Workers at the Tate galleries in London and at the South Bank Centre have organised union-backed protests against big job cuts. 200 jobs in the cafés, shops, etc. at the Tate galleries are threatened (these jobs are in Tate Enterprises, the profit arm of Tate, which passes its profits to the charitable arm of Tate), and 400 (two-thirds of the total) at the South Bank Centre.
There is more to it than the lower ticket sales for exhibitions or shows, or even than café revenue being down.
Since the 1990s such venues have been pushed into a “model” where a lot of their income comes from hiring out space, after hours, for upscale parties, receptions, weddings. The layout of art exhibitions may be decided to suit the hiring-out rather than to show the artworks best. Even if crowds come back for the art, they will not come back for the lucrative hires. At the South Bank, management’s answer is to go further into the commercial model, with 90% of its use in future to be rented out to the highest bidder rather than on artistic criteria.
The labour movement should demand that the government puts in more money (a small amount on the scale of Covid-spending) to sustain these permanent public assets through the disruption.