BHLives’ COVID struggle costs ‘200’ jobs

BHLive is facing an uncertain future, as Government COVID-19 restrictions threaten venues in Bournemouth. While a third lockdown will likely add further blows to the floundering BCP hospitality industry.

12th October 2020 – Last Updated 25th January 2021

Photo: Behind the bar shot of a bustling Stereophonics gig put on by BHLive before the 1st lockdown – 3rd March 2020

Local hospitality business BHLive has felt effects of theatres going dark. David Southam manager at the Pavilion Theatre, said by October 2020 BHLive had made around ‘200’ redundancies. Including key members of the BHLive hospitality team across the Pavilion Theatre and the Bournemouth International Centre (BIC).

Jane Kerfoot of BBLOC (Bournemouth & Boscombe Lights Opera Company), said Britain stands to lose a ‘special resource’ if regional theatres remain ‘dark’. Singling out the ‘beautiful, iconic’ local Pavilion theatre, Jane highlighted theatres economic benefits. Sound and lighting technicians, prop suppliers, and set designers represent some of the people relying on incomes from amateur productions.

With Covid-19 forcing venues to remain closed, numerous shows are being scrapped or delayed. According to Jane, BBLOCs production of Saturday Night Fever had a massive £90,000 investment. Initially planned for March then pushed until October, before becoming one of those cancellations.

Jane Kerfoot pointed out that ‘angel’ donors for national theatres, in areas like London, keep them afloat when they should be sinking. It seems however, there might be nothing to stop the tide consuming Bournemouth’s theatre industry.  

David noted pantomime is ‘the most profitable show that goes on’ for the Pavilion theatre, referring to both ‘ticket sales and secondary [bar] sales’. Going on to say that ‘[pantomime] has officially been cancelled’. If the Pavilion had done a pantomime over Christmas, it would be at a capacity of only 400. With government guidelines at time the bars would not be able to open, as a table service is not plausible. Therefore, David said there would be ‘no intervals.’  Due to all of this he said ‘The overheads would be too large’ for BHLive to stay open for pantomime season. Later in December the implementation of tier systems to COVID-19 regulations, extinguished remaining hopes for pantomime season in Bournemouth.  

David said, ‘there are a lot of bookings for March’, but they’re mostly shows deferred from earlier in 2020.  Deferred shows cause issues for amateur productions. According to Jane they must purchase rights for shows, which expire. Restrictions can affect shows up until as late as Easter. She noted that rehearsals for shows in March would need to begin in January, which is impossible following the announcement of a third national lockdown.

By Byron Stewart-Reid (s5003431)

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