On Monday, March 16 Melbourne Theatre Company joined dozens of other Melbourne arts venues in shutting its doors to help slow the spread of COVID-19. The shutdown (like all others) was a compassionate and precautionary move that prioritised the health of audiences, staff and performers.
Refunds and exchanges have, naturally, been made available for ticket holders affected by the closure. But MTC is also giving patrons a third option – the ability to donate the cost of your tickets to the company. And that’s the option you should strongly consider taking.
Few industries will escape the economic impact of COVID-19 and Melbourne’s usually thriving arts culture will likely be hit hard. It’s been less than a week since the recommendation against non-essential gatherings of 500 people or more was announced, and already I Lost My Gig Australia has calculated almost $50 million in lost income in the live music industry alone. At the time of writing, almost every theatre in Melbourne has now shut and cancelled all performances for at least a month, with the same true for our galleries.
The arts don’t just employ artists. We are only able to enjoy theatre, dance, art, comedy and music thanks to huge support teams – ushers, ticket staff, backstage, install crews, security and hospitality staff – many of which are employed on casual contracts. And if venues are struggling once they reopen (and they will reopen) they may not have the funds to keep all staff employed.
By choosing to donate the price of your tickets instead of accepting a refund, you’re choosing a future for art in Melbourne. Was your ticket refund processed automatically or there’s no option to donate it? Take that refunded money and donate it straight back into the organisation (see below). And if you have been lucky enough to be unaffected by the cancellations so far, still consider donating what you can.
Art may be (as this crisis is painfully reminding us) non-essential, but it is also a force for hope and happiness even in the bleakest of times. Art is there for us – let’s ensure that we’re here for it.