Following the government’s announcement last week that further guidance on theatres operating indoors without social distancing in place will not be released before November at the earliest, Royal & Derngate and Qdos Pantomimes have reached the difficult decision that this year’s Derngate pantomime will not be going ahead as planned. Instead, Dick Whittington will move to new dates over Christmas 2021. The venue has also concluded that it will not be possible to produce their annual Made in Northampton Christmas show in the Royal.
“We are so sorry to make this announcement today and know that the news will come as a disappointment for many. While social distancing measures remain in place, performances of this scale and spectacle are simply not financially viable in our auditoriums as we wouldn’t have anywhere near enough seats safely available to cover our costs” said Chief Executive, Jo Gordon.
Artistic Director James Dacre added “Attending our pantomime and Made in Northampton family show is an important tradition for so many families across Northamptonshire and it is heart-breaking that we won’t be able to welcome the nearly 50,000 audience members that normally visit our theatres during the festive season. We will continue to explore how we might create other smaller scale events and activities this Christmas, where possible within government guidelines.”
Jo Gordon continued “Our reduced Box Office team is currently working significantly fewer hours than normal, so we ask bookers not to contact Royal & Derngate at this stage. All customers will be contacted directly and automatically transferred to the closest equivalent performance in 2021. Further transfers, gift vouchers or a refund will then become available if customers cannot make their rescheduled performance date.”
This announcement is sadly coupled with the regrettable news that Royal & Derngate have entered into redundancy consultations with a number of employees as a result of the ongoing impact of COVID-19 upon the theatre sector.
Chair of the Board, Steve Edmonds, said: “Royal & Derngate earns nearly 90% of its income through ticket sales and bar revenue, all of which was wiped out overnight when we closed to the public on 18th March. The continuing need for social distancing, the Job Retention Scheme closing at the end of October, and the news now that our Christmas shows are unable to go ahead as planned, means that the Board and Senior Management Team must regrettably restructure the business and further reduce our costs.”
James Dacre added: “We are grateful for the generous support of our audiences donating to our ‘Bring Us Back Together’ campaign and attending our Drive In at Delapre season. Additionally, the fundraising efforts of our brilliant teams, the grants made available by our local stakeholders and the significant support we’ve received from Arts Council England’s Emergency Response Fund means that Royal & Derngate has been able to weather the impact of the pandemic until this point. An extended period of ongoing closure has now put us and the wider theatre sector in an impossible position.”
Jo Gordon continued: “We will be applying to the Government’s Cultural Recovery Fund for further lifeline support but we have to focus now on reimagining our business model to take us forward until and beyond then. This includes the need to propose a number of redundancies, affecting up to 20% of our permanent workforce. Together with the Board, we have worked tirelessly to explore all possible avenues to prevent this situation. All our colleagues are extremely talented, passionate and dedicated, and have made this organisation the vibrant success story and vital community resource it is today. It is devastating that we currently have no other choice in order to try and protect the long-term future of Royal & Derngate for Northamptonshire.”