December 2021

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29 December - Theatre & TV Performers Release Short Film In Support Of Theatre Freelancers

Samantha Womack, Shelley King and Saffron Coomber lead a cast from Theatre and TV in a film to raise money for theatre freelancers affected by the pandemic.

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25 December - Life is a cabaret – until Covid brings down the curtain on the West End

As Omicron variant rips holes in casts and productions daily, theatres are forced to cancel shows – despite £30m support fund

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24 December - Backlash as theatre workers told to cover roles outside of their skill set

More than 1,000 people have signed a petition calling on employers to stop the “unsafe and unfair” practice of pressuring backstage workers to cover roles outside of their department or skill set.

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24 December - Forget Spider-Man – swings, covers, alternates and understudies are the real superheroes

This is an exceptional, un-imaginable time for the arts – while stage shows can go on, creatives have been brought low by a fresh surge in Covid cases.

To keep the lights on, across the nation, swings, covers, understudies and alternates have stepped up and led the charge – papering over gaps and showing a pragmatism that is truly something special.

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23 December - £2 million raised in less than 48 hours for Theatre Artists Fund

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport via Arts Council England, Gatsby Charitable Foundation and the Backstage Trust have led a campaign for donations to the Theatre Artists Fund over the past 48 hours, alongside other major benefactors and trusts. From this extraordinary collective effort, £2 million has already been raised to help the growing number of theatre freelancers suddenly finding themselves without work, due to the UK’s rising number of Covid cases and subsequent show cancellations.

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23 December - Theatre staff at risk due to Covid-safety breaches in West End, costume group warns

A group representing costume workers has warned it is “deeply concerned” that West End venues are breaching Covid-safe working practices, with staff being put at risk as producers prioritise getting shows on.

In an an open letter to the Society of London Theatre, published on Twitter (below), the Costume in Theatre, Entertainment and Arts group says that costume workers in wardrobe support and backstage dressing roles are being placed in “dangerous situations over which they have no control”.

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22 December - The Guardian view on Covid-hit arts: there is a solution

A short-time work scheme would help freelancers when the going gets tough

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22 December - Labour demands urgent action from government to prevent 'demise' of theatre sector

Labour is calling on the government to urgently take further action to support the arts sector – including widening eligibility for the Culture Recovery Fund – warning many “treasured theatres” face collapse without support.

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22 December - £21 million to support culture and events

Additional funds for organisations and freelancers. 

A £21 million support package to support cultural and events organisations and freelancers experiencing cancellations due to the rapid spread of the new Omicron variant has been announced.

This is to help manage the significant impact of the new guidelines around social distancing and the limitations on the number of people who can attend events.

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22 December - Scottish theatres cancel shows as new restrictions bite

Theatres and venues across Scotland have announced early closure of their Christmas shows in response to the new Covid restrictions announced at Holyrood earlier this week.

However, the closures come with a financial cost to the venues and Capital Theatres chief executive Fiona Gibson warned that if “significant” funding were not found, the sector could fail.

Read more here

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22 December - First Minister Mark Drakeford confirms new restrictions for Wales

Today Mark Drakeford announced new restrictions for the people of Wales, beginning on Boxing Day.

Restrictions include the return of the rule of six, where gatherings of people in regulated premises, including restaurants, cinemas and theatres must not exceed six.

Read more here

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21 December - Government is again neglecting theatre’s hardest hit

Welcome as it is to see the government acting to help hospitality and cultural industries, the measures announced today do little to help those businesses and individuals being hit hardest by the Omicron variant.

The Culture Recovery Fund has done a lot of good in the past year. It has also left a lot to be desired. Individual artists and freelancers are ineligible, and many vital and viable organisations – including the vast majority of the commercial sector – have been excluded on technicalities.

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21 December - Sturgeon imposes new restrictions in Scotland from Boxing Day - with only 500 fans allowed in football grounds and Hogmanay events cancelled

Nicola Sturgeon said crowds at outdoor public events in Scotland will be capped at 500 from Boxing Day for at least three weeks. Numbers at indoor public events are to be limited to 100 standing or 200 seated.

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21 December - ‘Inadequate and vague’: Theatre responds to Sunak’s £30m CRF top-up

An extra £30 million added to the Culture Recovery Fund will not help theatre’s current crisis and is an inadequate response to the scale of the problem, the industry has warned.

Leading figures in the sector are also calling for the reintroduction of the furlough scheme and targeted support for freelancers.

