Pantos could return this year as minister admits he would ‘love’ them back


PANTOS could be back in time for Christmas as Culture Secretary admitted he would “love them back”.

Oliver Dowden said this morning he would do everything he can to work through the challenges to get pantomimes back after he announced a massive £1.57 billion lifeline for the arts and creative sector.

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Mr Dowden told BBC Radio 4: “I would love us to get to a point where we can have a Christmas panto.

“‘Because if you think about a panto, and we all love going to the panto for the joy of it, but it also supports local theatres.

“You’ve got granny through to grandchild all packed in together, you know how kids are encouraged to shout and scream at panto season, there’s lots of sort of interaction.

“It’s highly interactive and having bubble soap chucked around and all those represent a huge transmission risk.

“It’s at the very difficult end of it – but we will work through the challenges of it.

“I want to be realistic if we can do it we will, but it looks challenging.”

But while Mr Dowden wanted to get pantos back, it is believed theatres, concerts and festivals may have to work until 2021 to restart.

Boris Johnson has promised he will release a further timetable of when bigger events can resume this week.

The massive £1.5billion lifeline will fund a £1.15billion support pot made up of £270million in loans and £880million in grants to keep Britain’s creative institutions afloat before they can reopen.

Mr Dowden added: “This money will help safeguard the sector for future generations, ensuring arts groups and venues across the UK can stay afloat and support their staff whilst their doors remain closed.”

The Culture Secretary said preserving smaller theatres and arts institutions were just as important as protecting the “crown jewels” of Britain’s creative industry.

There will also be a £100million of targeted support for England’s national cultural institutions and English Heritage and £120million of capital investment to boost cultural constructions projects and infrastructure put on hold during lockdown.

Theatres are not currently allowed to reopen, even as pubs and restaurants flung open their doors to thrilled drinkers and diners for the first time since March.

But Mr Dowden said he hoped guidance would be published “very soon” allowing theatres to start performing again outdoors.

That would be followed by further loosening where performances could happen with social distancing.

The Culture Secretary warned: “(Theatres) are often Victorian theatres people are packed in close together.

“Even when you mitigate the risk by not having social distancing that increases significantly the risk of (transmission of coronavirus).”

Social distancing can be cut down to one metre in shops, restaurants, pubs and cinemas, but there have to be extra safeguards in place such as sitting people back to back or wearing masks.




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