Andrew Lloyd Webber snubs PM’s offer over Cinderella live events trial
Andrew Lloyd Webber has rejected Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s offer for his musical Cinderella to be included in a pilot scheme for live events.
Earlier this week Mr Johnson said he was in talks with Lord Lloyd Webber about including the West End show in the scheme, saying he will “do whatever we can to be helpful”.
However Lord Lloyd Webber, who quit as a Conservative peer in 2017, confirmed on Friday he had rejected the offer, saying theatre has been treated as “an afterthought and undervalued”.
He said in a statement: “I have made it crystal clear that I would only be able to participate if others were involved and the rest of the industry – theatre and music – were treated equally. This has not been confirmed to me.
“It has become clear that, while sporting events like Wimbledon had obviously been working with the Government for some time on this pilot, and were even able to start selling tickets yesterday, the theatre industry and its audiences is, once again, an afterthought and undervalued.”
He said the production, which is being staged at the Gillian Lynne Theatre, would open on June 25 with an audience capacity of 50%.
The composer previously said he would be prepared to be arrested in order to fully reopen his theatres on June 21 in the event of a delay to the easing of lockdown restrictions.
However, on Friday he said if he went ahead with the plan it “would be very likely that every member of my cast, crew and orchestra, the front and backstage staff, plus our loyal audience members, could be individually fined hundreds of pounds, which I couldn’t possibly risk”.
He added: “If it were just me, I would happily risk arrest and fines to make a stand and lead the live music and theatre industry back to the full capacities we so desperately need.”
Lord Lloyd Webber said he “could not look my young cast and crew in the eyes to tell them we were delaying or closing down” because of the delay to lockdown easing.
He said he would personally bear the losses until he can fully reopen the theatre at maximum capacity.
Cinderella “is the product of hundreds of people’s tireless effort for years”, he said, adding: “Win, lose or draw, we have to continue.”
Lord Lloyd Webber also thanked the “thousands” of people who had contacted him to express their support, “including those who wanted to come and bring me cake in jail”.
Mr Johnson revealed earlier this week that July 19 is the new date that has been earmarked for the lifting of the remaining coronavirus restrictions.
Lord Lloyd Webber’s statement was welcomed by music industry trade body LIVE.
Greg Parmley, CEO of the organisation, said in a statement: “The live music industry has spent months participating and paying for pilot events so we could reopen at full capacity safety.
“These events were a huge success and show, alongside every other international pilot, that with the right mitigations full capacity live events are safe.
“Despite this the Government has refused to publish this data, forced us to remain closed and then tried to hand-pick a number of high profile events to go ahead whilst the rest of our industries are devastated.”
Actors’ union Equity also welcomed the move by Lord Lloyd Webber.
In a statement to the PA news agency, general secretary Paul W Fleming said: “What our industry needs right now is solidarity across the workforce and all producers, and it’s admirable that Andrew Lloyd Webber is continuing to stand with the whole sector on the issue of reopening.
“The Government needs to provide insurances, grants, and above all else a proper income support scheme for the self-employed to accompany any ongoing public health measures, as well as looking to decouple live performance from international travel and other unlocking elements.
“The risk here is acute – the loss of a workforce, and perhaps even the UK’s place as the pre-eminent global hub for theatre. Andrew Lloyd Webber knows that, and so does Equity.”
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport have been contacted for comment.
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