The NSW Government has this morning announced a $75 million stimulus package for non-profit and commercial performing arts organisations who have lost income due to the current public health orders in Greater Sydney. This package is intended as a lifeline for artists and organisations who have lost income from ticket sales as a result of the ongoing COVID- 19 Delta variant outbreak throughout NSW.

Stimulus Package

The Australian cast of Come From Away. Photo © Jeff Busby.

“The NSW Government is providing a remarkable shot in the arm to the performing arts and live music sector. We understand the critical role the performing arts and live music sectors play in stimulating the economy and creating jobs,” said Don Harwin, NSW Minister for the Arts.

The funding is part of the $5.1 billion package announced yesterday by the NSW Government to provide much-needed financial support to businesses who are facing hardship because of the outbreak. The arts package will be delivered in two stages. Firstly as immediate support payments to organisations who have had to cancel scheduled performances during the Greater Sydney lockdown. The second stage will see funding provided to organisations to aid them in the restaging of works once it becomes safe to do so.

“As we work our way through the latest outbreak in NSW we want to ensure these organisations can survive the lockdown, and are ready to thrive once it is safe for restrictions to be lifted,” said Harwin.

The past two weeks have seen a steady stream of organisations announcing cancellations and postponements of performances in Sydney. Opera Australia announced on Monday that the much-anticipated premiere of Damiano Michieletto’s new production of Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffman would be postponed for a future season. This come after news last week that musicians, performers, and production staff for another OA winter season production, Otello, had to go into self-isolation as a result of a construction worker at Sydney Opera House testing positive for the variant. Elsewhere, Sydney Theatre Company has so far cancelled 41 performances of Grand Horizons, Triple X and White Pearl. Belvoir has cancelled performances of The Cherry Orchard and Miss Peony. Darlinghurst Theatre Company and the Hayes Theatre Company have had to cancel performances of Once and Merrily We Roll Along.

The new funding will hopefully ease tensions as companies struggle to keep artists and production staff on salary. A recent article from The Guardian highlighted the controversial decision made by the producers of Hamilton and Come From Away to stand down staff, meaning they would have to access holiday leave to receive any income until performances resume. This came as a particularly brutal blow for the cast and crew of Come from Away, who already accessed their paid leave as a result of last year’s lockdown in Melbourne, which halted their season there, meaning many of the staff have been placed on unpaid leave for the remainder of this lockdown.

“Today’s announcement is incredibly welcome and timely news. Across the State, sold out performances have had to be cancelled, this funding will allow organisations to continue paying staff and performers, and plan ahead for the coming months,” said Richard Evans, President of Live Performance Australia, welcoming the much-needed funding.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced today that the lockdown has been extended for a further two weeks, until the 30 July.

The funding will be available to commercial and non-profit organisations who have had to cancel performances, as well as live music venues similarly impacted.

More information about the stimulus package can be found here