Coronavirus Closes Theatre Doors in Bristol and Across the UK

  • Coronavirus Closes Theatre Doors Across The Country – London and UK Touring Productions Were Hit By The Decision
  • Bristol Hippodrome Closes Opening Night Of We Will Rock You
  • Bectu says the cost of protecting the public from the spread of coronavirus can’t be carried by theatre workers on zero hours contracts.
  • Petition set up to protect arts venues and save jobs
  • A statement from Bristol Old Vic and Tobacco Factory Theatres expected this morning

Theatres across the country closed their doors to the public this evening, after official government advice this afternoon recommended that people should avoid gatherings and crowded places including pubs, clubs and theatres.

The Society of London Theatre (SOLT) said that from this evening, including performances taking place tonight, that SOLT and UK Theatre venues will be closed until further notice. They will only re-open ‘following government recommendations’.

The news came as a blow to audience members arriving to see shows around the country.


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Theatre audiences arrive at The Bristol Hippodrome this evening to find We Will Rock You cancelled.

In a statement, The Bristol Hippodrome said: ‘In response to the Prime Minister’s statement this evening, advising the UK public to avoid unnecessary social contact, including in theatres, we regret to inform you that shows in all Ambassador Theatre Group UK venues are temporarily suspended with immediate effect.

‘We understand that this decision comes as a disappointment, and a massive inconvenience for those of you already on the way to a venue this evening, but ultimately we all want the same thing: the health and safety of our communities, and we believe this is the correct decision to make.’

The Hippodrome said that theatre-goers will be given an update within the next 48 hours regarding the ‘exchange of tickets’ and that it is consulting with industry bodies and the government over the ‘immediate future’.

Staff were on hand to advise audience arriving to see this evening’s performance to return to the point of sale for advice.

An unfortunate communication blunder from Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG) saw Bristol Hippodrome audiences warned an hour before the show started that it was going to be cancelled but then a short time after they had been sent away, they received a second message inaccurately saying the show was back on.

The We Will Rock You UK & Ireland Tour Twitter account said: ‘Unfortunately this weeks performances of ‘ We Will Rock You’ @BristolHipp have been cancelled, please contact your point of sale for anyone holding tickets for this week, we will update you when we know more! Thank you! Team WWRY’

The Society of London Theatre (SOLT) continued: ‘We would like to commend the dedicated hard work from everyone in theatres across London and the UK over the last few weeks to continue to entertain and delight people for as long as they safely could. There are over 290,000 individuals working in the theatre industry across the UK, and the closure of theatres and public venues will have a devastating impact.

‘At this time, we must come together to support each other. Theatre as an industry relies on its audiences entirely to exist. We will rely on you now more than ever.’

The organisation added that while ticket holders are all entitled to a refund for cancelled performances, the ‘financial toll’ that refunding tickets would have on the ‘small, charitably funded theatres is vast’. SOLT urges anyone who can afford to donate the cost of their ticket to support the stricken industry to do so.

The news has been a nightmare for industry staff, from theatre technicians to front of house staff, many of whom are self employed or work on zero hours contracts.

Head of Broadcasting, Entertainment, Cinematograph and Theatre Union (Bectu) Philippa Childs said this evening:

“The cost of protecting the public from the spread of coronavirus can’t be carried by theatre workers, many of whom are on zero hours contracts.

“The government needs to be clearer in its guidance and its language so that theatre companies can claim insurance to ensure that staff are not left without pay for weeks on end. It is failing to provide the clarity it needs to and this must be addressed immediately.

“Bectu will continue to push hard for better protection for freelancers and vulnerable workers including zero hours workers to try to reach an agreement with employers as quickly as possible.”

A petition has been set up by Olivia Fawkes, proposing the government passes emergency legislation to force public spaces, including pubs, clubs, theatres and cinemas, to close so they are able to claim on insurance policies to cover the loss of their income.

She writes: ‘Because the government has merely advised the public to avoid pubs, clubs and theatres, the proprietors of these venues will not be able to make any claim on insurance for loss of income. Staff will lose their jobs and many pubs and other venues that are already just about keeping afloat will close for good. London is already noticeably empty – London Underground has reported that passenger numbers have declined 19% so far, during the outbreak.  This will only get worse following the announcement today.

‘Irrespective of whether the advice to avoid venues is the best way to prevent the spread of the virus or not, the government needs to realise that the effect on venues and their staff will be immediate. Without the ability to claim on insurance, smaller venues such as pubs and clubs will be laying off staff immediately before closing their doors. There has been no mention of any kind of support for such venues or their staff.’

Statements from the Bristol Old Vic and Tobacco Factory Theatres are due imminently.

Artistic Director of Tobacco Factory Theatres, Mike Tweddle wrote on Twitter this morning: ‘Announcement coming this morning from @tftheatres please bear with us. An unimaginably challenging time ahead. Great admiration for the courage, care & solidarity of our sector in the midst of a lack of govt clarity. Let’s do all we can to support those most hurt by this. Love x’

Last night, major international dance venue in London, Sadler’s Wells announced they would be closed for up to 12 weeks.