British entertainment, left in dark, seeks government insurance help

People stand next to St Martin's Theatre at London's West End, amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in London, Britai

British theatres and live music venues say the show will only go on if the government provides a financial backstop, as the COVID-19 pandemic means they can no longer get commercial insurance.

While venues for indoor live performances are not yet open in all of Britain, theatres and concert halls in England have in theory been open to socially-distanced audiences since mid-August.

But only a handful have opened, citing insurance as one of the many barriers, as underwriters have been excluding COVID-19 from the cover they provide.

That means a theatre has no protection against cancellation or legal action from anyone in the audience or cast who falls ill or from a lockdown due to COVID-19.

Some small theatres are carrying on regardless and hoping for the best, but for tours, festivals and big names, it’s a deal breaker and has hit live performance across the globe, including on Broadway.

“You’re not going to get a sponsor, full-house ticket sales, finance, TV licensing or big stars unless they are guaranteed,” said James Davies, a director at insurance broker EC3.

A survey by the Society of London Theatres in May showed only 12% of organisations thought they would get the insurance they needed to reopen.

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