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Nuffield Southampton Theatres to close amid COVID-19 crisis

Nuffield Southampton Theatres (NST) is to permanently close after going into administration in May.

The decision to shutter the two theatre sites – and make 86 staff redundant – was made after it was announced that four short-listed potential buyers were each unable to meet conditions set by stakeholders.

The original Nuffield Theatre and contemporary Studio 144 venues have been a cultural landmark in Southampton and the south coast region of England for more than 50 years, but administrators said the postponement and cancellation of performances due to the COVID-19 pandemic led to severe cash flow issues.

In a joint statement, Southampton City Council, Arts Council England and University of Southampton said: “Having carefully considered the applications we received against the parameters agreed in our shared criteria for a future operator for Studio 144, we concluded that none demonstrated the level of sector and local knowledge, business sustainability or strategic experience required to deliver a resilient and collaborative model for the communities of Southampton, and all contained a significant level of risk.

“Therefore, we have unfortunately not been able to progress discussions with any of the parties. We continue to work together as stakeholders on an alternative, sustainable resolution that builds on the city’s cultural ambitions and benefits its communities.”

Since May, administrators Smith & Williamson received more than 30 expressions of interest, with 19 non-disclosure agreements signed before applications were whittled down to four potential buyers.

While no buyer was approved through the formal process, Sam Hodges, NST’s artistic director, said in a statement “this doesn’t necessarily spell the end of the Nuffield theatre as a cultural entity in the heart of the city. Conversations are ongoing between stakeholders and interested parties and there is hope yet.”

Dating back to 1964, the original Nuffield Theatre featured a 500-seat auditorium. It was due to temporarily close in April 2020 as part of an extensive refurbishment programme at the University of Southampton’s Highfield Campus.

The NST City venue, which opened in February 2018, features the 450-seat Studio 144 as well as a 133-seat studio, screening facilities, rehearsal and workshop spaces and a bar and restaurant.

Joint administrator Greg Palfrey said: “This is a sad day for the theatre industry in the UK, bringing the final curtain down on nearly 60 years of history of NST as a venerable performing arts institution in Southampton.”

UK Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has come under increasing pressure from the industry in recent days to provide emergency funding for theatres.

A government spokesperson stated last week: “We are doing all we can to support these industries through government grants, loans, the furlough scheme and the Arts Council’s £160m emergency response package. We are also considering ways in which we may be able to support it further on top of the unprecedented financial assistance we have already provided.”


Lawyers representing Major League Baseball (MLB) and ticket operators including Ticketmaster have asked to stay all discovery in a $1bn class action over COVID-19 refunds.

MLB, its teams and representatives for Ticketmaster, Live Nation, StubHub and Last Minute Transactions have asked U.S. District Court for the Central District of California to reject the plaintiffs’ requirement for information over ticket sales for the 2020 season. MLB representatives said it intends to file motions to compel arbitration and to dismiss, adding “the burden that those requests would impose is not justified in light of the very real prospect that upcoming motions practice will end this matter.”

The suit, which was filed California in April, alleges violations of the state’s Consumer Legal Remedies Act and Unfair Competition Law and of civil conspiracy.

Plaintiffs are demanding a refund of ticket costs and ancillary fees for games that have not been played. The complaint alleges that at least $1 billion in consumer capital is tied up in tickets to games that are suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.


Spanish football chiefs have abandoned proposals by which fans could return to matches before the end of the 2019-20 season.

LaLiga president Javier Tebas, who has previously advocated a return, told reporters that the congregation of fans inside and outside venues was not safe at present.

“Right now, La Liga is not prioritising the return of supporters to stadiums,” he said.

LaLiga recently drew up a draft protocol in the event that the government’s department for sport approved their return.

Image: Nuffield Southampton Theatres