Victoria Foundation grant helps theatres until live performances return

The Victoria Foundation has stepped in to provide a $20,000 grant from its Community Recovery Program to help the Royal and McPherson Theatre Society weather the COVID-19 pandemic.

The society, like many others in the arts sector, has been affected by the cancellation of performances and the closure of indoor venues to reduce the spread of the virus.

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The cancellations of shows and events have had a profound impact on the two venues, as their annual operating budget is typically based on revenue from admissions and rental of the facilities to other groups.

The Royal and McPherson theatres lost about 85 per cent of their income when they had to lock their doors for more than a year.

The society has had to pivot from attracting shows to seeking out ­funding and applying for wage subsidies to stem the financial losses.

“We’re grateful for the ­support from the Victoria ­Foundation’s Community ­Recovery Program,” said Franz Lehrbrass, executive ­director. “Their support has been an important layer in the resiliency of the theatres, allowing operations and maintenance to continue as we prepare for the day the theatres can once again welcome the community back to experience live arts and ­entertainment.”

The $20,000 grant is earmarked for general operating costs, including labour, utilities, janitorial and service contracts.

“COVID-19 has been ­devastating for the arts and culture sector,” said Ainslee Jessiman, programming and communications associate for the society. “While our full-time employees have been impacted, it pales in comparison to the 170 casual workers we ­usually employ, who have had no shifts since the beginning of the ­pandemic.”

She said the grant will help the society to maintain the venues until live performances are permitted again.

“These funds are an important piece of the strategy as we grapple with solutions and new ways to continue to connect with our audiences.”

parrais@timescolonist.com

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