EIGHT weeks into lockdown and “baby” steps are being taken to ease restrictions, albeit with strict social distancing requirements.

Although the Government has now announced the opening from 15th June of all “non-essential” shops, ministers are still worryingly tight lipped with regard to a timeline for the phased reopening of theatres, concert and entertainment venues. If this sense of drift is allowed to ferment for much longer, there is not an institution - professional or amateur - that will be able to survive into 2021, never mind the longer term. Renowned organisations such as Opera North, Leeds Playhouse and Northern Ballet face an existential threat.

Our rich and diverse amateur infrastructure is just as vulnerable to the continuing uncertainty. Vital creative community hubs like Yeadon Town Hall, Guiseley Theatre, Otley Courthouse and Ilkley Playhouse have suffered a devastating loss of revenue from ticket sales, bars, and room lettings. The imperative for the Government to provide both clarity and financial support to sustain these and similar organisations through a period of phased reopening, could scarcely be more urgent.

Bradford Theatres have, in common with venue managements across the UK, done some social distancing “modelling”. Under the current two-metre rule, the Alhambra, St George’s Hall and Ilkley’s King’s Hall and Winter Garden complex would be restricted to approximately one eighth of their normal capacity - a maximum of just 56 people in the 500 seater King’s Hall. Clearly, there is no economic sense in reopening under such severe limitations.

There will inevitably be some degree of physical distancing in the early phase, to reassure the public that they are entering a safe environment. Two metres though, is simply not feasible.

The artists who lift our spirits have, like everyone else, been told to stay at home. Many, including members of the Orchestra of Opera North have streamed performances recorded in isolation. Their colleagues in the Costume Department have been busy producing masks and caps for NHS workers. But the time is fast approaching when the musicians, singers, actors, dancers, directors, choreographers and designers, need to come together in rehearsal and preparation for once again interacting with their audiences.

Time is running out. This crisis deepens as each day passes.

Geoffrey Mogridge