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Theatre producers begin legal action to force government to publish pilot events data

Andrew Lloyd Webber's Really Useful Group, Cameron Mackintosh, Sonia Friedman and the live music industry body LIVE are involved

Sonia Friedman
© Dan Wooller for WhatsOnStage

Live music and theatre producers have begun legal action against the government for its inability to publish Events Research Programme data.

Andrew Lloyd Webber's Really Useful Group, Cameron Mackintosh, Sonia Friedman, Michael Harrison and the live music industry body LIVE are involved, with the organisations also demanding more information regarding a state-led insurance scheme to help mitigate risks.

They have also called for a change to the quarantine rules, with calls for the "daily test" system suggested by Michael Gove highlighted as a way to keep productions running.

Government-led pilot events have been going since April and, as of yet, no data on results has been officially published – merely reported on by individual newspapers.

Friedman said in a statement: "The Government continues to display a wilful lack of understanding of the extraordinary value of the theatre industry, and the way in which we operate. We can only fully reopen once. We need absolute clarity on when and how we can fully reopen – to bring a show back to full production takes months in planning to rehearse and to build a box office advance."

The parties' joint statement says: "the Government has flagrantly breached the ‘duty of candour' which requires it to be transparent when faced with a legal challenge and that none of the reasons given for withholding the Events Research Programme material they seek withstand scrutiny. They have asked the Court to consider their application at an urgent hearing as soon as possible."

Lloyd Webber said today: "Last week I rejected the Government's invitation for Cinderella to be singled out as a last-minute part of the Events Research Programme. Today, with a range of voices from across the theatre and live entertainment industries, we are forced to take it further. We simply must now see the data that is being used to strangle our industry so unfairly."

The joint statement also noted that: "The Government has now begun to announce a third round of pilots. It is clear that these pilots are little more than a way of allowing certain high-profile events to go ahead, primarily large-scale sporting events, while keeping the rest of the sector shut."

Mackintosh added: "Having been forced to close our theatres twice last year, the second time after the government encouraged reopening for Christmas, losing further millions as a result, a joint insurance scheme to protect us against another enforced closure is vital.

"Along with most of the commercial theatre we have had absolutely no direct financial help either for our productions or the upkeep of our historic theatres. Opening without any sort of protection is impossible for many producers, live event organisers and theatre buildings across the country. Having contributed huge amounts of money to the exchequer over the last few decades, the theatre desperately needs to be supported in its hour of need or the government will be responsible for the disintegration of one of this country's most priceless and irreplaceable assets after centuries of being the envy of the world."

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