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Storyhouse appeals for more help as coronavirus restrictions bite

Chester Storyhouse has sent out an urgent SOS for backing to help it survive the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic.

The arts venue said today its financial situation was becoming steadily worse and it was in a “fight for survival” as new local lockdowns began to take effect.

Storyhouse announced last month that it planned to stage a socially distanced Christmas show, a new version of Dickens’ perennially popular A Christmas Carol. That is still planned to go ahead.

The announcement followed a successful run of The Comedy of Errors at Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre and the current Moonlight Flicks series of outdoor film screenings.

But the organisation has now warned that the cancellation of big touring shows along with new cinema releases, taken with the more stringent lockdown rules in the North West, is pushing it towards breaking point.

It is currently waiting to see if its £700,000 application for support from the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund has been successful.

Chief executive Andrew Bentley said: “I’ve been so overwhelmingly proud of what we’ve achieved since lockdown in March.

“We were the first theatre, first library and first cinema in the UK to re-open and now we’re one of only a small handful of venues to put on a Christmas show.

“Staying open when so many others are closed is a really hard position to be in, especially in this current climate, but we’re in a fight for survival and this is how we fight. We’re open simply to preserve jobs and to serve our community, it’s all we can do, and the least we should do.

“The situation however could not be more serious for us than it is right now; two thirds of the country’s theatres still could be out of business by Christmas. We need to get through this period successfully if we are to avoid that fate.

“We’d hope that everyone will buy a ticket for Christmas as we go full steam ahead with preparations for A Christmas Carol; it really is the best way to help us right now.

“The show must go on. We’ll take any lockdowns and circuit breakers in our stride and will do our best to ensure that everyone gets to see the show, so customers can buy with confidence.”

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the £1.57bn Culture Recovery Fund in July but money is yet to be allocated and distributed to cultural organisations and venues.

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