The chief executive of Belfast’s MAC theatre in St Anne’s Square has called on further support from the Executive for the arts sector in Northern Ireland after a raft of show cancellations.
At the weekend, the MAC announced their decision to close the doors of the theatre and cancel the remainder of events in 2021.
It follows a number of other theatres and entertainment venues across the region who have also closed their doors over the post-Christmas period, leaving thousands expecting to attend shows disappointed.
Last week Belfast’s Waterfront Hall announced they were cancelling the remainder of their Pantomime shows this year, while on Tuesday, the Lyric Theatre said the Grimes and McKee’s Christmas Album shows were cancelled.
In a post on Facebook on Monday, the MAC said the decision was taken due to the rising cases in Covid-19.
"We’re very sorry to let you know that the MAC will be closed today, and will remain closed until Wednesday 5 January 2022, when we will reopen at 9am,” they wrote.
"Unfortunately the impact of Covid-19 has led the MAC team to this decision, along with the cancellation of the remaining shows in the run of The Untold Truth of Captain Hook. All ticket bookers have been contacted via email by our Box Office team.
"If you were planning a visit to the MAC galleries or Cafe Bar this week, we do hope you’ll be able to re-schedule your visit when we’re open again.
"In the mean time, stay safe and we’ll see you in 2022."
Anne McReynolds, from the MAC, told BBC’s Good Morning Ulster programme the decision to close the doors until the new year is “devastating for ourselves, the artists we work with and the audiences”.
She said financial support from the Executive was needed, alongside a “renewed sense of urgency and purpose” to ensure the survival of the arts in Northern Ireland.
“We desperately need a new approach which will create long term answers to the long-standing problems that mean that every citizen in Northern Ireland has been genuinely short changed for decades, in terms of the amount of investment we have in our arts here,” she said.
“Shows closing over Christmas is one thing, but the fact there is no long-term plan out of this crisis.
“Despite the fact every politician expresses their deep commitment the arts in Northern Ireland... we call on our politicians to work with our sector and our Arts Council to get going with that now.
“39,000 are employed by the arts in Northern Ireland. This is a central part of our economy and way of life and given that, it is fair to say we have not had a fair crack at the whip. We have got somewhat lost in the workload and the incredible challenges facing our politicians.”
Liam McMullan from GBL Productions, the company behind the Pantomime performances at the Waterfront, said over 30 shows have been cancelled.
“Panto is so important especially for young kids being brought into the venue and being introduced to the theatre for the first time,” he said.
“Of course, we can develop stuff to go online but it doesn’t have that same effect. We do feel the live element of theatre is the thing that brings people back time and time again.
“For GBL Productions we are a commercial theatre company, we rely heavily on the income our shows make for us to continue to programme throughout the year.
“Having to cancel over 30 shows which is potentially 10,000 people... it has a drastic effect moving forward. It throws massive questions marks [next year].”