Photograph of the Royal Opera House stage

The main stage of the Royal Opera House. Photograph: Henry Desmond

 

For many people in the early stages of their careers, 2020 was going to be the year they took their first steps into the creative industries. Instead, through no fault of their own, many found the doors were suddenly closed. If you are one of those people, I have a message for you: You have not been forgotten!

The pandemic has affected us all, but the impact on theatre, live events, the supply chain (and the people in them) has been particularly severe. Prior to the pandemic the creative industries were growing at more than 5x the rate of the UK economy, and contributed £111.7 billion. That’s more than the automotive, aerospace, life sciences and oil and gas industries combined.*

Money is easy to measure, but the contribution of the creative industries is far greater than that. It’s not just about massive international success, it’s about the work with local communities not just in urban areas or the south east but all over the country (including those more remote). It’s about smaller scale programmes enabling access to the arts that open up profound worlds of possibilities that improve people’s lives and make us all richer. Indeed, many of us now working in larger institutions owe our starts to such local opportunities. 

Our sector, from world famous artists, venues and companies to the smallest microbusinesses and freelancers in the supply chain (which actually make up a large portion) functions like an ecosystem where everything is interdependent on everyone. Big or small we all play crucial roles in enabling each other’s success. And new people entering the industry from a wide talent pool of diverse backgrounds is totally vital. You are quite literally the future! That’s one of the reasons why having wide open doors into our industry that are accessible to everyone is so important, as is equality, diversity and inclusion within it.

Despite not being able to operate as usual, our industry has been a credit to itself this year: Confidently coming together (up to a 2mtr distance) through campaigns such as We Make Events, raising awareness and understanding of what the sector does, and the highly skilled people (often in unseen and freelance roles) who make events happen.

 

Theatrecraft is different this year. Welcoming over a thousand of you to the Royal Opera House obviously isn’t possible while we can’t welcome audiences. But behind (temporarily) closed doors all over the industry, amazing work is going on as a wide range of skilled and talented people respond to new challenges. 

 

Photograph of the TheatreCraft marketplace

Theatrecraft 2019 at the Royal Opera House. Photograph: James Boyer Smith

 

We’ve come a long way since the springtime and have learned a lot. Guidance has evolved and trailblazing productions such as The Phantom of the Opera (Seoul), Jesus Christ Superstar (Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre) and Sleepless (Troubadour) have re-imagined processes of making and presenting theatre. Industry bodies have done great work sharing this learning too. Seminars from the ABTT and PLASA are well worth your time, as is this working protocol created by Pirate Crew to signpost just a few resources. 

The Royal Opera House has staged several performances in this period. From an audience’s point of view the performances may look relatively normal (except for minimal sets) but like lots of things we do backstage, while our safety measures might not always be visible to an audience, they are very much there. For example, we are lucky to have a large amount of space around our main stage which enabled us to create a socially distanced area for a large company of dancers – with marks on the floor aiding one-way systems and social distancing. 

Side stage at the Royal Opera House Photo credit Dominique Perrissin-Fabert

Side stage at the Royal Opera House set up for a performance by the Royal Ballet Company Photograph: Dominique Perrissin-Fabert

 

It’s not going to be easy getting back, but the journey will be worth it. It’s also clear that we’re not going back to quite the same place we were before. Equality, diversity and inclusion must be at the heart of that journey and will benefit the entire sector and everyone in it. The doors will open again as soon as it is safely possible. And when they do, whoever you are, they will be open for you.

*Source: DCMS Sectors Economic Estimates 2018: GVA. Feb 2020.

 

Blog by: Jon Winn

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