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Unions Call for Exemption for Socially Distanced Theatre

Together with Equity and Bectu, the MU is calling on the government to exempt theatre productions from the Tier 3 regulations and to allow them to open to socially distanced audiences.

Published: 18 December 2020 | 11:46 AM
Photograph of what appears to be an empty theatre pit set up for musicians, with a drum, double bass and electronic keyboard set out.
Theatre productions across the UK, including the seasonal staple pantomime shows, are facing unprecedented difficulties. Photo credit: Shutterstock

London joined significant proportions of the North of England and the Midlands in Covid Tier 3 on Wednesday.

As a result, West End theatre producers who were brave enough to have re-opened their shows to the public during the pandemic have, once again, been forced to close their doors at a huge cost, both to themselves and to their self-employed musicians, cast and crew.

In addition, theatre productions across the UK, including the seasonal staple pantomime shows, are facing unprecedented difficulties and turning 'dark' during December and January for the first time in living memory.

With rising infection rates across the country, theatre musicians, performers and workers face being left without work – or any alternative financial support – throughout the long winter ahead.

An MU survey of its members conducted during the autumn revealed that almost 40% of respondents did not qualify for either of the Government’s Covid-related financial support schemes.

The decision to close theatres is illogical

MU General Secretary, Horace Trubridge commented on the need for an exemption:

“We believe all necessary safety precautions have been put in place by theatre producers, to avoid transmission of the virus to cast, crew, musicians and audience members.

“Therefore, an exemption should be put in place to allow Covid-secure performances to continue and for our members to return to work.”

MU Executive Committee member, and West End musician, Sarah Williams explained why closing theatres doesn’t make sense:

“The decision to close theatres strikes me as totally illogical. They were all operating at well-below audience capacity, with appropriate social distancing measures in place, without an interval, and I understand they were testing the workforce daily. Musicians, actors and theatre crew must be absolutely devastated.”

Take action now

Whilst many workplaces for musicians remain closed across the UK, it’s vital that the Government invests in musicians.

You can support our call for proper Government support by sharing your story, find out how.

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