Colors: Red Color

As a theatre which stages one of the UK's most popular pantomimes Birmingham Hippodrome has announced that it has cancelled its Christmas programme due to Covid-19 and will not reopen this year and that its major live performances were "not financially viable" amid social distancing.

With productions in the main auditorium not resuming until February at the earliest, it said, it means that the festive pantomime, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, will not go ahead.

Annual performances of The Nutcracker by Birmingham Royal Ballet, which uses the theatre as its home venue, have also been scrapped there.

The Hippodrome said the move followed discussions "at length" with both the ballet and pantomime producer, Qdos.

Fiona Allan, the theatre's chief executive and artistic director said it was "a massive blow" to lose the shows.

"It leaves us in a very difficult financial position... a quarter of our annual income comes from this Christmas season, 150,000 people come through our doors between pantomime and The Nutcracker, so it's really quite devastating. We're just trying to weigh-up it up, what it means, if we can continue to operate as we did before."

The Hippodrome had previously announced scale backs because of the pandemic. In June, the theatre said about 60 employees - around half its staff - could be made redundant in a bid to stay afloat.

It benefitted from the government's £1.5bn support package for the arts, announced in July, but Ms Allan said social distancing prohibited full-scale productions.

Goldilocks, starring Jason Donovan, has been rescheduled for the 2021 Christmas period.
Reacting to the news on Twitter, Emma Rowley said: "My heart literally breaks with this news. I'm so sad to everyone at my absolute fave [sic] place."

Leon Phillips added: "This is sad to hear, but at a time like this what else can you do, safety of your audience and staff members is very important, and your [sic] being very responsible at this moment.

"It's nice to see how understanding your audience member [sic] are as well."

Birmingham Royal Ballet says it is "working hard" to find a new host for The Nutcracker and The Hippodrome said it would be contacting ticket-holders for the ballet production over the coming days.

Qdos announced it was pushing back pantomimes in Aberdeen, Belfast, Edinburgh and Southampton to next Christmas amid ongoing uncertainty about when theatres would be able to reopen fully.

Its managing director Michael Harrison said: "The Birmingham Hippodrome pantomime is the UK's biggest regional panto and postponing the show has been a difficult decision."

The socially-distanced reopening of indoor performances in England has been delayed until at least 15 August, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said.

The easing of restrictions at theatres and music venues was due to start this weekend, but has been postponed amid concerns over a rise in virus cases.

In addition, masks will be required in museums, galleries and cinemas - enforceable in law from 8 August.

Mr Johnson said: "We simply cannot take the risk."

The government had been working with the arts sector on pilot performances with socially-distanced audiences in theatres and music venues in recent weeks.

Jon Morgan, director of Theatres Trust, said it was "disappointing that socially-distanced indoor performances will not be able to go ahead" as planned.

"However, in reality, the majority of theatres were not planning to reopen for shows tomorrow so a two-week delay will not make a huge difference.

"Most theatres will not be able to put on productions until we reach stage five [of the roadmap for the return of professional performing arts], which allows fuller audiences, so that is the most critical date for much of the sector."

Ken Wright, managing director of London's Phoenix Arts Club took a slightly different view, saying the government's decision to postpone the opening of live performance venues with less than a day's notice had "pulled the carpet from under us".

"We've said all along that we would 'open once and open well'. Therefore with heavy heart and broken bank balance we must announce that we will remain closed until we are certain that indoor live performance is permitted," he said in a statement.

Earlier this month the government announced a £1.57bn support package for the arts, following several weeks of lobbying from theatres, music venues, art galleries and other cultural institutions, many of which had said they were on the brink of collapse.

