Theatre energy crisis highlighted as priority for incoming Culture Secretary

Concerns around the energy crisis and its impact on theatres have been highlighted by leading representatives of the industry as they welcomed the announcement of new Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan.

Liz Truss named Ms Donelan as the new Secretary of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) late on Tuesday night and she takes over the role from Nadine Dorries.

It is her second cabinet position, having previously been made Education Secretary under Boris Johnson, a position she held for 36 hours before resigning in the former Prime Minister’s final hours before he agreed to stand down.

A statement from Eleanor Lloyd, president of the Society of London Theatre (SOLT), and joint UK Theatre presidents, Stephanie Sirr and Jon Gilchrist, said: “We welcome today’s appointment of Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan as part of Prime Minister Liz Truss’ new cabinet.

“We hope to be able to continue our close relationship with the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sports in order to support the theatre industry as it embarks on a very difficult winter.

“The recent higher rate of Theatre Tax Relief has been welcomed by the sector and we would hope that this can be maintained so that local theatres can guarantee a pipeline of productions to help drive economic growth”.

They continued: “The energy crisis is causing much concern for theatres across the UK.

“Theatres are doing everything they can to be as energy efficient as possible but like our colleagues across the cultural, creative and hospitality industries there are undoubtedly tough times ahead.

“Theatres are committed to a plethora of sustainability initiatives including cutting energy consumption but the reality is that for many, they will see their energy bills double and even triple which will have significant operational consequences.

“We look forward to working with the new Secretary of State on these issues.”

Their message ended thanking outgoing Culture Secretary Dorries for “her work supporting the theatre industry”.

Ms Donelan will face the ongoing discussions about the privatisation of Channel 4, as well as matters surrounding the review of the BBC licence fee.

Plans to take Channel 4 out of public ownership, announced earlier this year, have faced criticism from the creative industry and politicians.

The new Culture Secretary has been a member of parliament since 2015, and represents the Chippenham constituency, in the south west.

In 2021 she was promoted to Higher and Further Education Minister, attending cabinet in 2021, and was sworn into the Privy Council.

Philippa Childs, head of creative industries union Bectu, said: “The UK’s cultural sector is the envy of the world and the skillset of our talented workforce is recognised on an international scale.

“We hope the new Culture Secretary will use her role to celebrate and enhance the contribution of our successful creative industries, and work with Bectu to provide encouragement, support and stability to the workforce.

“Creative workers are the lifeblood of the UK’s hugely successful cultural sector, yet they continue to suffer from unpredictable and insecure work following the perfect storm of Brexit restrictions, the Covid-19 pandemic and now an escalating cost of living crisis.

“Instead of undermining much-loved cultural institutions like the BBC and Channel 4, we will be looking to the new Culture Secretary to work with us to champion the self-employed and freelance workforce in government, through fighting for a better paid workforce and fairer working conditions.

“We urgently need strong leadership and sustained support to protect creative jobs and safeguard the arts for all.”

The DCMS has been approached for comment.