by Kevin Chong
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Theaters complying with SOPs

Representing the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (klpac), The Actors Studio, and Performing Arts Centre of Penang (penangpac), Dato’ Dr. Faridah Merican has sent an open letter to the National Security Council (MKN), Ministry of Communications & Multimedia (KKMM) and Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture (MOTAC) to reconsider their methods of dealing with Covid-19. Dato’ Dr. Faridah Merican expressed the struggles that the arts industry had to face the past 15 months given that theaters have been deprived of an audience for about a year now.

Online shows are not a viable solution in making up their losses or raising funds, as the earnings from four online shows in a month are still less than half of what they make from just one live performance. Venue rentals add up to it, contributing to 50% of the losses which cannot be made up unless they’re opened up. Having funds depleting rapidly, pay cuts of employees have increased to 40-60% and are likely to be converted into contract staff if the closure prolongs. 

Dato’ Dr. Faridah Merican said, “There is no ‘end’ in sight. Covid-19 may be around for a long time more. 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.”

Then added saying, “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. Instead of putting the arts under a negative list, shut down indefinitely and the last to reopen – we have to accept the facts and change the narrative.”

Dato’ Dr Faridah Merican & Joe Hasham OAM

Below are the suggestions that Dato’ Dr. Faridah Merican is providing to allow the arts industry to operate safely with minimum risks: 

  • Fast track vaccination for all artistes and arts workers; klpac & penangpac are prepared to be a PPV for the arts industry. 
  • Allow small-scale performance recordings and programs. 
  • Segregate the arts/live events from social activities with strict SOPs. 
  • NSC to work with key industry players to ensure a safe reopening.
  • Put KPI and ROIs for production grants aside because venues are not open.
  • Introduce new grants and assistance for the arts industry.
  • Introduce venue subsidies 
  • Waive the deposit for entertainment licenses
  • Tax deduction and benefits for people who – purchase tickets, rent venues, sponsor or  donate.

“We are not ready to throw in the towel. We are more than willing to put our backs into it despite our mental and physical exhaustion. We are asking for fair consideration, not more than what we deserve. Many other industries have been/are operating with cases and clusters. We are asking for a chance to safeguard our own livelihoods. And to return some dignity to artistes and arts workers,” Dato’ Dr. Faridah Merican concluded. 

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