Giles Watling has toured the country for some 55 years. In a previous life, Watling was an actor, though he is now more accustomed to the theatrics of parliament as the MP for Clacton, a role he secured in 2017.
“I’ve worked in pretty much every theatre in the country, not once but on several occasions,” Watling notes, “In 55 years of being a touring actor, you take it all in. But all these wonderful theatres, cultural centres, which bring the performing arts to the people – we are in danger of losing them, and we are in danger of losing them now.”
While the government has published a “roadmap” for theatres and other such venues to start up after the pandemic, there is no promise of additional funds to secure said future.
“We need an announcement of some serious support for the theatre sector,” says Watling, “We just need to know that something’s coming so that people keep going through these very hard times. Because there are theatres closing.
“A second thing we really need to know is a date, a plan for opening our theatres. If nothing is done by August, then the panto season goes. And, as we all know, the panto season is something that puts money into theatres and supports the rest of the arts.”
Watling met with Dowden on Wednesday last week, and said that he hoped ministers were paying attention. “People are beginning to understand just how valuable this is, and how much in danger it is.
“And how historically important it is. Ever since the time of Shakespeare, we’ve been exporting the English language and English values across the world, through our theatre. And we’ve now come to a point where Rome is burned around us – the theatres are closing.”