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Theatres still facing uncertain futures over ‘bizarre’ live show ban

PUBLISHED: 20:29 24 June 2020 | UPDATED: 20:29 24 June 2020

Stephen Crocker, chief executive of Norwich Theatre Royal. Picture: Ella Wilkinson

Stephen Crocker, chief executive of Norwich Theatre Royal. Picture: Ella Wilkinson

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Theatres have appealed for more government help, saying they “remain without a plan” following “bizarre” new guidelines that allow them to reopen but not stage live performances.

Norwich South MP Clive Lewis has joined other MPs to write to the government for more financial support for theatres without public subsidies including Norwich Theatre Royal. Picture: Denise BradleyNorwich South MP Clive Lewis has joined other MPs to write to the government for more financial support for theatres without public subsidies including Norwich Theatre Royal. Picture: Denise Bradley

Boris Johnson announced that cinemas, galleries and museums could open in England from July 4 with social distancing rules cut from two metres to “one metre plus” but the date when shows can resume in theatres is still to be determined.

He said the government would “work with the arts industry” towards their reopening.

Sheringham Little Theatre director Debbie Thompson has appealed for donations to help the venue recover from lockdown. Picture: Sheringham Little TheatreSheringham Little Theatre director Debbie Thompson has appealed for donations to help the venue recover from lockdown. Picture: Sheringham Little Theatre

Cate Mckay-Haynes, trustee of Sheringham Little Theatre, said: “We are struggling to formulate a response to that bizarre news. It’s like saying pubs can open and not sell any beer.

“They’ve said theatres can repeat shows on big screens, but very few theatres have high quality recordings of their shows.

Les Misérables is one of the major shows that have had to be postoned at Norwich Theatre Royal. Picture: Cameron Mackintosh LtdLes Misérables is one of the major shows that have had to be postoned at Norwich Theatre Royal. Picture: Cameron Mackintosh Ltd

“What do we do with that? [Opening on July 4] is not really an option for us, so exactly what we’re doing I’m not sure.”

MORE: Theatre and gig bosses reveal plans to reopen region’s entertainment venues

Norwich South MP Clive Lewis has joined four MPs from Birmingham, Canterbury, Newcastle, and Southampton calling upon the government for an emergency funding package in order for regional theatres to recover from closure.

Theatre have been told they can reopen but not with live performances. Pictured is Norwich Theatre Royal chief executive Stephen Crocker. Picture: Ella WilkinsonTheatre have been told they can reopen but not with live performances. Pictured is Norwich Theatre Royal chief executive Stephen Crocker. Picture: Ella Wilkinson

In a letter to minister for digital and culture Caroline Dinenage they highlight that theatres in their constituencies, including Norwich Theatre Royal, are not-for-profit charities that are not reliant on public subsidy but that has left them “hardest hit in this time of crisis”.

Stephen Crocker, Norwich Theatre chief executive, said: “As large parts of the rest of the economy work towards reopening, theatres and venues remain without a plan or timescale for when proper re-opening might be possible.

“Our business models don’t work without live performances and our futures are at risk whilst we continue to face open-ended closure.”

Mr Lewis said: “Theatre Royal and Playhouse are iconic Norwich institutions and, like all of our arts and culture institutions, are vital presences in our city. The government also must recognise the extreme risk they face due to the specific nature of their operations and fix the unfair and illogical distribution of public financial support.

“That’s why I’m working with my colleagues across the country to stand up with our constituency venues and demand the government increases the support it is offering straightaway.”

MORE: Struggling venue boosted by £35,000 emergency funding

Newcastle’s Theatre Royal is making nearly half of its staff redundant because of coronavirus restrictions. It said the impact of the crisis had been “devastating”.

Philippa Childs, head of the Broadcasting, Entertainment, Communications and Theatre Union: “Workers in the theatre industry and live events will be astonished that the government is still discussing plans to work with experts when the issues have been clear for some time now and the industry is desperate for help now.

“Redundancy consultations are taking place across the country, thousands of people are facing losing their jobs and government support is urgently needed to ensure that theatres are able to open in the future.”


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