One of the largest regional theatre companies in NSW is facing insolvency, warning a Federal Government bailout might not be enough to save it.
Wollongong’s Merrigong Theatre Company expects a $4 million downturn, and has cancelled 372 performances.
Company Director Simon Hinton said he is concerned for the company’s future.
“We are still looking at the very real possibility before the end of the year at being insolvent,” Mr Hinton said.
Merrigong Theatre’s permanent staff have been stood down on 80 per cent of their pay and are on JobKeeper.
Mr Hinton said he was concerned the Federal Government’s $250 million bailout for the performing arts was “to a great extent smoke and mirrors”.
“In this figure there is $50 million for screen production, important, but a different sector to live performance, so including that is a little bit disingenuous,” Mr Hinton said.
“There is also $90 million which is not funding, it is a Commonwealth guarantee against a loan, but clearly no Australian arts organisation is going to be able to borrow their way out of the current situation.”
“So really it is $110 million for the whole live performance industry,” he said.
Mr Hinton was also concerned at the lack of detail of support for the more fragile areas of the performing arts.
“There is no specific mention of First Nations art or venues or regional organisations, which I think are particular parts of the ecology of the arts that need to be quarantined.”
In May the NSW Government announced a $50 million package for arts, but the company said it has no details on how to access the funds or when they will be made available.
Wollongong City Council provides more than $1 million a year to support the Merrigong Theatre Company’s projects.
Deputy Mayor Tania Brown said the loss of the company would be devastating for the city.
“We have a strong and thriving arts sector in our community we want to maintain, and the government’s announcement does nothing to help us,” Cr Brown said.
Councillor Brown said the Council is facing its own $16 million loss due to COVID-19, and does not have the capacity to provide more support.