New Coronavirus regulations in England mean that London theatres will be allowed to reopen, while many other areas must keep their doors closed. The capital has been categorised a Tier 2 area, meaning indoor entertainment venues can reopen from 2ndDecember.
However, cities like Manchester and Birmingham will face harsher restrictions as part of Tier 3. This will mean that London will host the majority of theatre shows in the run up to Christmas.
Caroline Norbury, chief executive of the Creative Industries Federation, said: “Christmas is a key time for many parts of the creative industries, including venues, cinemas and museums, and it is enormously sad that many weeks spent rehearsing for pantomimes, theatre shows, concerts and events may now have gone to waste.”
The Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham have had to postpone their showing of West End musical Dreamgirls, while pantos including Sleeping Beauty in Manchester, are facing cancellation.
The announcement came as part of the UK government’s coronavirus briefing this week, where it was announced which areas of England will fall into which tier.
Julian Bird, chief executive of the Society of London Theatres and UK Theatre, said: “Today’s Government announce is a relief for theatres in Tier 1 and 2 areas, including London’s West End, but equally devastating for Tier 3 areas yet again forced to postpone or cancel shows – including Pantos, usually a highlight for families and a vital source of income for theatres around the country”
He continued: “This risks the survival of many venues and leaves thousands of professionals struggling over the Christmas period, particularly freelancers who cannot rely on Government support.”
The Royal Opera House tweeted: ‘The government has confirmed that London will be a Tier 2 area, and we are hugely looking forward to welcoming audiences back safely to the Royal Opera House for the Nutcracker and our special Christmas Concerts.’
For many, the announcement does not come as a surprise. London seems to benefit from government focus and investment more than most cities each year. The choice to let the capital avoid the strictest regulations follows this same path.
Jon Morgan, director of the Theatres Trust, said: “It is a terrible blow for the theatre sector that so many large towns and cities in England are now in Tier 3 where theatres are not permitted to reopen.
“There are many theatres that we know were planning pantos and other shows for December and this news will be devastating for those organisations.
“They will have invested in rehearsals and other preparations for reopening and will now find themselves unable to recoup those costs, facing further financial strain in what has already been a catastrophic year.”
However, London is not the only city where tier 2 regulations will be in place. Liverpool, a city involved in a widely reported government feud earlier this year, has also avoided the toughest regulations.
This means that venues in the city centre, such as the Empire, can reopen along with London theatres.
Ticket holders in the UK should check the theatre’s website for any shows they are unsure about. Many venues are offering free ticket exchange or a change of date, rather than a refund. This is a good way to prevent additional loss of income, especially for smaller venues.
Affected theatres all across England were responding to the announcement this week on social media, many asking fans to be patient and continue to follow the news in weeks to come.
Like everyone we watched and listened to the latest from the government during today’s tier announcement and are working on how this will affect our socially-distanced pantomime performances. (1/2)
— Palace & Opera Mcr (@PalaceAndOpera) November 26, 2020
A message from our CEO, Julia Fawcett OBE, following today's announcement re: Tier 3 measures for Greater Manchester. pic.twitter.com/c1sVRuIIYX
— The Lowry (@The_Lowry) November 26, 2020
We just wanted to take a moment to say a huge thank you for all your fantastic support at this time.
Sending a big hug to all the other incredible hardworking venues that find themselves in Tier 3.
We will get through this 💪 pic.twitter.com/GzQ83ReqAW
— Birmingham Hippodrome (@brumhippodrome) November 27, 2020
Government guidance will be revised every two weeks, with the first review due to be on 16th December. Many in the industry wait with their fingers crossed for a Christmas miracle.
Words by Emily Withers .
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