'It's crippling us': Islington's theatres and pubs disheartened by lockdown extension

The Almeida Theatre, off Upper Street in Islington

The Almeida Theatre, off Upper Street in Islington - Credit: Google

The extension to coronavirus restrictions has been met with dismay by many bosses running theatres, venues and pubs in Islington.

Freedom Day, heralding the end of all legal limits on social contact, was scheduled for Monday (June 21).

But it has been delayed by up to a month due to fears of an increased strain on the NHS with rising Delta variant rates.

Until the full easing of lockdown measures, hospitality venues like pubs and restaurants can only allow groups of up to six people or two households. In addition, entertainment venues like cinemas and theatres will be at 50 per cent capacity, and nightclubs will have to remain closed.

The executive director of Little Angel children's puppet theatre in Dagmar Passage, Peta Swindall, said her team was “very disheartened”. 

“As a small charity who relies heavily on box office income, this is a huge blow," she said.

"It will have a big impact, putting increased pressure on our already inflated fundraising targets and future income targets, not to mention the workload of our staff team." 

The Little Angel Theatre in Dagmar Terrace

The Little Angel Theatre in Dagmar Terrace - Credit: Google

Alex Milward from the Almeida Theatre in Almeida Street, Angel, said the current situation, with the theatre only able to operate at a third of its normal capacity is “extremely challenging”.

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"We have the first performance today (June 16) of our new production 'and breathe...,' which runs until July 10.

"We had been waiting for government confirmation on the easing of restrictions after June 21 and, now that that has been delayed, the production will play to socially distanced, limited audiences, throughout its whole run.”

Meanwhile, landlord of the Tollington Arms, Martin Whelan, said the impact of the continued restrictions which are “penalising the hospitality industry”, would be “crippling”.

“We are running on a third capacity in pubs because we have to have restricted numbers," he said.

"I'd placed beer orders to come in today (June 16) to open back up on Monday. [Prime Minister Boris] Johnson was only on the telly on Monday and I had to cancel it again, and we are no wiser whether we can open without restrictions. 

"We had to ring our staff on Monday night to say. ‘We don't need you for another month’. It’s soul destroying."

Tollington Arms landlord Martin Whelan with his partner Louise and former Arsenal defender Martin Keown

Tollington Arms landlord Martin Whelan (alongside a bronze statue of himself) with his partner Louise and former Arsenal defender Martin Keown - Credit: The Tollington Arms