As Greater Manchester moves from lockdown into Tier 3, cultural leaders have called on government ministers to rethink the enforced closure of cultural venues.
Under the new Tier 3 rules, venues like theatres, museums and galleries will not be allowed to reopen from December 3.
They also had to close under the Tier 3 rules in force in October – yet, unlike then, the new December rules permit other businesses including non-essential shops and hairdressers to open their doors again.
Cultural venues say this is putting their financial viability at risk and affecting the livelihoods of staff.
Leaders have also expressed their concern over the broader impact on mental health and well being.
Councillor Luthfur Rahman OBE, executive member for culture, leisure and skills for Manchester City Council, said: “Perhaps it’s a nod to the upcoming festive season, but this ‘naughty’ or ‘nice’ list that has been put together of venues that can and can’t open in Tier 3, is little short of a pantomime.
“According to these latest rules we can muscle in alongside the Christmas shoppers in all non-essential shops, go for a workout in the gym, get our hair done, and even go to a massage parlour – but we’re not allowed to walk around our local art gallery, visit a museum, or sit in a socially distanced seat inside a Covid-secure cultural venue and enjoy a performance.
“Our cultural venues here in Manchester are on their knees.”
The enforced closure comes despite the hard work venues have put into becoming Covid-secure.
Mr Rahman added: “People would be safe visiting them.”
Veunes affected include Manchester Art Gallery, the National Football Museum, the Museum of Science and Industry, and the multi-arts centre HOME.
In his own open letter to Greater Manchester MPs, HOME’s director and CEO Dave Moutrey wrote: “The idea that people are safer in a shop or gym than they are in a theatre, gallery or cinema is illogical. There is no data to suggest that cultural venues pose a significant transmission risk.”
Mr Rahman concluded: “It’s time for an urgent re-think to keep our cultural heart beating and allow the safe re-opening of cultural venues in Tier 3.”
Photo credit: Drew Forsyth