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Live indoor theatre and concerts announcement sparks mixed response

The industry has previously welcomed a £1.57bn support package to ‘protect’ the future of Britain’s arts.

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Indoor performances with live audiences will be allowed, subject to the success of pilots, from August 1 (Matt Crossick/PA)

Indoor performances with live audiences will be allowed, subject to the success of pilots, from August 1 (Matt Crossick/PA)

Indoor performances with live audiences will be allowed, subject to the success of pilots, from August 1 (Matt Crossick/PA)

The announcement that live indoor theatre and concerts can resume next month with socially distanced audiences has sparked a mixed response.

Indoor performances with live audiences will be allowed, subject to the success of pilots, from August 1.

Iain Farrington, a composer and pianist whose work kicks off this year’s Proms on Friday night, welcomed the move, but choreographer Sir Matthew Bourne said it offers “false hope”.

And the union Bectu said venues will not be ready to reopen in a fortnight.

Sir Matthew wrote on Twitter: “Why make these announcements when they (the Government) know that the vast majority of theatre, dance and music is not financially viable under ‘Covid secure’ conditions? … False hope”.

But Farrington, who performed Chariots Of Fire in a comedy sketch with Rowan Atkinson at the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony, told the PA news agency: “It’s what we’ve all been wanting to hear for a long time.

“There is obviously a lot of detail to unpick, because how many people can be in a space, how much social distancing is required?”

But the composer, who has created a “mash-up” of Beethoven’s nine symphonies for the start of this year’s Proms, which will debut on BBC Radio 3, warned that the announcement would not make large productions affordable.

“Our funding models are such (in the UK) that you need something like 75% to 80% full houses before you can break even,” he said.

“And if you can only run … at 50%, you’ll definitely make a loss on anything large-scale.

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Choreographer Sir Matthew Bourne (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Choreographer Sir Matthew Bourne (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

PA

Choreographer Sir Matthew Bourne (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

“But what will be great is just to be able to do smaller-scale things – string quartets, piano recitals, song recitals, small theatre pieces for a handful of actors, that kind of thing would be wonderful.

“And we’ve got to start somewhere.”

Head of Bectu Philippa Childs called the move a “significant development for the industry”.

“However, we know that theatres and venues will not be open in two weeks’ time,” she said. “Theatres will have to bring back productions, sell tickets, conduct rehearsals and prepare for how they will operate in a Covid-secure way before they can open up again.

“Socially distanced audiences will not provide the revenue for these businesses to be fully viable again without government support, and it’s not clear how confident people will be about returning to theatres.”

The arts recently welcomed a £1.57 billion support package to “protect” the future of Britain’s theatres, museums, galleries and independent cinemas, heritage sites and music venues.

Childs said: “The industry still needs to know which organisations will be getting the money, how much they will get, and will it be in the form of a loan or a grant?

“This information is crucial to help save the livelihoods of those working in the sector and to halt redundancy consultations.”

PA