The government also outlined measures to "support the safe return of audiences", including:

Reduced venue capacity and limited ticket sales to ensure social distancing can be maintained
Tickets should be bought online and venues encouraged to use e-tickets to reduce contact and help with track and trace
Venues should have clearly communicated social distancing marking in place in areas where queues form and adopt a limited entry approach
Increased deep cleaning of auditoriums
Performances should be scheduled to allow sufficient time to undertake deep cleaning before the next audience arrives
Performers, conductors and musicians must observe social distancing wherever possible

The government also recently revealed its "five-stage roadmap for the return of professional performing arts", which was detailed by Mr Dowden as follows:

Stage One - Rehearsal and training (no audiences and adhering to social distancing guidelines)
Stage Two - Performances for broadcast and recording purposes (adhering to social distancing guidelines)
Stage Three - Performances outdoors with an audience plus pilots for indoor performances with a limited distance audience
Stage Four - Performances allowed indoors/outdoors (but with a limited distanced audience indoors)
Stage Five - Performances allowed indoors/outdoors (with a fuller audience indoors)

In response to the delay, the Music Venue Trust said it was "saddened but not surprised" to hear that live music music events planned for the next few weeks must now be cancelled.

"Since May 2020, Music Venue Trust has repeatedly informed the government that live music events in grassroots music venues would be extraordinarily difficult to stage, not economically viable, and at risk of being cancelled at short notice during the current pandemic," it said in a statement.

"A number of venues across the country have attempted to stage such events based on advice from the government, incurring substantial costs to make their venues safe. That expenditure now adds to the growing mountain of debts accrued by those venues working within the government guidelines."

The trust reiterated its belief that "no grassroots music venue" will be able to "safely and viably" put on concerts before 1 October "at the earliest", and questioned the logic behind the Prime Minister's new proposed opening date.

On the subject of face masks, Bob Riley, CEO of Manchester Camerata orchestra added: "Can anyone tell me why we need masks in more places from 8 August... and not now?"

 

 

Bastille’s electrifying new song might feel like a bit of a surprise release, not least to the band themselves, but as frontman Dan Smith says: “We finished the song and it felt urgent. We didn’t want to sit on it.”
 
A thunderous, furious short sharp shock, ‘What You Gonna Do???’ comes after the dust settled on the band’s acclaimed third album Doom Days — the final instalment in a trilogy that’s spanned eight years and brought Bastille multi-platinum sales, global success and a position as one of the world’s most streamed bands. Fans may have grown accustomed to albums arriving with fully formed, meticulously executed creative ecosystems, but this time it’s all change.
 
“This next phase feels like a new beginning. It’s about completely tearing up our process, being spontaneous and starting again,” Dan states. “We’re just really excited by the new songs. I think we’re making some of the best music we’ve ever made. We want to put it out now and not wait for the whole album to be done before anyone starts to hear it. This is about where we are now and hearing us in real-time”
 
Produced by Dan and Mark Crew it’ll surprise anyone who thought they knew what to expect from the band - The song features Graham Coxon on guitar and vocals. 
 
The tongue-in-cheek chorus of ‘What You Gonna Do???’ explores a frustration with the attention economy in which our ears and eyes are fiercely fought over, yet so few use it for anything worthwhile. “Whether we’re outside or online we’re perpetually hit by so many people vying for our attention,” Dan adds, “but we’re just left rolling our eyes at how rarely it’s for anything that decent or funny.”

The track was written before 2020 turned on its head, but it’s hard to ignore the poignancy of a song that questions the squandered attention of billions of captive eyeballs.
 
The track’s extraordinary video sees Bastille collaborating with Rezza a British/Iranian, London-based animator who brings a seismic visual shift for Bastille: the video is a mash up of mixed media using illustration, photography and live action which resulted in a unique and innovative style that is winningly berserk.
 
Sonically ‘What You Gonna Do???’ is either the first clue to a brand new chapter for Bastille or a complete red herring. Either way it marks the beginning of an exciting and surprising new era for the band. 

The acclaimed British director of such films as Fame, Evita and Bugsy Malone, Sir Alan Parker, has died.

