Meaner than the Sheriff of Nottingham - Newcastle Liberal Democrats blow the whistle on staffing for pantomime

November 1, 2020 5:13 PM

Cllr Ali Avaei Theatre Royal"We are blowing the whistle on the Theatre Royal's decision to outsource front of house duties at the theatre's socially-distanced pantomime, Robin Hood, for the panto's traditional seasonal run," says Cllr Ali Avaei, who leads for Opposition Liberal Democrats councillors on cultural matters in Newcastle.

The theatrical newspaper The Stage has reported that a contract has been awarded to crowd control and security company Showsec to manage performances of the pantomime, meaning that the theatre's existing casual staff look set to be overlooked for opportunities to work during the panto's run.

Theatre Royal manager Philip Bernays has ascribed the decision to the need to ensure the pantomime is "financially deliverable".

The theatre has recently received £3 million in Government cultural recovery funding, but has had to make staff redundant earlier this year as the coronavirus crisis has forced theatres to "go dark".

"I fully recognise that it has been a very difficult time for the theatre and for arts and cultural venues in the city, so I was pleased to see the recent announcement of £3m in financial support from the Government for the much-loved institution. I was delighted to hear that the Theatre Royal has taken steps to save the Christmas pantomime at short notice and I applaud their efforts in doing so," said Cllr Avaei.

"However, I am hugely disappointed to hear that despite receiving this funding, the Theatre Royal's management has not been able to create part time work opportunities for its casual staff, who will be deprived of shifts this Christmas, and has sought to outsource these jobs to a private contractor.

"It is already politically embarrassing for the Labour council administration, which has denounced zero hours contracts, to tolerate the Theatre's use of this practice, but it is made worse by the decision to outsource this contract. This year's pantomime is Robin Hood, but this seems to be a policy more suited to the Sheriff of Nottingham. I will also be asking the Cabinet Member responsible to raise objections to this with the Theatre Royal board."