Around 60 people to be laid off at York theatre as furlough comes to an end

24 Sep 2020 @ 7.04 am
| News

One of York’s major performance venues will lay off workers and operate on a skeleton staff as the furlough scheme comes to an end.

Like other theatres, the Grand Opera House has been unable to stage any live performances since the lockdown began.

Yesterday it announced that its big Christmas show – the Berwick Kaler panto Dick Turpin Rides Again was being postponed for a year.

Apart from the furlough scheme the venue has had no government or Arts Council support, being a commercial operator which is part of the Ambassador Theatre Group group (ATG).

In the last few days the group has contacted many of its staff to tell them they will be laid off.

In a statement an ATG spokesperson said: “Against a backdrop of closed theatres, suspended productions and no clarity on a re-opening date without social distancing restrictions, ATG has informed individuals working in their venues that it will invoke their contractual short-term working and layoff clauses after the end of the government Job Retention Scheme.

Historic venue: the Grand Opera House

“A support team remains in place covering theatre operations, programming, marketing, ticketing, IT, finance, HR and other areas to retain operational readiness.”

YorkMix understands that around 11 full time staff and 50 casual workers are affected.

York Theatre Royal announced in July that it was consulting on redundancies.

Long history

Laurel and Hardy appeared at the Grand Opera House in 1954. Photograph: Grand Opera House on Facebook

The Grand Opera House in Cumberland Street, York was originally built as a Corn Exchange and warehouse in 1868 and was subsequently converted into a Theatre by JP Briggs for the owner William Peacock in 1902.

In 1903 the Theatre was renamed the Grand Opera House and Empire.

Mr Peacock and his family put on a great variety of productions including music hall, variety, pantomimes, plays and even some of the early silent films. Laurel and Hardy performed there in 1954

In 1958 the theatre was bought by Shepherd of the Shambles and renamed the S. S. Empire. The auditorium was reconstructed, removing the stalls boxes and stage and flooring over the stalls so that the space could be used for roller skating, dancing, bingo and wrestling.

In 1987 the venue was bought by the India Pru Company who invested £4 million into restoring it back to its previous incarnation as a live theatre.

It was bought by the Ambassador Theatre Group in November 2009.