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Chief executive of Derry's Millennium Forum says the theatre is unlikely to open again until 2021

Local arts scene hit hard by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic

Showstoppers

The Showstoppers group pictured recently on stage at the Millennium Forum. Sadly, the local theatre looks likely to remain closed for the rest of the year.

The chief executive of Derry's largest theatre has said it will 'probably be closed for the rest of the year'.

David McLaughlin of the Millennium Forum said a decision will be taken in the next 10 days on the viability of this year's pantomime.

If it does not go ahead, it is likely the venue will remain closed until next February.

Mr McLaughlin told the Derry News that unless government guidelines around social distancing relax it will be impossible to make a profit on the show.

"There are long dark days ahead for all theatres," he said.

"The constraints of social distancing make it unworkable."

The Millennium Forum has a seating capacity of 1,012 people, but under current social distancing guidelines of one metre it could only accommodate around 230/240 people.

"Occupancy is crucial," said Mr McLaughlin.

"It needs to be high to make the major productions work.

"Our big shows are a massive undertaking. They could be coming from the UK with five or six articulated trucks and can cost six figures each week to put on.

"You have to be pretty sure you can recoup that money to make it viable.

"If we are operating at less than 25% capacity it just won't work.

"We will probably be closed for the rest of the year.

"If I got word today that we could reopen, the quickest we could open our doors would be November.

"A decision will have to be made soon about this year's pantomime, but school bookings make up a huge part of that and I can't see schools booking shows this year."

Despite the bleak outlook for the rest of 2020, Mr McLaughlin said there are no plans for staff redundancies at present.

"Our staff are all furloughed at the minute and that has been a blessing that we have been able to retain and pay staff and I hope that will continue.”

"I don't foresee redundancies at this period of time."

More on this story in today's Derry News

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