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British entertainment, left in dark, seeks government insurance help



British theaters and live music venues say the show will only go on if the government provides a financial backstop, as the COVID-19 pandemic means they can no longer get commercial insurance.

While venues for indoor live performances are not yet open in all of Britain, theaters and concert halls in England have in theory been open to socially-distanced audiences since mid-August.

But only a handful have opened, citing insurance as one of the many barriers, as underwriters have been excluding COVID-19 from the cover they provide.

That means a theater has no protection against cancellation or legal action from anyone in the audience or cast who falls ill or from a lockdown due to COVID-19.

St Martin's Theatre in London's West End, amid the spread of COVID-19, in London, Britain, August 13, 2020. /Reuters

Some small theaters are carrying on regardless and hoping for the best, but for tours, festivals and big names, it's a deal breaker and has hit live performance across the globe, including on Broadway.

"You're not going to get a sponsor, full-house ticket sales, finance, TV licensing or big stars unless they are guaranteed," said James Davies, a director at insurance broker EC3.

A survey by the Society of London Theatre in May showed only 12 percent of organizations thought they would get the insurance they needed to reopen.

"The one thing no one can get insurance for at the moment is COVID," said Phil Bowdery, chair of the Concert Promoters' Association, one of several trade bodies pushing for government help.

"We'll take care of all the normal insurance – we are asking for the government to be a partner."


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