MAC Birmingham is set to make “41 members of staff redundant out of 47 people at risk” according to an explosive claim posted by a customer services assistant on Facebook.
Formerly known as the Midlands Arts Centre, MAC was named as the country’s most visited free attraction outside of London in 2018.
MAC, which operates as a charity, today told BirminghamLive there would be job losses but could not comment on “the scale of redundancies.”
On July 14, MAC said it had “taken the difficult decision to remain closed to the public until 2021.
Its website added: “The safety of our staff, audiences and artists is paramount, and until we are able to demonstrate that we can operate safely and trade successfully as an independent charity during the on-going crisis, our doors must regretfully remain closed.”
Following a Facebook post on September 10 by former customer services assistant Jessica May, MAC today said it could neither comment on individual cases nor confirm numbers of staff who would be made redundant.
In a statement issued to BirminghamLive, Chief Executive and Artistic Director Deborah Kermode said: “It is with enormous regret that MAC is in a period of redundancy consultations as a direct result of the global pandemic.
“As we have not completed this process yet I am unable to comment on the scale of redundancies, other than to say we are working due diligently to ensure it is a fair process for all staff.
“The effect of Covid-19 upon the arts has been devastating.
“It is of the upmost importance to all of us at MAC that as a charity we will reopen for our community in a stronger position and work through this unprecedented financial pressure.
“Sadly, this means when we do reopen, we will need to be a different organisation than when we closed some of our services may need to adapt – and the staff teams will not look the same.
“We will need to ensure our staffing structure meets the demands of a new Covid-19 situation.
“The decision to make some core roles redundant is regrettable and is the direct result of the on-going crisis, it is heart breaking that what was a thriving charity has been forced to implement drastic measures to safeguard our future.
“Our staff at MAC are talented and hard-working employees and it incredibly sad that we have had to make these tough decisions.
“We have been updating the public through our closure about the situation and are grateful to them too for their ongoing loyal support.”
The Facebook post
University of Birmingham theology graduate Jessica May told BirminghamLive she had managed to get voluntary redundancy after nine-and-a-half years even though she was on a zero hours contract.
Jessica, 48, is a celebrant who also runs her own business organising weddings and funerals, added: “A lot of people don’t know that if you are on a zero hours contract you can still get redundancy if you have worked for more than two years so I am lucky in that sense even though everything else I do has also been hit by Covid-19.”
In her Facebook post she said: “Just as a matter of public interest… I wanted to let people know that 41 people have been made compulsorily redundant out of 47 at risk, not including all the voluntary redundancies, all the tutors who are not being given work, and all the zero hours people who have absolutely no legal rights and no promise of any future employment.”
MAC Birmingham said it could not discuss individual cases or confirm numbers of staff who would lose their jobs.
History of MAC
The then Midlands Arts Centre was founded almost 60 years ago in 1962 and with its mixture of different-sized rooms and indoor and outdoor event spaces became a popular arts centre with a genuinely homely, community feel.
A lakeside position on the edge of leafy Cannon Hill Park’s main boating lake – and with the River Rea running alongside on the Edgbaston side of the building – only added to its appeal.
In 2017, MAC was said to have had 1.13 million visitors – almost twice as many as the region’s second most popular free attraction, the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, which recorded 602,000 visitors.
Generations of families have taken children there to watch theatre shows and films and to enjoy holiday courses while adults have studied everything from painting and pottery to learning how to sing, dance or play instruments.
In recent years, the centre has become home to child training groups like BSS Showbiz when it had to move out of Birmingham Hippodrome after a decade.
As well as continuing to host everything from music shows to comedy and arts and craft fairs, MAC has also majored on exhibitions with galleries upstairs and downstairs.
After a lengthy closure for a total rebuild it reopened in May 2010, but was unable to celebrate that anniversary in 2020 after lockdown was imposed in March..
Despite opposition, Birmingham City Council imposed a car parking charge on the drive next to the MAC in October 2017.
Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery announced this week it was planning to reopen on Wednesday October 7.
Birmingham Hippodrome announced in June it was putting 62 staff on notice of redundancy and on August 6 it confirmed that its Christmas panto with former Neighbours’ star Jason Donovan would not take place while the theatre remained closed into the New Year.