HOME Manchester launches campaign to highlight costs of running theatre

  • HOME Manchester reopened its doors to the public in September
  • To highlight the cost of running theatre, not at full capacity, HOME created Empty Seat campaign.

HOME Manchester launched its ’empty seat campaign’ to highlight the cost of running a venue when not at full capacity.

The theatre has taken 700 seats off sale, following the government’s social distancing rules. Each seat has a potential income of £130 per week.

Eve Parker, developmwnt manager at Home, said: “When we were looking at reopening, we were really excited to be coming back into the building, and we knew that we were really lucky to be in a position to do so.

“What we did want to do is highlight the fact that although our doors are open again, we still have a big financial challenge ahead of us.

“We came up with this idea of the empty seat being a metaphor for all the lost income we have.

“They can’t sell a ticket. They can’t pull a pint. They can’t do the lighting for us. They’re just an empty seat.”

When the venue first closed in March, they launched a response fund, which Eve describes the response as “overwhelming.” 

“It’s been great to see that it has continued into the Empty Seat campaign,” Eve said.

In July, HOME was granted £156,000 via an Arts Council England emergency response fund.

Sarah Maxfield, area director north, Arts Council England, said: “The pandemic has had a massive impact on the whole range of organisations working in the north’s cultural sector.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “These places and organisations are irreplaceable parts of our heritage and what makes us the cultural superpower we are. This vital funding will secure their future and protect jobs right away.”

The future of the theatre and arts industry is still unclear with national lockdowns looming.

“This is going to change everything,” Manchester School of Theatre lecturer Dr Josh Edelman said. “It’s going to change the way we live our social lives for a very long time, in ways we can’t totally predict.

“One of the things I think that theatre makers are very good at is innovating and seeing what’s possible in the future.

“Some of the smartest thinking about how we can live life in and post Covid times is happening from theatre artists.”

“We are all getting more comfortable with doing things online that we would normally do in person.

“And that’s not going to go away when the pandemic stops.”

Some theatregoers are worried that a theatre that is not full won’t have the same “buzz” compared to normal times.

“There’s no doubt that it will be different,” Michelle Eagleton said. 

“But I think if it means we can have a little bit of theatre, I think we take it as it is, and hope that somewhere down the line, we are going to get a bit of normality back.”

“It’s been amazing having people back in the building,” Eve said.

“I think anyone you speak to, who works at HOME, will agree that the warmth we’ve had from our audiences has been incredible.”

HOME have introduced new measures and rules in place to keep audience members and staff safe, including additional cleaning, a one-way system, and social distancing in the theatres and cinemas.

Audience members are encouraged to book their tickets online, and orders in the bar and restaurant will be done via an app. 

The venue is looking towards Christmas and the shows they have planned for families.

“Christmas is not cancelled at HOME,” Eve said.