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21 December - Statement following the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s announcement

We welcome the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s announcement of business grants and a £30 million top-up to the Culture Recovery Fund. This is a clear signal that the Chancellor and HM Treasury understand the challenges facing our theatres and other cultural businesses.

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21 December - New Year’s Eve Trafalgar Square party is off as Omicron cases surge in London

London’s New Year’s Eve celebration has been cancelled and theatres, museums and galleries have closed early for Christmas because of rising Covid-19 cases.

Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, said that the headline event in Trafalgar Square for 6,500 key workers and members of the public would be replaced by an “incredible broadcast spectacular” at midnight on BBC1.

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21 December - Rishi Sunak announces £1bn fund for businesses

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has set out a £1bn fund to help businesses hit by the rise in Covid cases, including the leisure and hospitality sector.

Hospitality businesses like pubs and restaurants will be able to apply for cash grants of up to £6,000 per premises.

Read more here

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20 December - Theatre sector desperate for support, says Sir Cameron Mackintosh

Sir Cameron Mackintosh has said theatres “desperately need” the Government to support the industry as they are in a “dreadful state” while shows across the country are cancelled due to coronavirus.

A string of West End productions and live events have had to cancel performances due to cast and crew testing positive for Covid-19 while bookings for the beginning of 2022 are far below expectations.

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20 December - Live events chain risks collapse without government support, suppliers warn

Suppliers to the live events sector have warned that their businesses are on the verge of collapse, with some reporting about a third of bookings being cancelled.

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20 December - Almost half of London’s major theatres cancelled shows at weekend as Omicron fears grow

Almost half of London’s major theatres cancelled shows at the weekend due to soaring Covid-19 cases in the capital.

Hamilton, Maltida, Wicked, The Lion King, Cinderella, Cabaret and Come From Away were among the shows hit by cancellations as Omicron cases surged across the capital.

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20 December - Theatres ‘in desperate need of support’ as Covid outbreaks force closures without any help

Theatres are in “desperate need” of help after Omicron forced closures across more than half of the West End.

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20 December - Theatre staff asked to continue working with Covid symptoms – BECTU

Theatre workers are being asked to continue in their roles despite displaying Covid symptoms, it has emerged, with BECTU highlighting “worrying” reports of health and safety breaches in the lead up to Christmas.

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20 December - Broadway Boss Reveals Industry Plan Amid Omicron: “We’re Not Closing”

Charlotte St. Martin speaks to The Hollywood Reporter about how Broadway is handling its recent closures amid the holiday season, reacting “aggressively” to the new COVID-19 variant and preparing for the winter and spring seasons.

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20 December - West End battles on despite widespread disruption

At least 25 West End shows are due to play their next performances this week, following a weekend of disruption due to fast-spreading Covid cases.

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20 December - Half of West End theatres hit by Covid cancellations at weekend

Almost half of London’s major theatres were forced to cancel performances this weekend because of Covid infections, as Omicron plays havoc with live events.

Of the 46 full members of the Society of London Theatre that had shows running, 22 scrapped performances.

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19 December - Business can’t expect endless gifts from Sunak’s sack

For tens of thousands of hotels, restaurants, pubs, theatres and cinemas this should be a time when the crowds flock in and the tills ring. All that began to change last month when stories emerged from South Africa of the new and more infectious Omicron variant of Covid-19.

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18 December - It's safety first at North East theatres with no audience objections as facemask rule is imposed

As Omicron cases surge, cultural venues across the region are coming to terms with new regulations which make face coverings and Covid passes a must for those out enjoying their festive celebrations.

While theatres across the region have escaped the need for the Covid pass rule, which applies to larger and unseated venues such as clubs and arenas, they have updated their websites to remind audiences that they must now wear a mask during performances.

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18 December - Broadway League not considering industry shutdown amid COVID cancellations

While several Broadway productions are cancelling performances due to breakthrough cases of COVID-19, the Broadway League is not currently considering an industrywide shutdown, according to League President Charlotte St. Martin. 

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17 December - National Theatre cancels shows until January

National Theatre productions Hex and Trouble in Mind have been cancelled until the new year.

Hex, which had previously been cancelled until December 28, will now resume performances on January 5.

Trouble in Mind will resume on January 4, with The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time resuming on December 29.

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Evening Standard Logo

17 December - Plea to ministers as London’s West End theatres hit by cancellations

Theatreland representatives were holding urgent talks with ministers today as the West End was hit by a flood of Covid cancellations.

Among the proposals being discussed was a demand for a return to furlough for cast and crew whose shows are being closed down.