The double Oscar nominee's many other credits include Midnight Express, Mississippi Burning, The Commitments, Angela's Ashes and Birdy.

Evita composer Andrew Lloyd Webber tweeted Sir Alan had been "one of the few directors to truly understand musicals on screen".

The director died after a lengthy illness. He is survived by his wife Lisa Moran-Parker, five children and seven grandchildren.

Fellow ilm director David Puttnam remembered the director as his "oldest and closest friend," adding: "I was always in awe of his talent."

A founding member of the Directors Guild of Great Britain, Sir Alan was also first chairman of the UK Film Council and received the CBE in 1995 and a knighthood in 2002. Bafta said it was "deeply saddened" to hear of Sir Alan's death, adding that his films had "brought us joy".

The British Film Institute, which Sir Alan chaired in the late 1990s, expressed similar sentiments. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences remembered him as "a chameleon" and "extraordinary talent" whose work "entertained us, connected us and gave us such a strong sense of time and place".

Despite not winning an Oscar for best director, his films won 10 Academy Awards as well as another 10 Golden Globes.

Actor John Cusack, who worked with Sir Alan on his 1994 comedy The Road to Wellville, said he had been "a great film-maker".

Born in London in 1944, Sir Alan began his career in advertising as a copywriter but quickly graduated to writing and directing commercials.

In 1974 he directed The Evacuees, winning a Bafta for best single play - the first of seven awards he received from the British Academy. In 1984 Bafta honoured him with the Michael Balcon Award for outstanding contribution to British cinema, and in 2013 he was awarded the prestigious Bafta Fellowship. Sir Alan's last film as director was 2003 drama The Life of David Gale, starring Kevin Spacey and Kate Winslet.

In 2005 he published Will Write and Direct for Food, a compendium of his often satirical observations on making films in the UK and US. In 2018 he donated his extensive collection of scripts and working papers to the British Film Institute's National Archive.

According to a family spokesperson, he spent his retirement indulging his passion for silk screen printing and painting.

He was 76.

Despite the theatre industry still in lockdown Worcester’s acclaimed Vamos Theatre has been busy over the last few months producing HOW HARD IS WAVING? a phenomenal 20 short films commissioned by the BBC’s Culture in Quarantine.

The first episode, which marked Vamos Theatre’s BBC debut, was broadcast on 7th July, and reached its touching finale on 1 August.
 
The 20 episodes, which are now available to stream in their entirety on BBC iPlayer, were viewed across social media, BBC Arts and iPlayer enabling the company to bring their work to a much wider audience. 

Vamos Theatre is the UK’s leading full mask theatre company and are recognised leaders in non-verbal communication training and performance. The company were in the middle of a UK national tour of their new production DEAD GOOD when theatres were forced to temporarily close due to COVID-19.
 
HOW HARD IS WAVING? was inspired by a series of films produced by the company and broadcast on its social media platforms every day during the initial lockdown period.
The commission was a huge challenge for the company during an unprecedented period for the whole country. Guided by film maker and editor Dan Hill, each of the cast performed at home filming their own footage.
 
Rachael Savage, Artistic Director of Vamos Theatre said: “It was bizarre making HOW HARD IS WAVING! at a time when our worlds were being turned upside down whilst trying to reflect honestly that world.  From hording, to running out of loo roll, to finding fun ways to stay connected and then deeper themes such as loneliness and depression, and how the care system could have been much better supported.
 
“Whilst filming I often thought, this is a piece of history we’re making, a true reflection of what our generations went through during the pandemic and an archive for future generations to come.”

Performed entirely without words, HOW HARD IS WAVING? features Ryan, alone in lockdown, who is doing his absolute best to support his family through video link alone. The shorts take the viewer on a journey through four weeks of daily online meet ups with Gran, who is living with dementia, and her carer Katie, Dad who is into DIY, and Ryan’s best friend Fingers.
 
