Following the government’s latest announcement regarding the reopening of theatres, Jon Morgan, director of Theatres Trust, has released a statement in response.
Guidance for reopening of theatres
“Alongside the very welcome and much-needed package of government support for the culture sector announced earlier this week, the publication of the performing arts guidance today will give a further degree of clarity to theatres. The publication of details for Stage 3 will allow theatres to move to outdoor performances from 11 July. However, it is disappointing that the guidelines have been published without a ‘not before’ date for Stage 4 and the all-important Stage 5 – the point when theatres will be able to open fully and welcome back audiences without social distancing. For the majority, it means continued delay and uncertainty as to when they will be able to reopen fully and for some, this delay may mean they never reopen.
We appreciate the difficulty in setting a date for Stage 5 as it will always be conditional on circumstances such as the R rate remaining low, further safety tests being conducted and the safety of staff, creatives and audiences must be a priority. But without even an indicative date it is difficult for theatres to plan ahead – and for many theatres this uncertainty will be devastating.
With the furlough scheme ending in October, many theatres will be left in a precarious situation and there is the risk of more theatres being forced to make redundancies or closing permanently. The performing arts will be the last sector to be able to reopen viably and it is therefore critical that the government’s rescue package prioritises theatres across the UK who will be most affected by the delayed reopening.
Planning system changes
Theatres Trust welcomes today’s news of revisions to the planning system, which will help prevent vacant theatres from being demolished or irreversibly changed for other uses. We have been campaigning to strengthen protections for theatre buildings in the planning system and we are pleased that the government has responded to our proposal so positively. The Covid-19 lockdown has rendered otherwise vibrant theatres vulnerable to permanent closure and we have already seen four operators go into liquidation, leaving their theatres empty. These measures will help ensure these vital community assets are protected during the current crisis and can be revived to serve their local communities once again.”