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17 December - The West End at breaking point: ‘We’re running out of Sellotape to hold everything together’

Andrew Lloyd Webber and Cameron Mackintosh on the potentially ruinous threat posed by Omicron – and an indifferent government

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17 December - Royal Albert Hall boss notes huge drop in sales since spread of Omicron

The boss of the Royal Albert Hall has said the venue has seen a huge drop in sales since the spread of Omicron.

Craig Hassall, chief executive officer of the historic London hall, is calling for “a stronger government position” to help the struggling arts industry.

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17 December - Government facing increasing pressure to provide support to theatre sector

Government officials are under increasing pressure to provide targeted support to the theatre sector, as shows around the country are closed due to Covid.

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17 December - Can theatres survive another Christmas of Covid cancellations?

Theatres are battling to stay open as they contend with staff shortages and slumping tickets sales in what is usually their busiest time of year. For the cast of a pantomime in Corby, Northamptonshire, the show goes on – for now

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17 December - ANDREW LLOYD WEBBER: With shows being cancelled and performers testing positive, the whole industry's having a nightmare - but no one in this government listens

It has been a terrible few days and it is getting worse. It is simply heartbreaking for me to see our industry decimated by a situation beyond all of our control.

We had to cancel yesterday evening’s performance of Cinderella with three hours’ notice.

Five more members of the company have tested positive, on top of three on Thursday. We’re a very large production and every cancelled show is devastating, but we simply can’t rehearse around the gaps in the cast and cover the performance.

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The Times Logo

16 December - We need another arts bailout — and this time we need to get it right

Hamlet told us that “the play’s the thing”. Sadly, that hasn’t been true for nearly two years. Clearly, the virus is now the thing. Plays, musicals, ballets, operas, concerts: they have become, to quote Shakespeare again, as flies to wanton boys. Whether they happen or not seems dependent on the whim of malicious gods.

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16 December - Omicron lockdown would be ‘disaster’ for theatres, warns West End boss Nica Burns

The owner of six West End theatres has warned the Government that it would be a “disaster” for the arts if lockdown restrictions were reintroduced.

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16 December - The strange experience of theatregoing on the possible eve of darkness

The current rise in Covid cases is creating a challenging situation for theatres UK-wide during the sector’s most important time of year. While ticket sales remain strong for the Christmas period, show cancellations due to cast and crew illness – compounded by Covid-related audience refund and exchange requests – is creating an increasingly bleak outlook for venues over the next few crucial weeks. 

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Evening Standard Logo

16 December - West End’s Hamilton and The Lion King announce further Covid-enforced cancellations

The London productions of hit musicals Hamilton and The Lion King have announced further cancellations due to “ongoing Covid-enforced absences” in the cast and crew.

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16 December - The strange experience of theatregoing on the possible eve of darkness

Until a few days ago, I had a diary rammed with first nights. This week was non-stop theatre every night: a sprint finish to the festive down-toolin

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16 December - Theatres and freelancers need urgent support during this nightmare before Christmas

It was meant to be the most wonderful time of the year (both financially and economically) – theatres across the land welcoming back audiences for merry festive shows and all-round cheer.

But, as is painfully obvious, that hasn’t turned out to be the case – a slew of cancellations has brought venues and companies low across the land – during what is meant to be the theatre world’s most lucrative few weeks. As Equity just proclaimed in their newest release, urgent support for organisations, freelancers and arts venues is required during what could be a very rough few months ahead.

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16 December - Nicholas Hytner: Theatre is in crisis mode – we are in big trouble

Bridge Theatre artistic director Nicholas Hytner has warned that the theatre sector is in “crisis mode” as increasing numbers of shows close down due to Covid, and has urged the government to provide more targeted support to ensure the industry survives this period.

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16 December - ‘Hanging on by our fingertips’: theatres fear Omicron’s impact on festive season

With a surge in cancellations across the country, the new strain of Covid might be the biggest threat to the UK’s stage industry yet

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16 December - On a knife edge: Charting Covid’s impact on ticket revenues

Though successive lockdowns inevitably led to plummeting ticket sales, how have venues performed since reopening? Purple Seven’s David Brownlee analyses revenue data from across the nations of the UK to track theatre’s progress

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15 December - The West End is at breaking point – Nadine Dorries needs to start playing her role

Major shows are collapsing with punters given little warning. Amid the Covid chaos, the Culture Secretary seems all too quiet

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15 December - Music venues report 'catastrophic' audience declines

Fears about the Omicron variant – and a desire to stay safe before Christmas – have led to a sharp decline in bookings and attendances at many entertainment venues, industry figures have said

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15 December - Burnout and injury warning for theatre casts and crew in run-up to Christmas

Experts have warned that cast and crew are at increased risk of burnout and injury in the lead-up to Christmas due to condensed rehearsal schedules, post-pandemic loss of stamina and poor mental health.

