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Leading theatre names attend Parliament launch of new APPG for Theatre

Giles Watling MP, Helen Whately MP and Tracy Brabin MP at the Theatre APPG launch (c) Pamela Raith.
Giles Watling MP, Helen Whately MP and Tracy Brabin MP at the Theatre APPG launch (c) Pamela Raith.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Theatre was launched today (Wednesday 16 October), with an event in Parliament.

Hosted by Giles Watling, Conservative MP for Clacton, and Tracy Brabin, Labour MP for Batley and Spen – both former professional actors – the group has been founded to support the resilience and relevance of theatre in the UK for audiences, its offstage and onstage workforce and society.

Guests heard speeches from Arts Minister Helen Whately MP, Shadow Minister Kevin Brennan MP, Tracy Brabin MP, APPG Vice-Chair Lord Kerslake and Julian Bird, CEO of the Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre.

Actor Hugh Bonneville also spoke, introduced by Giles Watling MP, and there was a special performance from the Royal Shakespeare Company production Matilda The Musical.

The launch concluded with a panel conversation and provocations from leading theatre industry figures Fiona Allan (Chief Executive and Artistic Director of Birmingham Hippodrome), Yamin Choudury (Artistic Director of the Hackney Empire), Sonia Friedman (Producer) and Andrew Miller (Government Disability Champion for Arts and Culture).

The APPG’s Statement of Purpose is to identify and debate potential opportunities and issues for the theatre industry in the UK, and increase fellow parliamentarians’ understanding of the theatre and performing arts at a national and local level.

UK Theatre and SOLT have been appointed secretariat for the APPG and have brought together a group of theatre organisations and individuals from across the country to act as a sounding board, ensuring that a wide range of theatre topics and issues are explored.

Quotes from those involved in the APPG launch:
Tracy Brabin MP: ‘As a Yorkshire MP, I’m hoping the Theatre APPG will be an opportunity to level up the playing field when it comes to access to theatre for the regions and towns across the country. Theatre in this country is extraordinary but too often it’s focussed in London. I want to make sure everyone – wherever they live – can access the brilliant, often heart-in-mouth creativity our vibrant theatre scene has to offer. We know what we do well, now is the time to share the love…

Giles Watling MP: ‘As a former actor, director and producer, I am pleased to be launching this new APPG for Theatre, which has real potential. It is fantastic that so many people are expected to attend, and I would like to thank UK Theatre and SOLT for all they have done with the organisation. This will be a unique opportunity to discuss with MPs, Ministers and industry experts what we can do to help protect and enhance this vitally important creative industry. It is time to start doing more to support theatres and the workforce across the country, and indeed promote our superb theatrical offer across the globe. This APPG will do that.

Lord Kerslake: ‘This new cross-party group will provide a fantastic opportunity to promote the importance of theatre in this country and how it can be nurtured. I’m delighted that Giles and Tracy have agreed to chair it.

Hugh Bonneville: ‘I successfully auditioned for the National Youth Theatre when I was 16 and it opened up a new world to me. It taught me about teamwork, discipline, creativity and communication, skills that stand any teenager in good stead, whatever path they go on to follow in life. Today I’m working with the NYT to help remove barriers many young people face, so that whatever their financial or geographical circumstances, they too can access high-quality arts opportunities. I welcome the launch of an All-Party Parliamentary Group for Theatre and encourage it to make theatre more accessible for young people and for this nation’s dedicated, highly skilled professional theatre practitioners, both on and offstage. Our Creative Industries are the envy of the world and we need to maintain and broaden their workforce.

Julian Bird: ‘The theatre sector – which is made up of big companies, SMEs and freelancers, commercial and subsidised businesses – makes a powerful contribution to our society and national identity. Theatres make areas culturally and financially richer, and more attractive places to live and work. This industry is world-renowned for the work it produces, and contributes hugely to the country’s global cultural influence, soft power and economic standing. Many popular shows, and the teams behind them, originated in regional theatre and through public investment. But to maintain this creative competitive advantage there are barriers that must be removed and issues that must be discussed. So it’s fantastic that this APPG has been created and will focus on issues such as workforce and income generation in its first few months. Today’s launch is the beginning of many opportunities for the APPG and the sector to work closely together to ensure the continued resilience of the industry and ensure the sector’s voice is heard.

About SOLT and UK Theatre
SOLT and UK Theatre are the trade associations and members’ organisations representing the interests of those engaged in the production and presentation of medium to large-scale dramatic and lyric theatre in the UK. Their memberships are drawn from both subsidised and commercial theatre.

The combined box office income of SOLT and UK Theatre’s membership was more than £1.28 billion across London and the rest of the UK, with 34 million tickets sold in 2018.

SOLT represents approximately 200 London-based producers, theatre owners and managers, including all the major subsidised theatrical organisations in London.

UK Theatre represents approximately 240 theatres, concert halls, dance companies, producers and arts centres throughout the UK. UK Theatre also operates as a professional association, supporting over 1,400 individuals working professionally in theatre and the performing arts in the UK

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