The Sunday Telegraph

Theatre owner backs Lloyd-Webber action

- By Dalya Alberge

ONE of Britain’s most influentia­l theatre owners and producers has backed Lord Lloyd-Webber’s action to fight for the reopening of venues.

Earlier this week, the composer promised he would risk arrest to reopen his new show, Cinderella, in July, regardless of the Government’s decision about lifting restrictio­ns on June 21.

Sir Howard Panter pledged to “get the facts out there”, like suffragett­es who campaigned within the law for the vote for women.

He said: “The specific tactic of breaking the law, Andrew must do what Andrew thinks is best, of course.

“Good for him. But I think continuall­y challengin­g with the facts, [on] the economic and social fallout, is going to be enormous if we’re not able to open up on 21 June.” He added: “What Andrew feels and says is entirely understand­able and reasonable.”

Sir Howard and his wife, Dame Rosemary Squire, are among the industry’s most respected figures. Over 30 years, they built up the Ambassador­s, the world’s largest commercial theatre company, and founded Trafalgar Entertainm­ent.

Asked why he would not break the law, Sir Howard said: “Just because it won’t in itself necessaril­y be effective in this particular case … We will fight – with [Andrew] and others – to get the facts out there.”

He said: “I’m in the group of people who want to campaign, campaign and campaign within the parameters that are there by law. But I think we have to shout loudly.”

He was speaking ahead of unveiling the historic Trafalgar Theatre in London following a multi-million pound restoratio­n of the Grade II-listed building. Jersey Boys is due to be the first major musical production to play there.

Boris Johnson is under pressure from scientists and senior ministers to resist removing restrictio­ns in England this month. But Lord Lloyd-Webber said he may even have to sell his six West End venues if nothing changes.

Sir Howard said he supported vaccine passports for theatre and added: “There’s no need for social distancing at all now … We have sanitising for hands, staff and actors are tested every day. With temperatur­e testing and everything else, we can test customers as they come through the door.”

He added: “Customer and investment confidence will go if they keep on delaying. It will take years to recover.”

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