Andrew Lloyd Webber warns the arts are at ‘point of no return’


Andrew Lloyd Webber spent £ 100,000 on pilot show

The arts are at “point of no return” following the damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Lord Lloyd-Webber said.

The composer and theater manager told MPs that it would be economically “impossible” to run theaters with social distancing.

“We just need to get our arts sector back on track,” he told the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee.

“We are at the point of no return. ”

In July, Lord Lloyd-Webber hosted a concert at the London Palladium as an experiment to see if the social distancing performances were viable.

He spent £ 100,000 on the pilot project in the hope that it could get the theater business started.

He had initially hoped to show that theaters can safely open at full capacity.

However, the concert had to go on with hundreds of empty seats, to comply with the government’s social distancing guidelines.

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Andy Paradise


Lord Lloyd-Webber hosted a social distancing Beverley Knight concert at the London Palladium in July

Since then, two new major indoor theater productions have opened in London, but also with limited audience capacity.

The monologues Talking Heads at the Bridge Theater and Sleepless at the Troubadour in Wembley Park recently opened.

However, most other theaters, including those in the West End, have yet to reopen.

“There comes a time when we really can’t go on anymore,” said Lord Lloyd-Webber.

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“Theater is a labor intensive business. In many ways putting on a show is almost a labor of love.

“Very few shows have hit the jackpot like Hamilton, Lion King or Phantom Of The Opera do. ”

He added that theatrical productions “don’t look like the cinema, you can’t just open the building”.

The government announced a £ 1.57bn support package earlier this year to support the arts, which has been widely praised by the industry.

But Lord Lloyd-Webber stressed the importance of naming a date theaters can reopen.

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Media captionAndrew Lloyd Webber once said that “theater cannot function with social distancing”

Lord Lloyd-Webber also discussed the “critical” importance of clean air, adding that the air inside his theaters is cleaner than outside.

“I am absolutely convinced that the air in the London Palladium and all my theaters is cleaner than the air outside. ”

He also suggested he could move his production of Cinderella from the UK to a different location “where people are a little more helpful.”

It was originally scheduled to open in London’s West End this month.

Rebecca Kane Burton, General Manager of Andrew Lloyd Webber Theaters, LW Theaters, said, “We don’t want to open theaters on a socially distant basis. I do not intend to open buildings at 30% capacity. ”

She said the past few months have been “devastating and catastrophic” for the industry.

“These are really bad and catastrophic times and we have to find a way out,” she said.

“It was disheartening that the pilot was not seen later as a way to fully reopen. ”

She added: “We need time to plan. We can’t turn on the theater like a tap. Christmas is on hold as we speak. “

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Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has suggested rapid testing could be part of a solution for theaters

In the Mail last Sunday, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said the government is currently working on a project that would see theater return in time for pantomime season at Christmas.

“My officials are working on ‘Operation Sleeping Beauty’ which aims to bring back some of the theater magic for families over Christmas, and I hope to share more progress soon,” he said.

Mr Dowden also suggested that rapid testing could help ensure theaters return.

“Testing is the key in the short term until we find an effective vaccine,” he said.

“We are making exciting progress in rapid turnaround testing, where daytime coronavirus testing could give people who test negative a pass to visit the theater that evening.

‘On your knees’

Speaking on the BBC news channel, actor Simon Callow said this type of test was “the dream”.

“This is exactly the sort of thing we need to explore. ”

He also said the leave program – which has helped some in the arts industry – is expected to be extended beyond October.

This was picked up by the director of the Theaters Trust, Jon Morgan.

“Without an early date for the full reopening of theaters and with the holiday program ending in October, we will see more layoffs and the permanent closure of more theaters,” he said in a statement.

Lucy Noble, artistic and commercial director of the Royal Albert Hall and president of the National Arenas Association, told the DCMS committee that there were “huge consequences for venues of not being able to put on performances … serious financial consequences. “.

She added: ‘All the venues are on their knees financially … When Oliver Dowden announced the £ 1.57 billion bailout, the Royal Albert Hall was hailed as one of the crown jewels that this package would save.

“We were told that we are not entitled to any subsidy.

“We are only eligible for a loan. We have already taken out £ 10 million in loans. We prefer not to go into debt anymore. “

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