Theatres told: The shows must not go on this Xmas
Tier 4 coronavirus restrictions bring fresh uncertainty for Islington venues
24 December, 2020 — By Helen Chapman
The Bed at the Little Angel Theatre, which can be viewed online at littleangeltheatre.com
THEATRE staff have been plunged into fresh uncertainty after the new Tier 4 coronavirus restrictions forced the curtains to come down again.
Many venues have relied on arts grants to get through lockdown periods this year, and were just getting back to live performances when the order to close came through on Saturday.
Jez Bond, director of the Park Theatre in Finsbury Park, said: “We had announced a season of socially distanced work planned from January, and that is all going to have to be cancelled.
“The big thing that we need but have never had is clarity. Obviously, no one has a crystal ball but what we need is a long-term strategy.”
He added: “It’s all over the place, and I understand to some extent, but clarity and communication is really key – this government is appalling at communication.
Jez Bond, director of the Park Theatre in Finsbury Park
“It has a particularly big impact on our freelance workers who are facing huge uncertainty.”
In Islington the Covid-19 infection rates have doubled in a week – on Monday the case rate in the borough was 543 per 100,000 residents.
Mr Bond said: “It’s about being honest with people and saying, ‘this is the situation’. We were never going to have Christmas, that was obvious to most people, but it is worse to pretend that you will and then say, ‘oh, it’s Tier 4’. That is the problem now. When are we going to reopen?”
Louisa Heads McCann, from the Little Angel Theatre, said: “We’ve learned to prepare a bit more and have experimented with free content on YouTube, as well as ticketed full-length shows.”
The theatre had live shows planned before Tier 3 rules came in – these were cancelled and instead set up for digital viewing.
The Arts Council Cultural Recovery Fund awarded the Little Angel Theatre £300,000 in October. The Park Theatre received £250,000.
Ms Heads McCann said: “It’s certainly great but when we are factoring in not just the artistic work, but all of the staff salaries, it can only go along for so long. I think, however, depending how long all of this goes on, we would need more government support. Not just us, but all theatres.
Mother Christmas at Little Angel Theatre, which can be viewed online at littleangeltheatre.com
“We’ve also been making the most of the furlough scheme but things are still very tricky.
“I am sure we are facing a lot of what the other theatres are facing.”
A Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport spokesperson said: “We recognise the impact that closures across the country will have on our cultural sector and remain completely committed to supporting it through these challenging times. However, we have always been clear that the activity permitted would be in line with the latest public health context.
“Our £1.57billion Culture Recovery Fund has already seen more than £1bn offered to arts, heritage and performance organisations to support them through the impact of the pandemic, protecting tens of thousands of creative jobs across the UK, which includes more than £14million for organisations based in Islington. We held back £400m of contingency funding so we could respond to the changing public health context and will now use it to support organisations facing new pressures, as well as helping them transition back to fuller opening in future when it is safe to do so.”