My son’s realisation that we were not living in normal times came about two weeks ago. We were talking about what we will do for Christmas, and he said to me, “We’re not going to be able to go the pantomime this year, are we?” That is something that really struck me. Going to the theatre to watch a live show, especially with children, not only brings families together; it makes everything great about being in Britain.
We all know why difficult decisions to pause performances have been taken, but we must not underestimate the wider, long-term impacts of those decisions. Understandably, a lot of the discussion around the theatre world is focused on the west end and major regional theatres such as the opera house in Manchester or the Liverpool Empire. This debate, however, is also about the contribution to the local economy. Just for a second, I want to highlight the contribution that live events make to our sense of community, such as the amateur dramatics society that uses the village hall to put on a run just for three or four nights. Those am-drams are the training grounds for future performers and technicians; everything that will make our vibrant theatre sector just as vibrant for years to come.
I want to highlight the impact for Warrington’s local economy of the closure of our local theatres. I am grateful to the team at Culture Warrington, which has provided me with some detailed insight into what has happened in the sector. The Pyramid arts centre and the Parr Hall stayed empty since mid-March. Losses for Culture Warrington are likely to top £1 million. I know they have been able to use some of the Government schemes but, sadly, redundancies are following. It is not just that performances are not going ahead, it is that the pre-theatre dinners, the after-show drinks and the wider impact also are not happening.
I am grateful to the Minister and the Secretary of State for the £1.5 billion package the sector has benefited from. In recent weeks, however, I have been particularly struck by conversations with my constituents Dale and Adam Wilson from Great Sankey, a father and son who own sound and lighting company WH Leisure, which, in normal times, would be distributing and setting up equipment all over the country right now. They need additional support through the months when, frankly, they would have been making the money that keeps them afloat through the slower periods next year. With venues closed, we know that thousands of highly skilled technicians who work behind the scenes and put on the shows cannot return to work. Those are the people we need to offer additional support to. Their jobs will return once the Government allow performances to return.