We continue to face huge challenges ahead

Unsurprisingly theatres come right at the end of the new Government roadmap. In a nutshell the reopening of hospitality and leisure spaces sits within step three, which will come into play no earlier than 4th July, with the commencement of each new step depending entirely on the outcomes of the previous. 

At Harrogate Theatre we have now updated our closure message in line with the new July date as we continue to track all the latest guidance and explore various financial scenarios and models. 

Step three on the roadmap addresses those ‘high risk’ businesses, who will be expected to be deemed ‘COVID-19 Secure’ - a set of guidelines outlining best safety practice. Industry-specific task forces are being established, and the Government is closely monitoring reopening strategies and outcomes as the global drive to reopen towns and cities gets underway. 

Within the new guidance it is acknowledged that some venues may still not be able to re-open safely at this point, or may be able to open safely only in part.

I’ve been looking at socially distanced theatre and what that looks like. In the US The Barrington Stage Company have made plans to reopen in August with social distancing measures in place. These include selling seats on every other row with two seats between them; making face masks compulsory when in the building; defining distinct entrances and exits; not having a designated interval to avoid toilet queues; washing surfaces between shows; having plentiful hand sanitiser points; and programming a season entirely made up of solo shows. This all sounds great and logical, until you realise it drops maximum possible capacity to just a third of the norm - the financial implications of which cannot be ignored.

As a final point for this week, Harrogate Theatre has taken part in a national survey of audiences, called ‘After the Interval’.  This allows us to see what our audiences think and compare their responses to the national audiences. When asked what they are most looking forward to about attending events again in the future, 74% of our audience are most looking forward to supporting Harrogate Theatre, which is 20% higher than the national audience. In addition 26% of our audience are actively booking for future events, this is 10% higher than the national audience.

As we continue to face huge challenges ahead, we are grateful more than ever for the support of our incredible local community - thank you.

Written by Rachel Auty, first published in the Harrogate Advertiser on THU 14 MAY.