Harrogate Theatre's best chance of long-term survival is to keep its doors shut until 2021
Despite national pressure for an early reopening of the arts world, the boss of Harrogate Theatre says taking the “painful” decision to keep the town’s leading arts hub closed until next year remains the only responsible way to ensure its survival.
While theatre impresario Andrew Lloyd Webber warned this week that “we have to get our arts sector back open and running as a matter of urgency”, Harrogate Theatre is now working on a range of options to meet different scenarios when it reopens its doors in April 2021.
After completing the painful process of staff redundancy procedures recently, chief executive David Bown said the 120-year-old institution was taking a sensible but tough approach to ensure Harrogate Theatre was in a strong enough financial position to get through the pandemic.
Mr Bown said: “Since April, Harrogate Theatre has maintained that the suspension of our current operation until spring 2021, is the most responsible way forward to safeguard the organisation. We have transferred all our artistic programme into 2021 and over the past few weeks reduced our workforce significantly.
“This has been very difficult and painful. However, we need to be lean and robust in order to come back next year, whilst safeguarding as much of our finances as possible.
“There have been a number of strong statements over the past few days. The Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden has come out and said he wants theatres fully operational by Christmas, whilst Andrew Lloyd-Webber has recently announced that theatre is beyond the point of no return.
“I don’t necessarily agree with either statement.”
Despite winning a substantial grant of £395,000 from Arts Council England in July, Harrogate Theatre is still relying on its emergency appeal and public support.
Mr Bown said he was very grateful for their support but, despite previous pressure in some quarters for a partial reopening, it was too dangerous financially.
He said: “I think the brave early decision of Harrogate Theatre to keep the safety curtain down until next year, places us in a strong position to wait for the right opportunity to return in 2021 with purpose in a meaningful and safe manner.
To support Harrogate Theatre’s emergency appeal, visit www.harrogatetheatre.co.uk