The capital’s creative industries are back in business today – desperately trying to make up for lost time and money during this crucial Christmas season. Despite hopes of a return to normal with the introduction of the vaccine from next week, many arts organizations are still facing shutdowns or extreme financial pressures due to months of lockdowns.
Here’s how to support the arts in London under Tier 2 regulations.
Among the hardest hit are the London theaters, whose traditional Christmas season is severely affected by the limit values for an audience of 1,000 or 50 percent, whichever is lower.
The audience cap is already being pressured by the industry, which says it is crippling its finances and wants another increase.
West End legend Michael Ball said the “arbitrary” boundaries needed to be “revised” by the government. Ball, who starred in the new staged concert version of Les Miserables that opens alongside Carrie Hope Fletcher and Alfie Boe on Friday (5th), said he would not be returning to work if he didn’t think it was safe. He said, “I have seen the extraordinary amount of time, ingenuity, and financial investment that has gone into making sure our theaters are safe for both the audience and the people who work in them. “I wouldn’t want to go back to them myself if I wasn’t sure all precautions have been taken, but every venue is different and a random number of 50% or less is too arbitrary in my opinion and should be checked again. “Of course I want as many people as possible to safely enjoy the wonderful work in my industry and show that we are responsible, indomitable and definitely viable.”
Jonathan Kent, Imelda Staunton and Michael Ball
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Nica Burns, who owns several West End theaters including the Apollo and the Garrick, opened their venues at a loss ahead of the second lockdown and said she too wanted to increase capacity.
It comes after impresario Cameron Mackintosh said audience limits would “put a massive strain on” Les Miserables’ new appearances. The show was planned to be played in front of 757 people, but that was further reduced to under 600, which according to Mackintosh would turn a show that would have become a “significant loss” in fact.
The government has promised to review the tier system every 14 days, but even if London were downgraded to tier 1, the 50 percent limit would remain and if a move to tier 3 the theaters would be completely closed. The DCMS said it took into account the latest scientific and medical advice in setting the limits, but said the cap will continue to be reviewed.
Other shows that open with capacity restrictions include A Christmas Carol at the Dominion Theater starring ex-EastEnder Jacqueline Jossa, which opens on Monday (December 7th), and the drag queen crime comedy Death Drop, which opens at Garrick on Friday .
The Bridge Theater at City Hall also shows a Christmas story, which opens on December 3rd.
The National Theater will reopen next Friday (11) with his pantomime Dick Whittington. The pantomime at the London Palladium opens the next day.
Tate Modern and Tate Britain reopen today, but all visitors are encouraged to pre-book season tickets online. Group visits are not permitted and masks must be worn in the galleries, which have a one-way system built in. The cloakrooms are closed and no paper maps or hiking trails are issued and there are no guided tours.
The National Gallery also opens today
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The National Gallery will also open today and offer a ticket sales program. Visitors will have the first opportunity to see a new exhibition by Artist in Residence Rosalind Nashashibi and the 25th annual “Take One Picture” exhibition of works by elementary school children.
The Wallace Collection opens a day later (Thursday 3rd) and restricts access with a ticket scheme, although visitors can book in person if availability allows.
The Serpentine Gallery opens on Saturday (December 5th) with an exhibition dedicated to New York painter Jennifer Packer.
The Saatchi Gallery near Sloane Square opens next Wednesday.
Like galleries, museums can open in tier 2, but must adhere to social distancing measures and rules, which means lower capacity.
All major London venues – including the Science Museum – will open on Thursday.
The British Museum will reopen on Sunday just in time for the 20th anniversary of its Great Court. Earlier this week, the facility announced that 113 million people had walked under the famous glass roof.
Visitors to the Natural History Museum can still catch the Wildlife Photographer of 2020. Starting today (Wed), tickets for the blockbuster Fantastic Beasts: The Wonder of Nature – produced in collaboration with Warner Bros – will go on sale from December 9th.
Meanwhile, the V&A in South Kensington will be showing more than 100 drawings of rainbows made by children during the pandemic starting Thursday. The exhibition “Everything will be fine: Children’s rainbow from Lockdown” is part of the museum’s broader “Pandemic Object” initiative. In the meantime, the Bags: Inside Out exhibition on the history of accessories will open from December 12th.
Originally, tier 2 restrictions meant that live venues could be opened with capacity restrictions – but alcohol could not be sold. While this was also the case with theatrical performances, industry representatives argued that this would affect live music events in particular.
The Music Venue Trust stood up for the government and that decision was overturned on Monday after evidence was presented that grassroots music venues derive about 65 percent of their income from wet sales. Punters with show tickets can buy a drink from now until 10 p.m. on the evening of their visit.
Mark Dayvd, CEO of Music Venue Trust, said, “If music is the food of love, keep playing! We are very pleased that we have been heard and that guidelines have been issued that make it clear that ticketing events in grassroots music venues can be offered for sale in Tier 2 with alcohol. ”
However, for many venues it will still not be possible to open with such severe restrictions on audience numbers. Like theater, they’re capped at 1,000 or 50 percent, whichever is less. There are a handful of options, however.
The Barbican will reopen today (wedding) with a series of celebratory concerts scheduled throughout the month. Acts from Katie Melua to Sir Simon Rattle and the London Symphony Orchestra play in front of a smaller, restricted audience.
There are also some performances at the Royal Albert Hall
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The Royal Albert Hall also hosts some performances – including Guy Baker’s Big Bang Christmas and Christmas carols from December 18.
The London Cabaret Club is preparing to reopen its doors on Friday with a new dining and entertainment experience for the festive season – Christmas Royale – loosely based on the James Bond franchise.
Wigmore Hall will open on Monday (7) for a lunchtime performance by the Doric String Quartet. The capacity for the pre-Christmas period is 150.