Although the final episode was broadcast on 1st August, and to fully appreciate the detail on their smart TVs, the company recommend audiences tune into BBC iPlayer where all 20 episodes are now available to stream.
  
Episodes are 1-3 minutes in length.
 
HOW HARD IS WAVING? cast includes Rachael Savage (director and performer), and renowned full mask actors, Alan Riley, and James Greaves, with Rosa Savage making her professional debut for the company. Norah the dog also takes part, playing herself. All episodes feature an original score by composer, Janie Armour.
 
Vamos Theatre’s Culture in Quarantine project was made with support from The Space, a digital agency and production company helping to promote wider engagement across the arts and cultural sector, and Battersea Arts Centre.

In total, 25 projects have been selected from across England. These pieces will be exhibited through broadcast slots across BBC Radio 3 and BBC TV, through podcasts on BBC Sounds, and through the BBC Arts website, continuing the Culture in Quarantine mission to bring the arts to UK homes despite arts venue closures, social distancing, and UK-wide lockdowns.

 

The REP becomes the first theatre in the UK to partner with Open Kitchens -  providing 9,000 meals for children in poverty in Birmingham 


Birmingham Repertory Theatre has become the first theatre in the UK to partner with national food solution organisation, Open Kitchens, providing 1,500 nutritional meals per week for children in poverty across the city over an initial 6 week period, totalling over 9,000 freshly prepared meals.  

The REP, and its popular restaurant Marmalade, remain temporarily closed due to the ongoing restrictions as a result of COVID-19. However, recent Government advice that allows theatres to open their doors on the condition of no live performances has enabled the venue to gain access to its kitchens once again.  

The theatre will receive 1 tonne of surplus food each week from across the food industry including supermarkets, manufacturers and the hospitality sector. Meals will be prepared in The REP’s kitchens by volunteers from the theatre’s bar and restaurant team lead by Head Chef Dario Pinho, Sous Chef Marc Scott-Smith and Chef de Partie Matt Smith, working 3 days per week over an initial 6-week period. Meals will then be distributed free of charge by Open Kitchens partner organisation Fareshare, the UK’s national network of charitable food redistributors. The food will be chilled for transportation and, once delivered, can be heated up easily in a microwave or oven. 

Adam Roberts, Founder and CEO of Open Kitchens commented; “We are delighted that The REP is the first theatre in the UK to join Open Kitchens at a time when, according to End Child Poverty (2019), Birmingham has one of the highest percentages of children in the Midlands living in poverty after housing costs, amounting to over 130,000 vulnerable children.” 

Jules Raikes, Catering Director at The REP added; “It’s fantastic to be able to open up our kitchens for such a worthy cause during a time when a lot of families will be struggling financially. Thousands of children in the city have been schooled at home during the pandemic, which also means for some that they have been missing out on vital access to free school dinners. Thanks to our partnership with Open Kitchens and our incredible team of REP volunteers, we are now preparing meals from food that would otherwise go to waste, providing vulnerable children with a regular free nutritional meal during these unprecedented times.” 

It is estimated that 8.4 million people in the UK, or the equivalent to the entire population of London, are currently struggling to afford to eat. 2 million tonnes of food is wasted by the food industry in the UK annually with 250,000 tonnes of the food that goes to waste each year still being edible, totalling a potential 650 million meals. 

Open Kitchens brings together organisations who volunteer to work for free to cook meals for those in need in their community. Funded by community donations, pledging restaurants work to a budget of £1.85 per meal to cover costs with Open Kitchens contributing to energy usage. The project has been made possible thanks to generous donations direct to Open Kitchens. 

The REP’s team of volunteers will be working to strict government guidelines. PPE will be issued, and strict social distancing will be in place. Temperature checks and steam cleaning will be carried out on a regular basis and staff will be working in bubbles to ensure safety and to allow work to continue should someone become ill. 

For further information about Open Kitchens go to: openkitchens.co.uk.