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‘Operation Sleeping Beauty’ aims to bring back indoor live events in London

Sowing seeds of hope in a world of despair, Oliver Dowden’s piece on opening UK Theatres is met with both, positivity and sarcasm. A “long way ahead” but it’s the way forward from here.
“DCMS Ministerial Team” by Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is marked with CC PDM 1.0

Oliver Dowden brings hope with his new piece

Artists find more freedom in going from the three-metre, to the two-metre, to the one-metre rule on stage, said U.K. Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden. 

As no financial security and uncertainty loom over London’s West End, operation “Sleeping Beauty” has come across as a new hope for those who share a love of art.

Real Deal

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden announced that he is working on reopening theatres before Christmas with several health measures being planned and taken under “Operation Sleeping Beauty”.

In a detailed account of his work in the past and future prospects, he stated that in addition to the £1.57 billion investment made by the  Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, there are officials working on “Operation Sleeping Beauty” which shall ensure that theatres and performing art venues are able to “fill in seats with larger numbers.” 

“I won’t allow the UK to be a laggard in the race to return live theatre. If we cherish the hustle and bustle of our cities and our vibrant urban economy, then we need to show our cultural organisations and businesses support now….” wrote Dowden.

Tech and Tests

The Cultural Secretary recalling his childhood memories of watching shows with his grandma seemed nostalgic and all the more motivated to revive theatre in West End, London. He elaborated on his plans and the aims and objectives for the future of the sector. “will throw everything at making them work,” he said.

“My top task this autumn is working with arts, sports, and medical experts to find a way to get full audiences back in safely. Testing will be key, we will embrace tech to help, and we’ll fully examine all options,” Dowden added.

Sides of the same coin

While the secretary’s remarks were as seen as “long-awaited optimism” by some, there were considerable doubts on bringing about a ‘non-socially distanced reopening’

“He is right. We are ready to accept his challenge and to make our venues COVID-secure so we can open our theatres fully without social distancing. We can’t wait to be able to welcome our performers back to our stages, and our audiences into our theatres,” said Producer Nica Burns as a response to the article.

“Thank you, Mr Dowden, help us to open without social distancing as quickly as possible,” she added.

On the other hand, commenting on Dowden’s piece, incoming Equity general secretary Paul W. Fleming said that the news would have been more welcomed “if it weren’t delivered in such a chaotic way.”

He further added that the ‘non-socially distanced reopening’ would only be possible if the government would provide some financial aid to the theatre workforce and producers bearing in mind the considerable health precautions to be taken. 

“Equity is particularly concerned at the suggestion that the government will make demands for ‘dynamic pricing’ of theatre tickets without any additional funding available for theatres. Large swathes of traditional theatregoers are still making shielding-style precautions, and so capacity can only be realised by encouraging new audiences. This can only happen with meaningful investment,”  he said.

Sorry, closed till 2021

“National Theatre” by poppet with a camera is licensed under CC BY 2.0 Covid-19 forces theatres to shut down till 2021.

With the onslaught of the pandemic and it’s long term effects, several theatres and performing arts venues have been forced to shut down until 2021. The constant fear of returning back to lockdown is gradually emerging and other than the ticket pricing income, many artists have no other means of financial support.

“Without a clear timeframe for Stage 5, planning for the future has been almost impossible. Sadly many theatres have now cancelled all programming for the rest of this year, but the sooner we can get detail – and concrete dates – on reopening without social distancing, the sooner we can plan and set about rebuilding our businesses,” said Curve chief executive Chris Stafford.

The Path Ahead

“We’re going to have to innovate and be bold to save the things we love.”

Oliver Dowden

While the reopening of theatres may not come at zero risks like any other reopening akin to public parks, airports and gyms, it is no reason to not do anything about the hard-hit Arts industry.

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