With producers and venues chomping at the bit to find out whether their Christmas programming can go ahead the announcement by the Culture Secretary yesterday must come. as a blow.
Theatres will not find out until November whether they can re-open without social distancing, Dowden has said.
The industry has been calling for the government to specifiy a “No Earlier Than” date for the re-opening of theatres to allow some semblance of planning and to get some idea of the steps necessary to keep organisations and venues alive financially.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4, Dowden said indoor performances without social distancing could only resume when safe to do so and that information will be given in November as to when this might be possible.
Dowden said: “I completely understand the desire for that [date]. The prime minister said a couple of weeks ago [that] when we get to November we will look again at social distancing and where we are with the virus.”
He added: “We can’t give a stronger commitment than that because, as we are seeing, the virus is rising in other countries around the world, the risk remains heightened and it is not the case now that we can move to ease social distancing. We are having to work hard to keep this virus under control and as soon as we can give that assurance, we will give it to people. But we are not in that place at the moment.”
“I don’t want to give people false hope. I have set out this five-stage roadmap and we will have indoor performers with social distancing from the beginning of August, and we have outdoor performances happening already and we will be conducting pilots for indoor performances. But we can only give guidance to resume performances without social distancing when it is safe to do so and the prime minister has indicated that will be November at the earliest.”
Last week at the London Palladium, Andrew Lloyd Webber held a social distanced performance to show how ludicrous and economically disastrous that model would be. At the same time, he trialled technology bought in from South Korea to make the venue as safe as possible for patrons which it seems went well.
Based on this information it is unlikely pantomime will go ahead and we are now awaiting feedback from producers and venues. The non-appearance of panto for the first time in will mean thousands will be unemployed over Christmas and venues will lose their major source of income which could cripple most venues.
More news as it comes to hand.