When will galleries and theatres reopen?
Bridie Adams questions the fairness of gallery and theatre reopening in relation to the rest of the economy. Is it right that retail opens before the arts?
The questions on the lips of many arts lovers are: ‘When will theatres, art galleries and museums be able to reopen?’ and ‘Why have they been so neglected in the government’s coronavirus roadmap?’ It’s safe to say that much of the government’s advice throughout the entire pandemic has been vague, uncertain and difficult to follow, and this is no exception. Owners of arts centres like museums and galleries are understandably confused and disappointed due to the clear lack of prioritisation that the government has given to the arts. Why should shops be able to open before museums and galleries?
It seems that the government is putting anything that can give the economy a boost first, and while it is of course important to get things back up and running, centres that don’t necessarily make profit (as many museums and galleries only rely on donations to stay up and running) are just forgotten about.
London Theatre says that smaller performance venues will open first , while the bigger venues won’t be bale to open until step four of the government’s plan when large-scale events will resume
It can be really hard to find information about the reopening of theatres and galleries (though a useful source is LondonTheatre.co.uk which provides up-to-date information on theatres in London and the rest of the UK), which is problematic as it can lead to the spreading of misinformation as well as mass confusion about what is actually going on in the art world. London Theatre says that smaller performance venues will open first, while the bigger venues (like London Coliseum, the Apollo Victoria Theatre and the London Palladium) won’t be able to open until step four of the government’s plan when large-scale events will resume. It also mentions the calls for outdoor theatres to open first, a possibility which hasn’t yet been properly addressed by the government, due to their nature as safer than indoor performances as a result of better ventilation and social distancing.
While Boris Johnson directly mentioned theatres in his latest roadmap, stressing that they may be able to reopen in May, he didn’t mention art galleries at all. However, it has recently come to light that the 2021 budget will be prioritising the arts, giving a £400 million bonus to live music venues, theatres and galleries. This provides a glimmer of hope for the arts industry, and a possibility of more support becoming available for a sector that has been effectively ignored throughout the pandemic, with many venues turning to donations and fundraising to stay afloat. Of course, these venues rely also upon their bars, cafes, restaurants and gift shops for income, so will need to find ways to open these safely as well as the arts centres themselves.
Hopefully, this will be reevaluated and we may be able to enjoy a stroll around a gallery or a nice trip to the theatre sooner than we think
The bottom line is that it is very possible for museums, theatres, cinemas and art galleries to be controlled in terms of social distancing – it’s easy to enforce these rules and to ask people to wear a mask when visiting, just like in shops. There’s not really a good reason why people shouldn’t be able to visit an art gallery mid-shopping trip in April, but according to government guidelines this simply won’t be allowed until another five weeks after that. Hopefully, this will be reevaluated and we may be able to enjoy a stroll around a gallery or a nice trip to the theatre sooner than we think.