Industry News: SOLT & UK Theatre reveal ‘Thriving Theatres’ plan

Industry organisations The Society of London Theatre (SOLT) and UK Theatre have asked the UK Government to continue help for the UK theatre sector, following the pandemic and cost of living crisis.

They’ve asked for the government to continue the 50/45% tax rate relief for theatres, to reintroduce the 5% VAT ticket rate, and include marketing spend in the qualifying costs of Theatre Tax Relief (TTR). 

Claire Walker, Co-CEO of the Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre, introduced her new ‘Thriving Theatres’ plan at the government All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Theatre last month. 

The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Theatre, which was set up in July 2019, aims to support the resilience and relevance of theatre in the UK for audiences, society and the industry; to identify and debate potential opportunities and issues for theatre in the UK; and to support parliamentarians’ understanding of the theatre and performing arts industry at a national and local level.

The current members of the Theatre APPG are Giles Watling (Chair & Registered Contact, Conservative), and Vice Chairs Alison Thewliss (Scottish National Party), Kevin Brennan (Labour), Theo Clarke (Conservative), Stephen Metcalfe (Conservative), Lord Kerslake (Crossbench), Andrew Lewer (Conservative), Simon Baynes (Conservative), Baroness Whitaker (Labour), Nickie Aiken (Conservative), and Kerry McCarthy (Labour).

SOLT and UK Theatre’s ‘Thriving Theatres’ proposal includes 5 key priority focus areas for the Theatre Sector, including maintaining the Higher rate of Theatre Tax Relief, asking that Government extends this vital intervention alongside further initiatives to support theatres through these uncertain and challenging times. 

Their report comes against the backdrop of a crucial budget round ahead of 15 March, with theatres only just beginning to show green shoots of recovery post-pandemic. 

Their key asks to Government ahead of the March 2023 budget are:  

  • Theatre Tax Relief – Maintaining the 50/45% Rate of Relief: delay the planned taper down to 35/30% rate by 3 yearsin order to enable growth in the sector in the face of high costs and a challenging economic downturn 
  • Theatre Tax Relief – Marketing Spend: include marketing spend in the qualifying costs of TTR to maintain global competitiveness to ensure parity with a similar scheme offered in New York, USA. 
  • 5% VAT Ticket Rate: reintroduce a 5% VAT rate on tickets to live performances and cultural attractions to stimulate greater demand. 

SOLT and UK Theatre says that these fiscal incentives to support growth in the sector sit alongside the organisations’ broader priorities for the year ahead, including promoting a green and sustainable theatre economy, supporting the theatre workforce, growing theatre audiences to deliver regional growth and supporting a thriving touring sector. 

Claire Walker, co-CEO of Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre said in a press statement: “Commercial uncertainty caused by the stop-start nature of the pandemic and rising inflation have hampered the recovery of this £2.4bn sector, which supports 205,000 jobs around the country. Maintaining the higher rate of TTR, and allowing the inclusion of marketing spend, would drive economic, cultural and social growth in communities around the UK.  

“Against a challenging economic backdrop, if the Chancellor were to commit to this hugely positive step of maintaining the higher rate of relief, theatre organisationswill be empowered to create new productions for 2023 and beyond, in turn creating jobs, increasing foreign investment, stimulating further economic activity, and putting tax returns back into the exchequer. In light of the cost-of-living crisis, reducing VAT can ensure that theatres can help keep ticket prices down despite rising costs.  

“The theatre sector is brimming full of creative ideas for new productions that will entertain, challenge and inspire audiences around the UK. The Chancellor has the opportunity tocreate the conditions that give theatre organisations the confidence and investment to create and innovate, enabling the sector to make a greater contributionto getting the UK back to growth as well as providing more wonderful experiences for millions.” 

Giles Watling MP, Chair of the APPG for Theatre, said:  “I’m delighted that we’ve been able to restart the APPG for Theatre with the Thriving Theatres Plan. The plan is a very helpful blueprint for theatres in the UK, and our international partners, toraise the profile and impact of theatre with Governments both here and abroad. I, and parliamentary colleagues on the APPG, look forward to working with the Society of London Theatre and UK Theatreto deliver on their ambitions, specifically securing the higher rate of Theatre Tax Relief. 

👤 📅24 February 2023
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📷 Main photo: Claire Walker SOLT and Giles Watling MP, Chair of the APPG for Theatre. Photo courtesy of SOLT & UK Theatre

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