Stratford Festival asks federal government for help

(BlackburnNews.com file photo by Marty Thompson)

The Stratford Festival says it has a $20 million shortfall because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Officials of the theatre company made a presentation to the House of Commons standing committee Thursday, asking for an $8 million boost through grants and loans. Stratford Festival is committed to raising $12 million in private sector donations.

Carol Stephenson, chairwoman of the board, led the presentation and outlined a number of measures to help pull the theatre through the challenge.

In her presentation, Stephenson pointed to facts that the Stratford Festival has grown to become a marquee tourism event in the multimillion-dollar tourism industry of Southwestern Ontario.

· It is the largest not-for-profit theatre in North America.
· It presents 700 performances of 15 productions on four stages.
· It attracts 500,000 people a year.
· It employs 1,000 people, creates 2,400 more full-time-equivalent jobs and supports hundreds of small businesses in the region.
· It drives $55 million in taxes to the three levels of government annually.
· It has the highest level of earned revenues at 94 per cent and the lowest level of government support at 6 percent in the not-for-profit performing arts industry.

The presentation went to connect the Festival’s survival with that of the city, pointing to the loss of 3,400 jobs and having a major impact on the downtown core.

Stephenson stated that there have been immediate steps taken to help stabilize the organization by:

· launching a ticket donation campaign.
· reducing overhead expenses
· instituting a 50 per cent salary reduction for the Executive Director and Artistic Director.
· drawn from the Endowment.
· accessed the CEWS.
· accessed a $6-million line of credit.
· launched a fundraising campaign

The Stratford Festival put its 2020 season on hold on April 27.