Theatres will not cope if June 21st is delayed – Conservative Article
The third lockdown has been undeniably challenging for our nation. When the date June 21st was released to the public there was a clear increase in morale and perseverance amongst the public. The notion of normality returning to all sectors and our social lives certainly prevailed across the UK. All generations were looking forward to spending time with family and returning to the activities that they love.
One of the industries that has been challenged the most during the pandemic has certainly been the theatres. However, there has been recent speculation that June 21st might be pushed back for another couple of weeks. This would prevent theatres from opening at full capacity.
I question, however, how can the government be so careless toward such an important industry?
Whilst theatres have been able to open at half capacity, they are still limited financially, and are likely making losses from not opening at full capacity. Amy Sanderson, head of communications at Leeds Grand Theatre stated that “When we closed on 16 March 2020, we lost 98 percent of our income.” Additionally, she claims that “we usually need to play to audiences of around 65-70 percent capacity for both the production company and us to break even.”
Theatres cannot run at half capacity and sustain their business. It is absolutely not viable.
Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber has made headlines this week through his criticism of the possible delay of reopening theatres at full capacity. He has said that he “may have to sell his six West End venues if the government does not remove restrictions that have forced venues to run with reduced capacities.” The composer has also claimed that the financial impact of the pandemic upon the entertainment industry has resulted in him having to remortgage his London home.
If the largest, most popular theatres in the UK are struggling to stay afloat, then there is simply no chance for smaller local theatre companies. This is devastating.
As a result, Lord Webber is threatening both legal cases against the government and to open his production of Cinderella despite a possible delay in ending lockdown measures. Webber has stated that “We are going to open, come hell or high water” and that “We will say ‘come to the theatre and arrest us’” if they do open before the end of lockdown.
The industry has had to compensate throughout the entire pandemic. It has shown incredible perseverance and creativity despite the limitations that they have faced. A great example of this is the West End Musical Drive-In, which was a completely socially distanced event, and allowed fans to watch a variety of West End performers from the safety of their cars. The event hosted 21 concerts, had over 100 performers across the events, and held over 10,000 attendees. There is a clear demand for live theatre. The public respects it and they want it. However, not all productions can put on events like this and if we rely on these productions for too long, theatres will go out of business.
What I cannot seem to fathom is the support that sporting events have had over the theatre sector. Events of up to 10,000 people have been able to go ahead. Why haven’t theatres been afforded the same treatment? The data proves that indoor events can remain covid safe.
Amongst the multiple test events that were conducted by the government, there have been very few cases of Covid. Across the events, there were 58,000 attendees who took part, yet “only 15 cases of Covid-19 emerged” as a result of them. Oliver Dowden disclosed that “zero cases emerged from the Brits”, despite the fact that audience members were able to sit with each other at tables and attend in boxes without masks. Mr. Dowden even stated that “Overall it has been a real success” and that he was “hopeful” of us seeing a complete reopening of theatres and venues from June 21st.
If we are to see another delay in a complete reopening of theatres and venues, then we are ignoring concrete data. We will be disregarding an industry that is integral to the UK. We will also be risking the sustainability of some of the biggest theatres in the world, and certainly putting even more financial pressure on local theatres and venues.
The theatre sector will not survive another delay.
Written by Senior Conservative Writer, Rebecca Selt
Point of Information
Opening Theatres is Incredibly Important – A Liberal Response
This is an excellent article from Rebecca. The reopening of theatres cannot and should not be delayed any further. They are an incredibly important element of society for so many people; allowing the industry to fail should not be an option.
Sporting events have begun to allow crowds. Restaurants and pubs are open. Life is slowly returning. However, for some sectors, if they do not open soon there may be nothing to return to. Lord Webber’s comments have clearly underlined the importance of a June 21st opening. The government needs to hear these cries for help and open theatres once more.
Last week in the Commons, Theresa May spoke about some hard truths. Included in these were that if we wait for no new variants to ease travel restrictions then we may never travel again. The same can be said for the theatres. Deaths are low, Hospitalisations remain at lower rates and the vaccination programme has so far been a success. Now is the time to open the UK back up, starting with theatres on the 21st.
Written by Senior Liberal Writer, Fletcher Kipps
The Government has Unbalanced Priorities – A Labour Response
Rebecca highlights some crucial points in this article. Theatres, and the general arts sector, are struggling tremendously, and delaying their opening further is only going to exacerbate this.
Interestingly though, I am writing this response moments after Boris Johnson announced the delay of lifting restrictions until the 19th of July. Everywhere that is closed will remain closed for a further four weeks. We have to wait that little bit longer before we can watch our favourite West End shows. Another four weeks seems doable for most people; we’ve been living in lockdowns for the best part of a year. However, Rebecca and Fletcher are right in saying even the smallest delay will be catastrophic for theatres. Andrew Lloyd Webber is a great example; if he’s struggling, what will the effect be on smaller venues?
I think we can all agree that any reopening poses a greater covid risk. But sporting events are happening on a large scale and have been increasingly prioritised since last summer. How have live sports events been back for a year yet theatres have no hope of opening yet? It seems very unfair and unbalanced to me.
I hope the government realises the importance of theatre in the UK – to both audiences and the theatres themselves. They can’t just throw money at the issue under the title of a ‘lifeline’ and must imminently do more to develop a reopening strategy. The four week delay is yet another setback for theatres and yet another indication that they are not a priority for the government. Not in the slightest.
Written by Chief Labour Writer, Abi Clargo