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#SaveTheArts, KLPAC On The Verge Of Collapsing Due To Prolonged Closure

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Source: Provided to WOB/klpac

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#SaveTheArts

In an open letter titled “Arts Industry’s Imminent Collapse Due To Prolonged Closure”, The Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (KLPAC) urges the government to consider several suggestions for Malaysia’s performing theatres to continue surviving.

The open letter has been sent to YB Dato’ Sri Hajah Nancy Shukri (Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture), YB. Dato’ Saifuddin bin Abdullah (Minister of Communications & Multimedia), YBhg. Datuk Mohd Rabin bin Basir (National Security Council’s Director-general) and Deputy Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Ismail Sabri bin Yaakob in three different languages (English, Malay and Chinese).

“We do not see how we can continue down this road if we have to remain closed until Phase 4 with the possibility of recording only in Phase 3 while we seem to be stuck in Phase 1,” KLPAC mentions that many parties including themselves have been pushing and fighting to safeguard the artists’ livelihoods over the year.

“There have been many parties trying to move mountains for us including ourselves – but it isn’t enough. The arts is not deemed to be enough. Not essential enough. Not a priority enough.”

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The theatre has been deprived of an audience for almost a year and has been facing financial insufficiency since the pandemic started. “After clearing out our cheques this month, we will be left with RM5,000 or so in our bank account. Our staff has been kept informed each step of the way. Already their pay cut was increased to 40 – 60% when MCO 3.0 came about,” the letter writes.

“50% of our loss comes from venue rental which we cannot make up as long as our venues are closed. Venue rental dipped 80% in 2020 compared to 2019. What we earned in terms of ticket sales via a month of online shows (4 in total) was less than half of what we would have earned from one live performance,” the letter states.

With the skyrocketing cases in the country lately, it is highly possible that Covid-19 will be around for a long time and most businesses continue to be shut until the condition ameliorates. “Does that mean the arts will be shut down indefinitely through to 2022 and beyond? It will be too late for any sort of recovery.”.

“And so, it is time for Malaysia to decide – whether it still wants the arts to be part of the local landscape when we emerge from this catastrophe. Our audiences, our artistes, our students, our arts workers – say yes. Now, it is up to the powers that be that govern Malaysia”

Stage 1 Photo Credit Penangpac

To continue the arts safely while minimising the risk, KLPAC’S Co-founder and Executive Producer Dato’ Dr. Faridah Merican has given seven suggestions for the authorities on behalf of KLPAC, The Actors Studio & PenangPAC:

“First, fast track vaccination for all artists and arts workers. KLPAC & PenangPAC can be a PPV for the arts industry like how KLIA is for the aviation industry. 60% of our staff have had their first dose but 40% still have no appointments. There are many others in the industry waiting on their appointments, eager to get back to work,” Faridah states.

Secondly, KLPAC urges the government to allow recording of performances and programmes at least to ensure their immediate survival. “The scale of our recording is small, our cast and crew are minimal. It can be less than 10 pax. Cut the red tape and bureaucracy. We can’t wait until Phase 3. We are drowning.”.

“Third, we need to segregate the arts / live events from social activities. Please take a leaf from Singapore. Performances could continue while they capped social gatherings at 2 pax. Why? Our audiences wear masks with strict SOPs in place while you are more likely to remove your mask in a personal setting,” Faridah also added that there were no clusters that traced back to theatres.

“Fourth, we understand the National Security Council is swamped. NSC should empower the Ministries to work with key players on a safe reopening – this can include pilot tests of small-scale performances,” Faridah also pleads the government to not penalise industries that were not the source of clusters, furthermore allowing them to move forward with evidence-based data and not just implementing an outright shut down.

“If musicians are allowed to perform all day long at PPVs which see a traffic flow of 8,000 daily, then why not at other venues with a 50 pax capacity for just one hour.”.

“Fifth, some of us are sitting on production and programme grants which we cannot use as venues are not open. The irony when we cannot even make salaries. Let’s put KPI and ROIs aside. Help us survive first. That in itself is already a KPI,” she mentions that the devastating effects of the pandemic on the arts should not be trivialized.

“Sixth, new grants and assistance should take into our account our needs. If you want us to be at Phase 3, you have to help us cross Phase 1 and 2 somehow.”.

Lastly, KLPAC urges the need to lift the entire ecosystem. “We need venue subsidies so artists and arts groups can stage or record shows again to kickstart the industry. Venues need help with operational costs – that takes priority over programming for now. Waive the deposit for entertainment license especially in KL,” the letter states.

“Who can afford RM10,000 now? Tax deduction and benefits need to be given to those who purchase a ticket (like buying a book), rent a venue, sponsor or donate. Sponsors or donors of arts centres like ours do not get tax exemption which is a huge disservice during such a crisis. There are a lot of tax incentives to boost local tourism, why not local arts then?”

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Faridah also added that in Singapore, the art donations fall under charity which is eligible for a 250% tax deduction. All in all, KLPAC is not only asking for fair considerations compared to other industries that are continuously operating despite the clusters, but also a chance to survive and to return the dignity of artists and arts workers.

The Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre also expressed gratitude towards their supporters and long term partners who have been there since the crisis. Online donation is also available here or via bank transfer. For more details and to read the full open letter, do visit KLPAC’S official Facebook page here.

Arts should be appreciated and respected, and deserve a chance to continue surviving despite the pandemic. We wish the best of luck to KLPAC and other performing theatres in Malaysia.

 

Also Read: M’sian Architect Explains That Hospital Parking Lots Are Built To Serve As Medical Wards Too

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