Theatre impresario Lord Lloyd Webber has said he is prepared to break the law and risk arrest by opening his venues without social distancing later this month regardless of the UK Government’s decision on reopening.
The celebrated composer, whose LW Theatres group owns seven West End venues, told the Telegraph newspaper that he has gained access to confidential documents related to test events that prove COVID is not spread at theatres. He repeated his recent threat of legal action should the Government attempt to extend social distancing restrictions beyond June 21, but also said he would open his venues and risk arrest.
“We are going to open, come hell or high water,” he said. When asked what if the Government demands a postponement, Lloyd Webber said: “We will say: come to the theatre and arrest us.”
He added: “I’ve seen the science from the tests, don’t ask me how. They all prove that theatres are completely safe, the virus is not carried there. If the Government ignore their own science, we have the mother of all legal cases against them. If Cinderella couldn’t open, we’d go, ‘Look, either we go to law about it or you’ll have to compensate us’.”
Lloyd Webber’s first new West End show in five years, Cinderella, is due to begin previews later this month before its opening night in mid-July. However, he said he cannot afford to open the £6m show at a reduced capacity.
The Telegraph story claims Lloyd Webber is spending £1m a month to keep his six theatres dark, and that he is helping to fund outgoings through the remortgaging of his London home and a £50m loan.
Meanwhile, the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) has said it is working alongside key partners within different sectors to collectively challenge the Government if it announces next Monday (June 14) that reopening is to be delayed.
The NTIA said in a statement that an extension of restrictions would be “catastrophic” for hospitality and entertainment businesses that have been closed since March 2020 and spent millions on preparations for reopening. It added it will “aggressively push back on any changes to the roadmap” in tandem with other impacted sectors.
Michael Kill, NTIA chief executive, said: “Night time economy businesses have waited patiently for their opportunity to open for over 15 months, many have not survived, some are on a cliff edge, hundreds of thousands of jobs have been lost, a huge pool of talent has been swept away and left to suffer extreme financial hardship.
“We should not underestimate the importance of June 21 to these businesses, employees, entertainers and freelancers, a day when they are given back there freedom to trade, livelihoods, careers, social well being and the day that the Government gives culture back to the UK.
“These businesses and individuals have adapted, overcome and survived for an exceptional length of time with the bare bones of support, and have arrived at this opportunity to find that it could be taken from them, let’s not torture them by leaving them hanging on until Monday.
“It is clear from a recent flash poll of members that businesses are vulnerable, with 9 in 10 businesses feeling this will have a critical impact on their survival.”