Lord Lloyd Webber tells LBC theatres have been made a 'sacrificial lamb'

25 June 2021, 09:12 | Updated: 25 June 2021, 11:22

By Asher McShane

Andrew Lloyd Webber has told LBC that the theatre industry has been made a "sacrificial lamb" as he renewed calls for the government to hand over the results from its coronavirus pilot events scheme.

Composer and theatre impresario Lord Lloyd Webber and leading entertainment figures have launched legal action to force ministers to publish details of covid pilot events.

Ahead of a court hearing, Lord Lloyd Webber told Nick Ferrari today: “I just want theatre open everywhere. The regional theatres are on their knees. The performers, the musicians, it’s terrible.”

"It is a year to the day since we did the first pilot event at the London Palladium. We still haven’t seen a single thing from that trial.

“Public Health England officials don’t have a clue about theatre and how they’re operated. We’ve somehow been made a sacrificial lamb.

“You can have a pub that can put a badly ventilated marquee in its garden… of course you’re going to see infections rise.

“I just don’t know what we can do now, but I heard last night that the judge has accelerated the hearing.

“The government hasn’t treated us in the way it should. We just want to see what’s in this report.”

Lord Lloyd Webber accused the government of not "rating culture" and said that he has never spoken to or met with Boris Johnson.

"It's a little odd isn't it, I have been around for over 50 years doing theatre.

"I'd say to him [the prime minister], the country really, really needs its theatre. I don't think they get that. Without our theatre, without live entertainment our lives are immensely poorer."

A government spokesman said: "We understand a delay to full reopening is challenging for live events but we are helping our creative industries and sporting bodies through it.

"We have made a record £2 billion of support available for culture and £600m for sports, on top of billions more through other government schemes.

"We will publish the results of the programme before the move to Step 4, as we have always promised to."

Event organisers had expected the findings of the report to be made available last week, but publication was delayed without explanation, causing chaos for the planning of shows and large events for the remainder of summer.

Entertainment industry figures say they are being treated unfairly compared to major sporting events, which have been allowed to go ahead in front of large crowds.

"The short-term hit is stark," said the live event industries in a statement yesterday.

"Research indicates that the potential four-week delay to reopening will lead to about 5,000 live music gigs being cancelled, as well as numerous theatre productions across the country, costing hundreds of millions of pounds in lost income."

West End and Broadway producer Sonia Friedman said: "The Government continues to display a wilful lack of understanding of the extraordinary value of the theatre industry and the way in which we operate.

"We can only fully reopen once. We need absolute clarity on when and how we can fully reopen - to bring a show back to full production takes months in planning to rehearse and to build a box office advance.

Andrew Lloyd Webber has launched legal action against the government
Andrew Lloyd Webber has launched legal action against the government. Picture: LBC

"It is also incumbent on the Government to underwrite the potential losses riding on its words and provide an insurance scheme to theatre and live entertainment that it, readily and rightly, provided to the film and television industries.

"Right now, the Government's delay and lack of provision and support for the commercial sector has prohibited our reopening in full, but its dithering and lack of clarity is preventing us even being able to make a plan as to how we move forward to save the industry that we love."

Theatre boss Cameron Mackintosh said: "Having been forced to close our theatres twice last year, the second time after the Government encouraged reopening for Christmas, losing further millions as a result, a joint insurance scheme to protect us against another enforced closure is vital.

"Along with most of the commercial theatre we have had absolutely no direct financial help either for our productions or the upkeep of our historic theatres.

"Opening without any sort of protection is impossible for many producers, live event organisers and theatre buildings across the country.

"Having contributed huge amounts of money to the exchequer over the last few decades, the theatre desperately needs to be supported in its hour of need or the Government will be responsible for the disintegration of one of this country's most priceless and irreplaceable assets after centuries of being the envy of the world."

Lord Lloyd Webber and other leading figures in live music launched the action to force the Government to hand over the results from its coronavirus pilot events scheme.

The Events Research Programme ran test events at sporting, music and arts venues to assess the safety of large gatherings during the pandemic.

In a statement the group, which also includes musician Peter Gabriel, theatre producer Sir Cameron Mackintosh and music industry trade body Live, accused the Government of "making it impossible to plan for any live entertainment business" by not sharing their findings.

Live shows as part of the scheme have included the Brit Awards, music event Download Festival and a snooker tournament at Sheffield's Crucible Theatre.