Tron Press Release
In order for readers to understand how damaging such behaviour can be, this is the full text of the press release. Please note that this was issued before the Scottish government published its final guidelines and social distancing set at 2m.
NEW SOCIAL DISTANCING GUIDELINES FOR PERFORMING ARTS VENUES IN SCOTLAND PUT THEATRES IN JEOPARDY
A statement from Andy Arnold, one of Scotland's leading theatre directors
New draft guidelines issued to the Scottish theatre sector last week that stipulate a 2.5m social distancing rule have thrown operational viability into question. In the week when other sectors begin to re-emerge from lockdown, Tron Theatre's Artistic Director and CEO, Andy Arnold writes of the impact that these guidelines will have on his venue's ability to open up again and on the cultural sector as a whole:
'Something much more like normality' is how Nicola Sturgeon anticipates life in Scotland to be this summer. The process is on its way with pubs, restaurants, gyms and indoor leisure centres, all now open again for business. Performing arts venues, theatres and concert halls, are at the end of the line and we accept that. We have had our doors locked for the past thirteen months so we can cope with a few months more. The government guidelines say that at Level Two, performing arts venues can open with a maximum capacity of 100 people and at Level Zero—anticipated by summer—our capacities can stretch to 300. This is excellent—our artists and our audiences have waited a long time. Only there is a major catch.
Last week we were informed of the stipulations venues must apply and it is more severe than ever indicated before. Ticket holders in performing arts venues in Scotland must be 2.5 metres distant from each other in all directions and the performers on stage 2.6 metres apart. At the Tron Theatre our 230 seat auditorium would only be able to accommodate 10 ticket holders on that basis and for some venues it will be worse.
If we reach Level Zero this summer, I can have eight people from four households chatting and mixing with each other, mask-less, in my front room all day long. If I decide to take my friends to see an hour-long theatre show in the evening, we can have a pre-show drink in the bar, facing and talking to each other a metre apart, again mask-less, before we join a handful of other folk in the large and fully ventilated auditorium where we will, with masks on, all sit facing the same way in silence at least five seats apart in all directions.
However, this grim scenario won't be experienced at the Tron as we will be forced to stay shut under the new conditions. My understanding is that the vast majority of performing arts venues in Scotland are concluding likewise. With seating capacities restricted by at least 90%, it will be economically untenable. From small local theatres through to the country's largest commercial venues, all need box office income in order to function. On top of this we have no idea if or when the Government will announce plans for what might happen beyond Level Zero. Furlough is due to finish in September and there will be no additional financial support for the performing arts venues this year. This will mean further redundancies, some permanent closures, and the continued hardship and loss of work for our freelance arts community. It is worth mentioning that in England, theatres are expected to open with one metre social distancing next month and at full capacity by the summer. Some London West End theatres are already back in rehearsals for their grand re-openings.
Scotland's theatre and music scene is unrivalled anywhere in the world. Cultural activity is one of our greatest exports. With the issue of these incredibly severe new Government restrictions, we will find ourselves in an impossible situation and our future prospects look dire.