Royal Albert Hall, London Palladium and more warn venues will struggle to reopen profitably with social distancing in place

ALEX LAWSON
·3-min read
Andy Paradise
Andy Paradise

Music and theatre bosses today warned venues will struggle to reopen profitably with social distancing in place, despite getting the green light to do so.

Venues are able to reopen from tomorrow with distancing in place as the Government relaxes the rules on a string of operators including casinos, bowling alleys, skating rinks and soft play centres.

Rebecca Kane Burton, chief executive of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s LW Theatres, told the Standard: "This is a welcome step which will enable us to explore interim initiatives that could see something of the winter programming be salvaged at a multi-purpose venue like The London Palladium.

“But that won’t help the big musical houses. For the greater good of all theatres across the country, what we need is a conditional date for Stage 5, when theatres can reopen without social distancing."

The London Palladium last month hosted a show to test social distancing measures with a reduced capacity, temperature checks and one-way systems to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Louise Halliday, director of external affairs at the Royal Albert Hall said that, with one metre social distancing rules in place, its capacity is reduced to around 36% - most of its events break even at around 80%.

Halliday said: “The BBC Proms are doing behind closed doors concerts from 28 August to 12 September and we are hoping to do some more behind closed doors event. We are also looking into the viability of some special socially distanced performances later in the year. However, our normal operations are not viable while social distancing regulations remain in place.”

The Government last month launched a £1.57 billion culture recovery fund, but industry insiders claim that applications for some of the monies are yet to open. There are also fears that big name venues are likely to snare the bulk of the cash and the army of technical support companies and freelancers which support the events industry.

The live events industry this week staged a campaign under the banner #WeMakeEvents which saw venues across the country lit up in red to mark a red alert over the jobs that could be lost.

Mark Davyd, chief executive of the Music Venue Trust, said: “Unfortunately, it remains the case that the vast majority of grassroots music venue members of the Music Venues Alliance are not financially able, or even have the physical premises layout, to deliver these newly permitted events.

“Those that can make social distancing work will be unlikely to be able to stage government compliant events with this much notice. But those venues will be relieved to finally be able to open their doors in the coming weeks.

The #WeMakeEvents campaign highlighted the industry's struggles (Chris Jackson/Getty Images)
The #WeMakeEvents campaign highlighted the industry's struggles (Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

“However, despite the challenges the announcement presents, we broadly welcome this progress towards the return of live music. If gigs are going to return in stages, which is the government plan, then we have reached stage 4 of that plan and can begin to imagine that stage 5, real gigs at venues, might be achievable in the foreseeable future.”

Venues where distancing remains difficult like nightclubs remain shut. Ministry of Sound chairman Lohan Presencer said: “If the government continues to force cultural icons like Ministry of Sound to remain closed, it must bridge the gap financially until we are able to reopen.

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London venues lit up red in support of #WeMakeEvents campaign