Response to the Save our Southbank petition
This is an open response to the Save our Southbank petition.
We, the Senior Leadership Team of the Southbank Centre, completely share the passion to save our beloved organisation from the global crisis which threatens it.
We are proud to have so many loyal staff who care so much about the future of this place. We're also determined to ensure that Southbank Centre re-emerges from this crisis a brilliantly creative, very relevant and innovative space, with proud values of openness and inclusiveness always at its heart.
No one could have foreseen the pandemic, nor the terrible consequences it has produced, across the world, across the UK, and across our cultural sector.
We, like all performing arts venues, are struggling with closure. Whilst we are acutely aware of the distress felt by staff affected here - and across the entire cultural sector where so many jobs are being lost - we feel it’s important that we correct some inaccurate and misleading information about Southbank Centre contained within this petition.
Claim: We are undertaking a restructuring and financial remodelling that will result in irrevocable damage to the future of the Centre.
Response: The programme we have embarked on is necessary to ensure the survival of the Southbank Centre. We will have lost £25m in income in the current financial year. Without action to manage this situation by reducing our costs and developing a new operating model, there will be no future for the Centre.
Claim: Workers are being penalised for historic financial negligence and mismanagement
Response: Southbank Centre does not receive any funding from the Government to run and maintain its 11-acre national heritage site. All essential repair and maintenance work to our buildings and site has been funded from our own commercial revenues or from fundraising. For major refurbishment of our listed buildings, with agreement from Arts Council England and DCMS, we took out loans to cover the costs. In fact, Southbank Centre has been successfully entrepreneurial over the years in creating new commercial spaces (its bars and restaurants) to meet the repayments of these loans. Ironically, this now means we have been hardest hit by the pandemic, since that commercial income evaporated with the closure of our site. It is the loss of this income - which represents 60% of our costs - that has had such catastrophic consequences.
Claim: Southbank Centre needs to adhere to its anti-racism statement by actively protecting the diversity of its workforce/Senior management have chosen to proceed with their programme of redundancies without taking into account the disproportionate impact on BAME staff.
Response: Southbank Centre absolutely stands by its anti-racism statement and will continue its ongoing discussions with the BAME staff network to create a powerful diversity and equality action plan. Our redundancy programme will be subject to an equality impact assessment. We will rebuild our organisation in the future with diversity and equality absolutely central to our recovery
Claim: The formation of a network of BAME staff in 2019 was met by resistance by senior management, with attempts to disband it.
Response: This is not true and we have been unable to discover what has informed this statement.
Claim: Efforts to address structural racism and respond to the crisis of under-representation have been met by disturbing instances of racism, including one in which a board member stated that she did not believe in ‘victimhood’ and asked them if they were ‘proud to be people of colour’ and ‘proud to work at Southbank Centre’
Response: We think it misleading not to make it clear that the Board member who made these comments, in the context of an internal discussion between the BAME network and the Executive team, is herself a woman of colour. 25% of our Board are people of colour and we continue to seek to increase this percentage as we recruit new members.
Claim: The redundancies, which began this week, will disproportionately affect the lowest-paid employees. The at-risk group includes a high proportion of young people, people from BAME backgrounds and people with disabilities for whom it is more difficult to secure employment opportunities in the arts and so who will suffer the most from redundancy.
Response: The roles at risk of redundancy cover all levels of the organisation. The welfare of our staff during this crisis is paramount. We are developing a range of proposals to offer help and counsel for staff to secure new roles including wellbeing support and advice, interview training, CV writing and outplacement support. We are also offering a redundancy payment to staff with less than 2 years' service which they would not normally be entitled to (either with statutory or SC company terms.) All our employees and contract staff are paid at least the London Living Wage. With other affected cultural organisations, we hope to create a support network to share recruitment opportunities across the sector when things return to normal.
Claim: At a time when other cultural organisations are fighting to reopen, Southbank Centre is intent on remaining closed. …. no creative solutions have been proposed to fill that vacuum.
Response: We have reopened the Hayward Gallery and are planning outdoor art events throughout the autumn which are pandemic-proof, including our commissioned art and poetry exhibition Everyday Heroes which celebrates frontline workers around the UK. We are also planning a series of Behind Closed Doors concerts, gigs and events, which will be streamed online in the autumn. Full details will be announced soon. The costs for this activity have been met from donations and income generated from the hire of the hall by participants and there is no cost to Southbank Centre.
We want nothing more than to be able to open our doors again as soon as possible. However, as with all theatres and concert halls of size, social distancing makes this financially impossible and we do not think we will be able to fully re-open for the foreseeable future, depending on Government guidance.
Claim: Staff have been told that the centre’s programme of contemporary art exhibitions, classical and contemporary music and literature events will be allocated just 10% of capacity across its venues with 90% reserved for rental.
Response: This is incorrect and reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of what we mean by the term ‘rental’.
Almost 80% of everything in our venues will be artistic in the future, and actually this is how it was before we closed our doors. We are not changing this. We will continue to host some commercial activity such as graduations and conferences in the remaining 20% of available time - as we did before.
What will change for the year 2021/22 only, is that Southbank Centre will directly produce less of its own artistic work. In 2021/22 we will ourselves present around 10% of arts activity. The remaining 90% of arts activity (rentals) will be provided, as before, by our residents, artistic partners and promoters. However, these will still be curated and selected by our artistic leaders. The reason for doing this is that we can reduce our own financial risk by promoting fewer of our own events.
Claims around Senior Leadership Pay and hours
Since the start of closure, the senior leadership team has taken a minimum pay cut of 20% and in some cases have volunteered more.
These pay cuts will continue until March 31st 2021 and the senior team will formally work full time hours.
There have been inaccurate reports regarding the Chief Executive’s pay. The CEO did not - and actually cannot, as has been suggested - grant herself a pay rise. The pay of senior leaders at SC is part of a formal governance process strictly overseen by the Remuneration Committee of the SC Board. The CEO took a voluntary pay cut of 30% from March 2020, and will continue to do so until March 31st 2021. No senior executive at SC currently earns more than £150k p.a
Claim: We understand that [Government grant] money can be used both for the purposes of redundancies and to ensure an organisation’s workforce remains diverse.
Response: We intend that when we emerge from this crisis, we will have a diverse and talented workforce that reflects the communities we serve. We are waiting for more precise guidance on the Government loan application process.
We hope that clarification on these points is helpful.
Southbank Centre exists to present great cultural experiences that bring people together. This will not change and we continue to do everything in our power to ensure we can return to doing what we do best as soon as we possibly can.