Pantos could return this year as minister admits he would ‘love’ them back


PANTOS could be back in time for Christmas as Culture Secretary admitted he would “love them back”.

Oliver Dowden said this morning he would do everything he can to work through the challenges to get pantomimes back after he announced a massive £1.57 billion lifeline for the arts and creative sector.

Oliver Dowden said he would “love” to see pantomimes back
Pantomimes present particular challenges to social distancing because they are so interactive

Mr Dowden told BBC Radio 4: “I would love us to get to a point where we can have a Christmas panto.

“And if you think about a Christmas panto, the challenges – you have granny to grandchild, you have kids shouting and screaming.

“It’s highly interactive and having bubble soap chucked around and all those represent a huge transmission risk.

“It’s at the very difficult end of it – but we will work through the challenges of it.

“I want to be realistic if we can do it we will, but it looks challenging.”

The Culture Secretary said preserving smaller theatres and arts institutions were just as important as protecting the “crown jewels” of Britain’s creative industry.

The massive £1.5billion lifeline will fund a £1.15billion support pot made up of £270million in loans and £880million in grants.

There will also be a £100million of targeted support for England’s national cultural institutions and English Heritage and £120million of capital investment to boost cultural constructions projects and infrastructure put on hold during lockdown.

Theatres are not currently allowed to reopen, even as pubs and restaurants flung open their doors to thrilled drinkers and diners for the first time since March.

But Mr Dowden said he hoped guidance would be published “very soon” allowing theatres to start performing again outdoors.

That would be followed by further loosening where performances could happen with social distancing.

The Culture Secretary warned: “(Theatres) are often victorian theatres people are packed in close together.

“Even when you mitigate the risk by not having social distancing that increases significantly the risk of (transmission of coronavirus).”

Social distancing can be cut down to 1 metre in shops, restaurants, pubs and cinemas, but there have to be extra safeguards in place such as sitting people back to back or wearing masks.