Sir Matthew Bourne is among the leading figures in the creative industries appealing to the Prime Minister to close performing arts venues by law in order to safeguard jobs.
Boris Johnson has been criticised for advising against visiting leisure venues, rather than ordering them to close, delivering a “crippling blow” to the industry.
At a press conference on Monday, asked whether pubs, restaurants and theatres were being ordered to close, Mr Johnson said: “What we are doing is giving very strong advice that public venues such as theatres should no longer be visited.
“The proprietors of those venues are taking the logical steps that you would imagine, you are seeing the change happen already.
“As for enforcement, we have the powers if necessary but I don’t believe it will be necessary to use those powers.”
A petition on change.org said: “Because the government has merely advised the public to avoid pubs, clubs and theatres, the proprietors of these venues will not be able to make any claim on insurance for loss of income.
“Staff will lose their jobs and many pubs and other venues that are already just about keeping afloat will close for good.”
Sir Matthew, the influential choreographer most famous for his all-male production of Swan Lake, shared the petition on Twitter, writing: “Please help folks….. Boris Johnson: Leisure venues need to be closed by law due to the coronavirus to safeguard jobs. – Sign the Petition!”
Comedian Jason Manford, who is currently starring in a touring production of the musical Curtains, said the show would go ahead on Monday night because the message from the Prime Minister was vague.
He wrote on Twitter: “Show’s going on (I’m getting into costume). Cos of how vague PM has been (whereas other leaders have been definitive in their actions) he has still left decisions to theatres (thus meaning everyone is terrified of making the decision incase they get sued for breach of contract).”
Tamara Rojo, artistic director of English National Ballet and board member of the Creative Industries Federation, also asked for support for the performing arts, tweeting: “The Creative Industries contribution is 111.7 billion to the Uk economy and employs over 2 million people, 30% freelance.
“Growing 5 times faster than the rest.1 in 11 businesses are creative business. We export 46 billions in goods and services. Tourism, publishers.. depend on it.”
After the announcement on Monday, Caroline Norbury, CEO of the federation and Creative England, said: “The advice issued by Government today is a crippling blow to the UK’s creative industries.
“As the social distancing measures announced are only advisory, rather than an outright ban, we are deeply concerned that creative organisations and cultural spaces will find they are unable to claim compensation for the huge losses they will experience as a result of Covid-19.
“Public safety remains the top priority for everyone in the creative sector. However, these measures have the potential to devastate the UK’s theatres, museums, cinemas, venues and other cultural spaces reliant on audiences, visitors and participation.
“As well as the huge array of creators and freelancers who work within these industries. For the sake of our £111.7 billion creative industries, it is vital that Government puts in place support to ensure that our world-leading creative sector is able to survive Covid-19.”