Theatre News: Mayor of London Calls on the Government to Save the West End From “Existential Threat”

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The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has written to the government in order to urge them to provide more financial assistance to London’s West End in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

His letter to the Prime Minister Boris Johnson, suggested eight proposals in order to help the theatre industry as it struggles to recover after it was forced to close its doors in March.

Falling visitor numbers to the capital and closure of productions has been catastrophic for creative and hospitality sectors.

Last month, the government announced a £1.57 billion rescue package for the arts culture and heritage industries to help them “weather the impact” of the pandemic.

Khan’s proposal to save the West End includes the suggestion to extend the job retention scheme for furloughed workers in creative, hospitality, retail and leisure industries. Furthermore, he has called for increased support for freelancers and the self-employed, a significant number of whom work in creative industries. 

He has also called for rental support for small and medium-sized businesses who are struggling to meet their bill payments during the pandemic alongside an improved test and trace system.

Further concerns for the theatre industry were raised when the culture secretary Oliver Dowden stated that is likely that theatres will not be able to reopen without social distancing measures until November. 

St Martin’s Theatre, home of The Mousetrap announced it would be reopening in October with social distancing measures in place, yet all other West End theatres remain closed. 

Khan wrote “for decades central London has been the economic engine of the UK, a cultural powerhouse, and a gateway for global tourism to the UK.”

He summarised that the West End “now faces a real existential threat” as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Words by Izzy Anstee.


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