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31 July 2020


31 July 2020



Staff at Wiltshire Creative have been advised that redundancy consultations will begin shortly as a direct impact of the COVID-19 closure, which has reduced the organisation’s earned income by 92%. Sadly, approximately 40% of jobs could be at risk.

Salisbury Arts Centre and Salisbury Playhouse were obliged to close to the public in March, with major productions of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Hay Fever cancelled. The 2020 Salisbury International Arts Festival was also cancelled. There is currently no government guidance as to when the venues will be able to fully re-open to capacity audiences without social distancing, which has also led to the very disappointing decision to postpone this year’s Christmas pantomime Cinderella.

These factors, along with research providing evidence of a reluctance of audiences to return in significant numbers for the foreseeable future, have led to the unavoidable decision to restructure and reduce the workforce, in line with activity being scaled back to protect the future of the organisation.


Tim Crarer, Chair of Wiltshire Creative, said:  

“As an arts charity that relies on audiences coming through our doors, buying tickets, drinks and ice creams, along with fundraising and venue hire, the closure of our buildings and cancellation of all activity has had a devastating effect on our financial position. Despite this, we have done everything possible to protect jobs for as long as possible, including furloughing many staff and honouring contracts with companies and freelancers who were due to work with us. 

“The trustees have explored all options but have now concluded that this is the only way to give the organisation the best chance of survival. We are all devastated, but this is an inevitable result of the crisis. Our primary focus now is a duty of care to all our loyal, skilled and committed staff at what is a very difficult time. The sad reality is that most arts organisations are in similar positions.”


Planning for the pantomime had continued throughout lockdown and it is at this point that work would increase to build the sets, make the costumes, cast the actors and promote the production. However, with no specific government guidance as to when Salisbury Playhouse can safely re-open to capacity audiences, the risk would be too great to continue with this work. More than 4,000 tickets have already been sold for the six-week run and it is now hoped to stage Cinderella in 2021.

The annual Salisbury Playhouse production is among the most successful, home-produced pantomimes in the country and regularly entertains more than 25,000 people from across the region. In 2018 the production of Jack and the Beanstalk won a Great British Pantomime Award.


Gareth Machin, Artistic Director of Wiltshire Creative and Director of Cinderella, said:

“It is devastating not to be able to present a pantomime at Salisbury Playhouse this Christmas. We know that our loyal audiences will be very disappointed and I know that it is equally disappointing for our dedicated colleagues and volunteers who would be working on the production. But we know it is the sensible thing to do and we will do everything possible to make sure that the production can happen next year.” 

Meanwhile, Wiltshire Creative is working on plans for a phased re-opening of Salisbury Playhouse and Salisbury Arts Centre, as well as other projects outside its venues, beginning this autumn, working within current government and industry guidelines. It is hoped that this will include a programme of Christmas entertainment.


Sebastian Warrack, Executive Director of Wiltshire Creative, said:

“We are enormously grateful to those customers who have chosen to donate the value of their cancelled tickets to the organisation, and to those who have made individual donations during this hugely challenging period. We are also grateful for the ongoing support of our key funders, Arts Council England, Wiltshire Council and Salisbury City Council.” 

Wiltshire Creative engages with more than 160,000 people each year through its programmes at Salisbury Playhouse and Salisbury Arts Centre, the annual International Arts Festival and its far-reaching Take Part activities. It is one of Arts Council England’s National Portfolio Organisations and one of the largest in the South of England, with an annual turnover of £4.7 million.

No final decision on redundancies will be made until the consultation process is complete. Meanwhile, donations can be made via the Wiltshire Creative website

Ticket holders for Cinderella this Christmas need not do anything, as Wiltshire Creative will be in touch over the coming weeks with their options. They are asked not to contact Wiltshire Creative directly.