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Sonia Friedman: The Chancellor's announcement was 'a huge insult to the theatre industry'

The producer has spoken out against the new support schemes introduced by the UK government

Sonia Friedman
© Dan Wooller for WhatsOnStage

Producer Sonia Friedman, responsible for some of the most gargantuan hits in the West End including The Book of Mormon and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, has spoken out against the new employment schemes announced yesterday by Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

Under the rules (aimed to support "viable" jobs), employers will have to welcome back employees part time as well as help augment a further portion of wages, with this contribution then being matched by the government.

Taking to The Telegraph to voice her disdain, Friedman described the new policies as "a huge insult" to the theatre industry. She also highlighted how much of a severe U-turn the government has taken, given that, "less than three weeks ago, theatres were encouraged to back to business as usual as part of Operation Sleeping Beauty."

Friedman also highlighted how these new rules do nothing to help the thousands of unsupported artists who have been left out of existing schemes such as the SEISS. Given that Sunak wants jobs that are "viable" to survive, Friedman says, it makes no sense to leave theatres without direct aid, given that they're a huge part of the British economy and generate billions through both successfully exported productions and tourism. As Friedman puts it: "We're not just viable, we're one of the most valuable, innovative and essential industries on the planet."

For every pound that is invested into theatres, six pounds are generated. Aside from any economic arguments, the arts do vital work to help mental health (as Friedman notes) and provide focal points for communities across the country.

The economic wellbeing of many city centres, none least London, depends on having regular visitors flocking to venues and frequenting pubs, hotels and restaurants before and after performances.