YORK Theatre Royal has axed 16 jobs and is quitting the De Grey Rooms next door - as it launches a new voucher scheme to help secure its future.

A spokeswoman said that seven members of staff had opted for voluntary redundancy - and another nine had been made compulsorily redundant - as the theatre tries to cut its costs in the wake of the pandemic lockdown.

"That’s one third of the theatre’s permanent staff team," she said.

"Many more staff have taken cuts in hours and wages to ensure the theatre survives."

She said the theatre would also this week be handing back the De Grey Rooms, which it had rented from York Conservation Trust for the past 11 years, using it for events and workshops and also costume hire.

"The theatre’s popular costume hire business will be re-located and will re-open in January," she said.

Executive director Tom Bird said the theatre had been forced to take some very difficult cost saving decisions.

"It has been a devastating time for everyone involved but the theatre will survive and we are now looking ahead and planning for the future," he said.

He said the theatre, which has been shut since the lockdown started in March, was now launching Pledge Ahead, a new initiative asking audiences and the wider community to support it by buying vouchers now, which could later be exchanged for theatre tickets when the building re-opens.

“Lots of people have been asking what they can do to help the theatre at this critical time," he said.

"By pledging ahead, our audiences can continue to support us while our building is closed and look forward to using their vouchers as soon as we are able to re-open our doors and welcome everyone back.”

He said 89 per cent of York Theatre Royal’s annual income was generated through selling tickets and from associated revenue streams including the bars and café, from the tens of thousands of people who came through the theatre’s doors every year.

The theatre recently announced that it would not be hosting its Christmas panto this year because of pandemic restrictions, but it would instead be taking a travelling pantomime on the road, visiting locations at all 21 wards across the city.

News of the Theatre Royal job losses comes just a week after York's other major theatre venue, the Grand Opera House, announced that it was to lay off up to 60 workers and operate a skeleton system as the furlough scheme comes to an end.

*For more details about Pledge Ahead at York Theatre Royal visit the theatre’s website: www.yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.