by Geoffrey Mogridge

ICONIC halls and theatres are teetering on the brink of collapse. Several West End and regional venues have already announced mass redundancies. Nearly four months since their work dried up overnight, thousands of freelance actors, dancers, musicians, singers, and stage hands are struggling to put food on the table.

The government’s support package, although probably too late to save the closures and job losses already announced, will nonetheless be broadly welcomed. Whether the £1.57 billion combination of grants and loans will secure the future of grass roots gig venues and smaller independent museums, as well as the London and regional “crown jewel” organisations, will become clearer as details of the package emerge.

Meanwhile, agonising decisions still have to be made: Last week, Opera North bowed to the inevitable and postponed seven upcoming autumn and winter productions until the 2021-22 season. True to their restless spirit of innovation, the Leeds based company will instead announce a range of live musical and operatic performances tailored to the government’s continuing social distancing restrictions.

Theatres will soon have to decide if their pantomimes can go ahead. Some managements have already cancelled or postponed Christmas shows. Even in normal times the virtual certainty of packing your theatre for a long running panto or festive musical is enough to compensate for loss making productions during the year. For some venues, a panto cancellation is therefore potentially catastrophic.

Additional to the £1.57 billion support package, the government has unveiled a separate scheme for local authority managed leisure and cultural assets such as Leeds Town Hall, the Leeds Carriageworks and Bradford Theatres including Ilkley’s King’s Hall and Winter Garden. Where losses are more than 5% of a council’s planned income from sales, fees and charges, the government will reimburse 75p for every pound of revenue lost. Unprecedented measures for these momentous times.