Oliver Dowden announces 'Operation Sleeping Beauty' to bring back indoor live events

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has revealed that he is working on ‘Operation Sleeping Beauty’, a plan to revive indoor live performances in time for Christmas.

Theatres across the UK have been allowed to reopen with social distancing and reduced audiences since August 15, but the majority have chosen to remain closed due to the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Writing in the Mail on Sunday, Dowden said he is now working on a plan to ensure that they can re-open in time for the festive season.

“In recent weeks, we’ve all been thinking and talking about the Proms. I for one can’t wait to be back in the Royal Albert Hall next year, singing ‘Land Of Hope And Glory’ at full voice,” Dowden wrote. “I have very fond childhood memories of watching at home every year with my grandma, and hope to be one of the first through the doors next year.

“To get audiences back into our venues in much larger numbers though, we’re going to have to innovate and be bold to save the things we love.”

While the plan will focus on live theatre’s return in time for the traditional panto season, Dowden said he also aims to revive music performances too.

“Mass indoor events are now in my sights,” he wrote. “Socially-distanced audiences have been allowed since mid-August, and it’s great to see organisations like the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, and musicals like Sleepless – A Musical Romance, back up and running again.

“But we need to start filling seats in much larger numbers – not just for the audiences, not just for the venues and livelihoods who depend on them, but for the entire urban economy, too. Theatre is a lynchpin of London’s West End and its absence is painfully reflected in its deserted streets.”

Dowden is also reportedly launching a ‘Seat Out To Help Out’ scheme that will see discounted meals on Mondays for those with a theatre ticket on that day.

The latest update comes after the government announced the first 135 venues across England that will receive emergency grants from the £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund.

Grassroots music venues across the UK have since spoken out about the continued need for public support to ensure their survival – with many warning that it’s not certain that they’ll see any funding or ever reopen.

This comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson allowed for indoor gigs in the UK to return with social distancing measures in place, although the Music Venue Trust revealed that over two thirds of venues would be unable to do so.