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‘What’s the point?’ – City venues react to reopening with social distancing

PUBLISHED: 11:34 15 August 2020 | UPDATED: 16:18 15 August 2020

Rick Lennox, live music manager of Epic Studios. Picture: Nick Butcher

Rick Lennox, live music manager of Epic Studios. Picture: Nick Butcher

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“What’s the point of putting an event on if you know that, before you even open the doors, that you’re going to lose money?”

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

That was the question which one Norwich venue manager was left with after the latest easing of lockdown measures in England.

Boris Johnson announced on Thursday that audiences will be able to return to indoor theatres and music venues from today, but with strict social distancing rules still in force.

While theatre bosses in Norwich welcomed the latest step towards recovery, many believe it doesn’t change anything at the moment.

Rick Lennox, music manager at Magdalen Street-based Epic Studios, said it would be “irresponsible” to try to reopen with such highly-reduced capacity.

The Garage theatre chief executive Adam Taylor. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYThe Garage theatre chief executive Adam Taylor. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

He said: “We’re not really expecting to be able to put on live shows for quite some time yet.

“You need more staff to make sure everything is policed more, and if you can only have 25pc of the number then it just can’t work – it wouldn’t come close to paying for the artist, promotion of the show and running costs.

“Each fortnight that goes by things change, but at the moment I think it would be irresponsible to even try it. It would be too much of an experiment.”

Norwich Theatre Royal chief executive also said it is “not financially viable” to reopen with social distancing in place, and reaffirmed his belief that performances may not return to the venue until 2021.

He said: “Theatre Royal needs to have full audiences – socially-distant audiences don’t work for us. It doesn’t really have any benefit for us at the moment.

“This is stage four, and I’ve always said we need to wait for stage five before we can start planning for a reopening again.”

Adam Taylor, executive director at The Garage theatre in Chapel Field North was more optimistic and hopeful that they may be able to welcome some show-goers “in the Autumn”, but insisted their “priority is keeping the audience safe” – even after losing £650,000 in income due to lockdown.

“Yes, it would be fantastic if someone wrote us a cheque for £650,000 and we could shut the doors and wait, but it’s not just our sector that is affected.

“I don’t feel we have any more right to get a handout over anyone else – we have to graft for it and earn that money.

“Our sector got a £1.57billion bailout from the government. More support would be fantastic, but I don’t feel we have the right to demand more than what we’ve already been given.”


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