express-Lord Lloyd Webber – alongside musical theatre impresario Cameron Mackintosh and the music industry body LIVE – is calling for ministers to hand over the results of the Events Research Programme (ERP).
The ERP carried out trials of Covid mitigations, including mask-wearing and pre-entry testing, across a variety of sports, entertainment and conference venues.
The trials were set out to determine how mass attendance events can safely be resumed.
Lord Lloyd Webber said: “Last week I rejected the government’s invitation for Cinderella to be singled out as a last-minute part of the Events Research Programme.
“Today, with a range of voices from across the theatre and live entertainment industries, we are forced to take it further.
“We simply must now see the data that is being used to strangle our industry so unfairly.
“The government’s actions are forcing theatre and music companies off a cliff as the summer wears on, whilst cherry-picking high-profile sporting events to go ahead.
“The situation is beyond urgent.”
Backers of the legal action said events such as the FA Cup final at Wembley and the Brit Awards had been a “huge success… showing that with proper precautions in place, live events at full capacity can go ahead safely”.
Earlier this month, Lord Lloyd Webber rejected Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s offer to add his new musical Cinderella to a pilot scheme for full-capacity live events.
He said: “I have made it crystal clear that I would only be able to participate if others were involved and the rest of the industry – theatre and music – were treated equally.
“This has not been confirmed to me.
“It has become clear that, while sporting events like Wimbledon had obviously been working with the government for some time on this pilot, and were even able to start selling tickets yesterday, the theatre industry and its audiences is, once again, an afterthought and undervalued.”
A Government spokesperson said they were “disappointed” the theatre impresario did not take part in the trial.
They said: “We are disappointed that Lord Lloyd Webber has decided not to take part in the Events Research Programme, having engaged with his team on exactly the same basis as a wide range of other cultural and sporting events.
“We will be setting out details of the next stage of the programme very shortly, once all public health considerations have been finalised, and this will include a number of other theatres.
“This research will build on successful pilot events in the arts, music and sport sectors.”
Currently, theatres are still unable to open at full capacity after Mr Johnson postponed the final step of England’s coronavirus roadmap out of lockdown by four weeks.
Lord Lloyd Webber previously stated if theatres were unable to open at full capacity later than June 21, he was prepared to be arrested if authorities intervened.
Julian Bird, chief executive of the Society of London Theatre, warned the delay to reopen theatres at full capacity will have “serious implications” for theatres.
He said: “This delay not only impacts productions and theatres preparing to open in the next few weeks, but also shows currently running socially distanced, which had planned to increase their capacity – and producers making the difficult decision whether to start rehearsals for shows due to open in late July or August, with thousands of jobs hanging in the balance.
“Particularly at risk are large-scale commercial productions, which have received little or no Cultural Recovery Fund support and cannot survive under social distancing.
“The safety of theatre audiences and staff is our top priority, and we want everyone to be confident to return to full houses on the basis of the latest scientific data.
“We need Government to confirm as soon as possible that restrictions will be lifted by 19 July – a clear, irreversible reopening date will boost audience confidence at a time when it is vital theatre fans support the industry they love.”