What has the Government got against the arts?

Torbay Weekly

The Government has my sympathy in that, they are damned if they do or damned if they don’t, in trying to implement the correct policies regarding Covid and I don’t think that any other hue of Government would be likely to improve the situation.

However, I say this with one glaring exception.

Where on earth were their brains when they allowed the European Championship final and Wimbledon to take place in front of maximum crowds when they still kept theatres closed?

I feel such deep sympathy for Lord Lloyd-Webber when he has spent millions updating all his theatres with state-of-the-art air conditioning, which is of a far higher standard that that used in aircrafts, and yet theatres in general have been over-looked and basically ignored.

It certainly does appear that cultural events have born the brunt of a singular policy against them.

Not only were there very few masks in evidence at Wembley or Wimbledon, but it appeared that everyone was sitting cheek by jowl too.

Then, of course, there was an invasion of countless idiots, hell bent on creating mayhem and beating up anyone they could get hold of at Wembley.

This crazed bunch were not just a bunch of youngsters, the marauders were a combination of youth and middle aged, paunchy men sweating all over those nearest to them and much worse.

So much for social distancing and certainly none of them were wearing masks.

Now consider that behaviour against the very different type of law-abiding audience that attends the theatre.

Andrew Lloyd-Webber has confirmed that all theatre-goers would have to wear masks and that there would be empty seat spacing between groups of ‘bubbles’.

Such is his dedication to reviving the West End entertainment industry, that he has spent more than £60 million on a massive revamp of the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, one of Britain’s true theatrical gems.

The arts are one of our finest and lucrative revenue creators in this country and one of our most financially rewarding exports too.

Sadly, most of those involved in the industry didn’t even receive any support during Covid as most of them are self-employed and didn’t fall into the correct category to receive financial support from the Government.

Added to this, the theatres in the West End, and the provinces, all create much more income than ticket revenue.

The knock-on affect of a night out at the theatre normally includes using public transport, taxis, bars and restaurants, to name only a few other types of business that benefit.

In London alone approximately 15.5 million people go to the theatre a year bringing in around £770m.

Conservatively it is estimated that in the whole of the UK approximately 34m people go to the theatre on an annual basis with ticket revenue alone of £1.28 billion.

This is one heck of a lot of cash for the Inland Revenue, and this is without all the other industries who benefit from the knock-on affect of our theatres being open for business.

So apart from us all being sadder in these despairing times because we can’t enjoy laughter with all our friends, we are also denied the magic of the theatre which has been a mainstay of civilisation since the beginning of time.

Live performance is so special and feeds our psyche in very positive ways, in particular the much-needed escapism that I think we all yearn for.

The Premier League, Football League and FA were my clients for many years, but one date sticks firmly in my mind - April 15, 1989, the date of the Hillsborough Stadium disaster when 96 people died.

My dear friend John Motson was commentating at the match, and when all hell broke loose, in sheer disbelief, he was in the horrendous position of having to commentate live on the shocking situation that was unfolding in front of him.

Not something you ever get over or forget.

Even with the obvious disparity between sport and culture, the Government should address the reckless and moronic lunatics who invaded Wembley and charge them.

If not, they could well have another Hillsborough on their hands in the not-too-distant future.

Why are they always so incredibly slow to act?