Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 3 April 2020

Coronavirus UK: Theatres face uncertain future after closing their doors

Social venues have shut after Boris Johnson advised the public to minimise risk to health

Staff from The Sondheim Theatre in London, inform theatregoers that all performances are cancelled because of the threat of COVID-19 virus. AP
Staff from The Sondheim Theatre in London, inform theatregoers that all performances are cancelled because of the threat of COVID-19 virus. AP

Theatres in the UK have shut after the government advised the public to avoid going to social venues amid a rise in coronavirus deaths.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday evening that “pubs, clubs, theatres and other such social venues” should be avoided but stopped short of forced closures.

The move marked a change in government policy towards fighting the outbreak of Covid-19.

The Society of London Theatres and UK theatre said its member venues would close on Monday evening, an hour before some performances were about to begin.

In a joint statement, the organisations said its hundreds of theatres would shut “to help slow the spread of coronavirus".

“Closing venues is not a decision that is taken lightly, and we know that this will have a severe impact on many of the 290,000 individuals working in our industry," it said.

Theatres in London’s famous West End have not closed their doors since the plague in the 17th century.

The government advice has left many theatres facing financial difficulty as without an enforced ban they are unable to claim insurance.

"As the social distancing measures announced are only advisory, rather than an outright ban, we are deeply concerned that creative organisations and cultural spaces will find they are unable to claim compensation for the huge losses they will experience as a result of COVID-19," Caroline Norbury, chief executive of the Creative Industries Federation, said in a statement.

Tamara Rojo, artistic director of the English National Ballet, called on the government to offer more support to those working in creative industries.

"This is an industry that provides £111bn annually to the economy, that employs two million people, and a third of them are freelancers,” she told BBC Radio.

"So, for many, this sudden closure without a clear ban - which means that many venues, theatres, museums won't be able to claim compensation for a devastating loss - means a lot of uncertainty and potentially a lot of loss of employment and income."

Updated: March 17, 2020 03:18 PM

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