FILE PHOTO: Composer Andrew Lloyd Webber arrives for the world premiere of the movie "Cats" in Manhattan, New York, U.S., December 16, 2019. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
By Marie-Louise Gumuchian
LONDON (Reuters) - Andrew Lloyd Webber and other impresarios said on Thursday they had started legal action to press Britain's government to publish research into the safety of holding indoor events during the pandemic.
Concert managers and theatre producers, also including Cameron Mackintosh and Sonia Friedman, said they needed the information so their industry, already crippled by months of COVID-19 curbs, could plan ahead for the summer season.
British authorities have conducted a pilot scheme in recent months, testing audiences at live events from soccer matches to the Brit Awards, to see if they can be held without social distancing.
Theatre producers said in a joint statement the government had "refused to publish the results from the first phase of the Events Research Programme, despite saying that it would do so on numerous occasions".
Asked about the producers' announcement, a spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson told reporters the government understood "the necessary delay to step four is challenging for live events".
"That's why we made 2 billion pounds available through the biggest arts funding package in history," he said.
The pandemic initially forced all British theatres and concert halls to close their doors. Some briefly re-opened in December and, under Johnson's roadmap out of lockdown, smaller productions resumed in May though at 50% capacity and with social distancing measures.
Bigger musicals had been waiting for the full lifting of restrictions, now pushed back from June 21 to July 19 because of the spread of the more infection Delta variant.
The joint statement from Andrew Lloyd Webber's Really Useful Group, the LIVE music industry body and others also called for a government-backed insurance scheme to cover any cancellations of live shows over the summer and beyond.
"A joint insurance scheme to protect us against another enforced closure is vital," Mackintosh said.
"Opening without any sort of protection is impossible for many producers, live event organisers and theatre buildings across the country."
Last week, Lloyd Webber said he would not take part in the pilot scheme but would comply with social distancing rules when his new musical "Cinderella" begins previews on Friday.
"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," he said.