OTLEY Courthouse has warned that extra support will be needed to help arts venues survive the impact of COVID-19.

In last week’s edition of the Wharfedale & Aireborough Observer contributor Geoffrey Mogridge outlined his concerns for the future of local theatres.

Like most businesses entertainment venues have been closed since late March - but while ‘non-essential’ shops are set to re-open from June 15 the Government has as yet given no indication about when cinemas, theatres and the like can restart.

When they do they will have to operate with reduced audiences due to social distancing rules. Otley Courthouse Chair Dave Robson believes these difficulties can be overcome: but only if enough help is provided.

He said: “It is undoubtedly the case that the UK will take longer to recover than most other countries. Furthermore the arts, music and hospitality sectors, because of the nature of their businesses, will be amongst the last to fully re-open.

“If the Government does not respond to these sectoral differences with a sector specific approach to continued financial support then, despite the best efforts of everyone, we will see venues failing.

“Months of financial support will be for nothing if venues are then allowed to wither away in the final weeks of their lockdown, or in the first few weeks of low capacity opening.

“People are of course free to write to their MPs to ask for their support in ensuring that businesses that are forced to stay closed for longest, and then only reopen in a limited way, get extended support. We aim to be here when this is over - but we will need some help.”

Mr Robson is also keen to stress that the Courthouse has been busy behind the scenes during lockdown. He added: “There is a hive of activity going on to do everything that we can to be ready with a scintillating programme of events to kick-start our next season: whenever that might be, and however it might need to be run.

“We are ensuring that we stay in touch with the people who use us, posting out information about arts and cultural events and ideas online, and have joined forces with other venues to promote our online comedy evenings. There have also been online quizzes, calls for artwork, and music recitals.

“Our Maker Space members have been hard at work raising money in order to produce face visors, scrubs and face masks for the NHS and carers. And our volunteers have stepped up to the challenge of providing a COVID-19 helpline.”

The Courthouse - which generates a turnover of £250,000 while receiving an annual public subsidy of just £7,000 - has also been busy applying for grants while cutting costs.