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Theatres in social distancing plea

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Arts organisations say the 2m rule places pressure on an industry which is already struggling to survive

Struggling arts venues have made a plea for social distancing guidelines to be reviewed.

Eleven of Scotland’s leading performing arts venues, with the Federation of Scottish Theatre, have collectively called on the Scottish Government to urgently review social distancing requirements required in their venues as coronavirus restrictions continue to be eased. They have said that without a change to the guidance, significantly more public sector finance will be required to protect an already deeply damaged sector.

With the furlough scheme ending in September, many freelancers across the sector still excluded from support and desperate for work, and audiences indicating they are confident and keen to return, the group has said action is urgently needed to enable venues to play their role in the recovery of the economy, jobs and the nation’s wellbeing. The Scottish Theatre Producing Consortium is made up of the following nationwide venues: Aberdeen Performing Arts (His Majesty’s Theatre, The Music Hall and The Lemon Tree); Eden Court Highlands; Dundee Rep & Scottish Dance Theatre; Pitlochry Festival Theatre; Horsecross Arts (Perth Theatre & Concert Hall); Macrobert Arts Centre; Capital Theatres (The Festival Theatre, The King’s Theatre and The Studio); Traverse Theatre; Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh; The Tron and Citizens Theatre.

In a recent survey conducted by the Federation of Scottish Theatre, 96% of members responded that it is not economically viable for them to reopen while that level of social distancing is required.

VenueNormal CapacityRestricted Capacity at 2m+Restricted Capacity at 1m
Festival Theatre, Edinburgh1,915401 (21%)873 (46%)
His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen1,073193 (17%)397 (37%)
Perth Concert Hall1,200195 (16%)353 (30%)
Empire Theatre, Eden Court Highlands869148 (17%)321 (36%)
Macrobert Arts Centre, Sterling47892 (19%)186 (39%)
Dundee Rep Theatre45580 (18%)110 (24%)
Tron Theatre, Glasgow23614 (6%)60 (25%)

In addition to the 2m+ guidance, the venues have said the continued uncertainty in the sector which has no clear route-map of when social distancing requirements might be lifted, or eased, is having a significantly negative impact on the ability for venues to plan. England has announced theatres can open at 50% capacity from 17 May with a plan for them to return to full capacity from 21 June.

James Mackenzie-Blackman, chief executive of Eden Court Highlands and chair of the Scottish Touring Theatre Consortium, said: “The Scottish Government has a proven track-record of understanding the value that the arts and culture bring to communities the length-and-breadth of our country.

“The consortium is grateful for the intervention of the cabinet secretary, and for the reassurance from the First Minister that culture will play a critical role in the nation’s Covid recovery, but that will only be possible if we are able to plan for the months ahead.

“We are a creative and professional sector, confident that we can safely return audiences to our venues. We urge the government to recognise that the current guidance on social distancing makes a meaningful re-start of the sector almost impossible and to engage fully with the sector to address this.”

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: "A new administration is in the process of being formed and the First Minister has been clear the focus will be on recovery from all aspects of the pandemic.

"The First Minister will provide an update on the latest steps out of lockdown today (Tuesday 11 May).”



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