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14 December - Is London taking ITSELF into lockdown? Eight theatres shut this week, West End pubs see ALL bookings cancelled and Oxford Street footfall is down 30% on 2019 - as experts warn businesses are so quiet they could face having to close for Christmas

Parts of London‘s West End were effectively in lockdown today as theatre shows were suspended and pubs and restaurant suffered a wave of cancellations triggered by mounting fears over the new Covid variant sweeping the capital. 

Big-budget productions from The Lion King at the Lyceum to Life of Pi at Wyndham’s Theatre halted performances due to virus outbreaks among their cast and crew – a decision which is costing producers hundreds of thousands of pounds.

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14 December - Musicals, plays and pantos cancel shows after Covid-19 outbreaks

West End hits The Lion King and The Life of Pi are among a number of shows that have been forced to cancel performances due to Covid-19 outbreaks.

The Lion King called off shows on Tuesday and Wednesday due “to Covid-enforced absences” among cast and crew.

The Life of Pi also had to scrap five performances between 9 and 13 December.

The Royal Shakespeare Company’s Comedy of Errors at the Barbican in London has also cancelled all performances until 22 December due to Covid cases.

Read more here

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13 December - Watch Sadiq Khan showing his support for the West End theatre community

Sadiq Khan recently took time out of his schedule to attend the launch of a West End-themed display on the Piccadilly Lights, courtesy of renowned photographer Rankin. The Mayor of London was joined at the Criterion Theatre by a host of West End stars to mark the occasion.

Read more here

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13 December - Cameron Mackintosh: ‘the public appreciates theatre more’ since Covid

The super-producer, celebrating his 75th birthday with a retrospective on TV, talks about the pandemic’s effect on commercial theatre – and his fury with government

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13 December - Landmark agreement to protect freelance producers in independent theatre

A “groundbreaking” agreement that sets out minimum terms of pay for freelance producers woking in the independent theatre sector has been launched, described as the first of its kind in the industry.

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12 December - England’s theatres and restaurants fear another ruinous Christmas

Latest Covid restrictions could push bookings down by 50% at some attractions, government warned

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12 December - It’s a family show: actors with new babies job-share leading roles

Demand is growing to allow flexible working for cast as well as crew in the theatre industry

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11 December - This year, opera had to do the unthinkable in order to survive

Singers in masks, pre-recorded orchestras and even performances without music – in 2021, opera had an uphill struggle to make itself heard

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BBC News logo

10 December - Face masks required in more indoor venues in England

Face coverings are now compulsory in most indoor venues in England, under measures to tackle the Omicron variant.

The new rules require people to wear masks in locations including theatres, cinemas, places of worship, museums and indoor sport stadiums.

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09 December - Creative Scotland announces £1.72m for touring from Lottery funds

Creative Scotland has announced £1.72 million for six new and 11 restaged or reimagined productions that will tour Scotland from summer 2022.

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09 December - What happened to theatre’s digital moment?

On 16th March 2020, the Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre announced that all theatres would close with immediate effect. For most of the 290,000 people working in theatre, this was a disaster. But some were more hopeful. For years, artists had been experimenting with new forms of digital theatricality—could this be the push the theatre world needed to embrace the internet?

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09 December - Christmas audience numbers could be hit by move to Plan B, industry warns

Theatres in England will feel the effects of the government’s decision to move to its Covid Plan B, with working-from-home guidance putting festive profits and organisations’ viability at risk, the industry has warned.

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08 December - Omicron: What are the new Plan B rules for England?

The government has announced new Covid rules for England, in response to concern over the Omicron variant.

It says people should work from home where possible, and will have to show their Covid status for entry to many venues.

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08 December - Mandatory face coverings and Covid Pass made compulsory for some venues under new Covid guidance

The Prime Minister has released fresh guidance for those attending theatre events in England.

Alongside new work-from-home messaging, the Prime Minister has confirmed that masks will be required in all events spaces “including theatres and cinemas” from next week.

Read more here

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08 December - Coventry's Belgrade cancels panto performances due to Covid cases among company

The Belgrade Theatre’s Christmas pantomime, Beauty and the Beast, has cancelled performances for at least the next 10 days as a result of Covid cases among its company.

