, we will suffer a loss of £8.5m of income for 2020, with a challenging financial picture for 2021. In addition to this loss, the Trust itself is investing significant cash this year in maintaining its limited operation.

“While social distancing is quite rightly in place, while visitor confidence and behaviour are understandably uncertain, and while the future impact of Covid is unknown, reopening all of our historic properties would cost more than keeping them closed.” 

Cooke added: “Like many organisations operating in the culture, tourism, hospitality and retail arenas, the Trust has to look at its costs.

“Regrettably this will mean a reduction to our workforce, and the Trust is in consultation with its employees to look at options to reduce employee numbers, wherever possible through a voluntary redundancy scheme and changes to working arrangements.  

“We have no option but to act and to seek the support of others to ensure that our charity is able to survive the impact of Covid and build a recovery plan.”

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