A London-based think tank has proposed discount vouchers and outdoor performances as recommendations to help the West End theatre industry recover more quickly from COVID-19.

The Centre for London has laid out a recovery plan for the arts district to encourage visitors back to theatres, live performance venues and shops.

The think tank added that as COVID-19 has suppressed demand, West End jobs have become some of the most vulnerable jobs in London. The West End reportedly accounts for one in five hospitality jobs in the capital city, one in six jobs in the arts and one in eight jobs in retail.

The Centre for London has suggested that local landowners should stage weekly ‘London fringe’ events across the West End’s streets, to create new spaces for outdoor performances that respect physical distancing rules – in addition to indoor venues reopening.

In addition, it has urged the government to introduce culture vouchers to incentivise visits once indoor performances reopen.

Another recommendation is that London & Partners, the international trade, investment and promotion agency for London, with support from VisitBritain, should help the city’s cultural institutions reach international audiences, and prepare a campaign to showcase its offering to international visitors.

It also states that boroughs, Business Improver Districts and landowners should make a concerted effort to make use of the West End’s numerous vacant spaces left empty by COVID-19 closures. It is suggesting owners of those empty spaces offer them to artists, chefs or performers at reduced prices for residencies.

Centre for London is also calling on the government to offer tax breaks to startup companies that move into empty premises, similar to those given to businesses in enterprise zones.

Richard Brown, the deputy director at the Centre for London, said: “The West End has shown itself to be resilient, but needs help in the coming months,” who added the area needed to be able to “sustain the rich mix of places, events and venues that give it human scale and character, as well as opening up space for new ideas and new enterprises.”

An estimated 2,700 jobs have already been lost in London theatres, according to Bectu, the trade union for the creative industries.

Image: Marc BarrotCC BY-NC-ND 2.0 UK