Will theatres and music venues be able to reopen with social distancing?

Theatres and music venues are warning they will need significant extra financial help to cope with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

As losses from closure run into tens of millions, and the reopening of many unlikely in the near future, campaigners warn enforcing social distancing among audiences and concert goers will make performances unviable.

It comes as the Music Venue Trust (MVT), which represents hundreds of grassroots music venues, issued an urgent warning to the UK government that an immediate cash injection of £50m is needed to prevent mass closures this year.

Francesca Dimech says online gigs have given musicians an outlet, but only bring in a fraction of the money they would normally make.

Francesca Dimech is a musician and actor based in Cardiff.

She was looking forward to a busy 2020, with festival bookings for her solo act Francesca's Word Salad, and several wedding bookings.

Now she, and a great many others, are faced with very little work.

Francesca has been able to claim a small grant, and has used the money to cover living expenses and to buy equipment to work from home.

It's part of a fund announced by the Welsh Government in April.

The Wales Millennium Centre says it might not reopen until Easter 2021.

Last week, the Wales Millennium Centre said it will stay closed until the start of 2021 at the earliest. The need for social distancing is incompatible with having an audience.

Theatr Clwyd, in Mold, faces similar challenges.

The theatre employs 93 full-time staff, with between 50 and 60 regular relief workers, and some 300 freelancers. And that's before you count touring companies who bring their shows to the venue.

It has devised ways to ensure a safe return for audience members, such as heat scanners and implementing a one-way system. But the economics of putting on a typical production to a vastly smaller audience don't stack up.

Theatr Clwyd say 2m distancing would reduce the capacity of its main auditorium from 600 to 80

The Welsh Government says it has provided millions of pounds to support artists and organisations, including:

  • A £7m Arts Resilience Fund led by the Arts Council of Wales.

  • A £1m Creative Wales fund to provide support for grassroots music venues to respond to immediate pressures (up to £25K per business)

The UK Treasury says its package of support is "generous and wide-ranging".

The Music Venue Trust warns many of its members - small, independent gig venues - may close without further funding to support them.

As some businesses begin to the slow move back towards normality, many in arts and entertainment face a long wait.