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08 December - Performers must ‘play their part’ and get vaccinated – Equity

Performers should “play their part” in stopping the spread of coronavirus by getting fully vaccinated, while producers and venues must “up the ante” on enforcing mask wearing, Equity has urged.

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08 December - Theatres dealt another blow by Covid as shows cancelled due to company illness

Theatres have been dealt another blow by Covid-19 with several shows forced to cancel performances due to outbreaks of the virus.

The news comes despite “robust” safety measures put in place at venues.

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08 December - Pantomime returns to Aylesbury's Waterside Theatre

Pantomime is back. But Covid is still here. How are this year’s productions balancing restrictions with the joy of the return of a much-loved Christmas tradition?

Last year, with many theatres closed and Covid restrictions often changing, the answer to “is the pantomime on this year?” changed from “oh yes, it is” to “oh no, it isn’t” on a regular basis.

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08 December - Both ‘positives and negatives’ in new Covid rules, says theatre boss

A major West End theatre operator has welcomed tightened rules on mask-wearing in venues but warned new restrictions could “amplify concern” for some theatregoers.

Dame Rosemary Squire, joint chief executive of Trafalgar Entertainment, said there were both positives and negatives in new coronavirus measures announced on Wednesday.

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08 December - Stricter Covid rules are our best hope to keep theatres open

As Christmas Carols pop up on stages around the country, it feels as if the UK theatre sector is being visited by the Ghost of Christmas Past.

This time last year, the UK emerged from lockdown and theatres tentatively reopened, only for some to find themselves shut back down by a mixture of cast and crew illness and stricter government regulations. Soon after, all theatres closed again as the country returned to full lockdown on January 6.

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07 December - Discounted theatre tickets on offer to support West End recovery

Tickets to some of London’s biggest theatre shows will be on offer at a discounted price in the new year as part of an effort to attract visitors back to the West End.

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07 December - Wales' creative curriculum project extended in £6.8m funding boost

A project to put creativity at the heart of Wales’ curriculum has been extended for three further years, as part of a multimillion-pound package to support arts in schools.

Read more here

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07 December - West End laments government Covid messaging as footfall falls flat

The West End has bemoaned government messaging on Covid as it reported no uptick in footfall last week.

New West End Company, which represents 600 brands in the area, said yesterday footfall was still down 30 per cent on pre-pandemic levels.

Read more here

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06 December - Moulin Rouge! flies in US talent to cover sick UK cast

Producers of Moulin Rouge! The Musical are flying a performer from the US to the UK, to help cover roles played by cast members who have caught Covid.

Read more here

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06 December - An atmosphere of threat lingers over the arts - and it’s created by the government

A sign of a functioning society is its artists being free to create work that pushes against prevailing political tides

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06 December - Theatres report refund requests following mask mandates

Major theatres have reported audiences requesting refunds after issuing mandates last week that face coverings must be worn inside their venues.

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06 December - Michael Sheen turns himself into a 'not-for-profit' actor

Michael Sheen said he has turned himself into a “not-for-profit actor”.

The Welsh actor and activist sold his houses to ensure the 2019 Homeless World Cup went ahead in Cardiff.

Now the Hollywood star has pledged to carry on using the money he earns from acting to fund more projects.

Read more here

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06 December - ‘We are in limbo’: banned Belarus theatre troupe forced into exile

For 16 years, the Belarus Free Theatre has advocated for freedom of expression, equality and democracy through underground performances from ad hoc locations to audiences hungry for an alternative voice to the country’s repressive dictator, Alexander Lukashenko.

Read more here

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06 December - Compulsory mask wearing could give wary theatregoers confidence to return

For an industry battling back valiantly after the pandemic over the past 20 months, the Omicron variant couldn’t come at a worse time: in the run-up to Christmas, traditionally a very strong period at the box office.

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05 December - Covid’s not behind us but panto must go on

Stephen Donnelly is set to be the star of this season’s panto. The health minister will enter stage left, as only good fairies come from the right in this ancient but intensely topical art form. Donnelly will be this year’s baddie, to be booed and hissed, after he told parents to choose between playdates and panto for their children. I take his point, but there are some things you can only lose on.

Read more here

BBC News logo

04 December - East of England study shows theatre freelancers hit by pandemic

The coronavirus lockdowns have had a major impact on theatre freelancers leaving them pessimistic for the future, says the leader of a study.

Dr Holly Maples, of the University of Essex. said the “stops and starts” of the the lockdown prevented freel