COVID-19 threatens ongoing viability of performing arts centres

Sydney Coliseum Theatre West HQPerforming Arts Connections Australia have said performing arts centres across the country are dealing with the prospect of ongoing, long-term shutdowns, with the extension of the ban on events and gatherings across the country.

PAC Australia Executive Director Katherine Connor says that the ban announced on Wednesday 18 March on indoor gatherings and events for 100 or more reduces the ambiguity for many venues as to whether they can remain open, however a primary concerns is the venues that will be unable to re-open without substantial new investment and the major impacts on community life in towns and regional centres in every state and territory.

“We have surveyed venues across the country and the data so far indicates that the loss of income, combined with direct, unbudgeted expenses may drive many performing arts centres to shut down permanently and many more into significantly reduced programs and community engagement well into future years,” she said.

“The (130+) arts centres and venues in our membership are critical community infrastructure in towns and suburban areas large and small.  When we come out of this crisis they will be essential meeting places for community recovery – if they survive as non-profits and businesses.”

“Performing arts venues are major employers, massive contributors to their local economies and community’s wellbeing and are the very organisations programming the work that will keep the arts alive into the future.”

“For some, postponement of shows will push their 2021 programs further back; for others the costs of cancelling current programs will have to be absorbed into future years. The flow on effect will be immense,” said Ms Connor.

PAC Australia is working with other service organisations and industry groups to ensure their members, are kept up to date with the evolving response to Covid-19. PAC Australia also provided information from their research in advance of the Minister’s Round Table on Tuesday and is speaking directly with the Federal Arts Department about immediate responses to the closures.

“One of our priorities is for direct funding to be provided to presenters around the country for future programming, allowing presenters to provide ongoing work to touring companies and artists once isolation measures are no longer in place,” said Ms Connor.

PAC Australia’s call, alongside Live Performance Australia and other industry groups, is for a range of immediate emergency support and ongoing recovery assistance measures.

Performing Arts Connections Australia is the national peak body representing and supporting performing arts presenters and creators in Australia by providing leadership, building capacity and facilitating relationships that strengthen the connection between the art and the audience.

PAC Australia’s 220+ members include arts centres, independent producers and producing companies with representation from remote and regional towns, to major capital cities across Australia. For more information, visit: for details.

Image: Sydney Coliseum Theatre West HQ