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'A disaster for London's theatres' – responses to today's news that the capital's venues will close

The news was confirmed by the Health Secretary

Shaftesbury Avenue

Industry figures and organisations have responded with frustration to the news that theatres in the capital will have to close from Wednesday.

Despite the fact shops (many of whom are packed with present hunters ahead of the festive season) will be able to stay open under the new tier three rules, venues that have spent hundreds of thousands of pounds trying to stay safe will be forced to close.

Julian Bird, chief executive of SOLT and London Theatres said: "Today's Government announcement placing London in Tier 3 from Wednesday is devastating news for the city's world-leading theatre industry. The past few days have seen venues beginning to reopen with high levels of Covid security, welcoming back enthusiastic, socially distanced audiences.

"Theatres across London will now be forced to postpone or cancel planned performances, causing catastrophic financial difficulties for venues, producers and thousands of industry workers - especially the freelancers who make up 70 per cent of the theatre workforce. We urge Government to recognise the huge strain this has placed on the sector and look at rapid compensation to protect theatres and their staff over Christmas in all areas of the country under Tier 3 restrictions."

The Theatres Trust director Jon Morgan responded: "It is a disaster for London's theatres that the capital and parts of Essex and Hertfordshire will move into Tier 3. Theatres have worked incredibly hard to create safe environments for audiences and through no fault of their own will now face enormous financial losses. They have done so at great risk as it is currently impossible to secure production insurance. The tiers system means more uncertainty and risk for months to come unless there is a government backed insurance scheme for theatre production like there is currently for film and television. 2020 has been a catastrophic year for theatre and today's announcement has compounded that."

The producers of Six the Musical said: "'We all understand the need to keep the public safe in the midst of this crisis and there is nothing more important than keeping the virus at bay and as such we have adhered to every precaution, sanction and piece of guidance for the last nine months to ensure that theatre is a safe environment for everyone, its audiences and staff.

"It is frustrating that our industry has been sidelined once again and an already hard hit sector will have to try and survive with no income for a further period of uncertainty. We are being penalised for reopening the sector and rejuvenating the West End.

"The Cultural Recovery Fund was helpful in safeguarding the ‘crown jewels' of British Theatre. But this only helped 1% of the commercial sector and we urgently need a compensation package that redresses the losses we will now sustain together with the loss of income to all theatre staff during the festive period.

The audience response to the 12 shows of SIX at the Lyric theatre that we have managed to perform since lockdown, demonstrates that we also really need creative outlets for the wider well-being of public health."

Elaine Paige, who is currently starring as Queen Rat in the Palladium pantomime, also reflected on the fact that the Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden only last Friday had been inside a theatre watching a show – to therefore shut spaces so suddenly after that visit seems an unjustified move.

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