Britain’s most prolific panto producer QDOS has told Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden that by this time next month there must be “clarity and guidance” or the 2020 Panto season will be lost.
Speaking of the possible cancellation of the 2020 Panto season QDOS boss Michael Harrison said the cancellation of pantomimes and other Christmas productions could devastate the wider industry, solidifying swathes of redundancies and impacting thousands of freelancers that depend on pantomime work, as well as cutting off life-saving income for theatres around the UK.
He welcomed the news of the £1.57 billion rescue package for UK culture but said it must be accompanied by a timeline for reopening venues and specific guidance around health and safety.
Harrison said that producers needed to get guidance by early August or there would not be enough time to mount productions for Christmas. Whilst Oliver Dowden indicated in a BBC Radio 4 interview that panto represents a major transmission risk, his company QDOS has as yet received no communication with the government about specific health risks.
“Having these theatres closed from March, of course, is a disaster in itself, but if it continues beyond Christmas, and therefore there are no pantomimes, I just think the consequences are far greater than we could ever imagine,” Harrison said.
“It really is that important. Not everywhere has subsidy from Arts Council England or the local authority, so pantomime becomes the subsidy. Pantomime becomes the thing that means education work can happen, that means outreach work can happen and that means the theatre can host things that don’t necessarily appeal to a mass audience but nevertheless should be seen. Pantomime can help pay for that,” he said.
Panto is often the financial earner that sustains theatres for the rest of the year and without it, venues could be plunged into further crisis, not to mention the thousands of freelance workers who are employed to support Christmas pantomime.
QDOS have 34 pantomimes scheduled for this Christmas.