Cultural leaders in Manchester are calling for a cultural venue re-think by government to allow venues to safely re-open when the city is put into Tier 3 next week.
As things stand, when the city is put back into Tier 3 at the end of the current national lockdown, cultural venues including theatres, museums, and galleries will not be able to open. At the same time however, venues such as gyms, leisure centres, hairdressers, and beauty salons, will all be able to re-open, as will all non essential shops.
City leaders say they are at a loss to understand why cultural venues that have done so much and invested so heavily in making their venues and activities as Covid-secure as they can be, are being singled out as a sector and not allowed to safely re-open.
They are also concerned about the devastating impact being forced to stay closed is having on the viability of venues, as well as on the livelihoods of everyone who works in them. None of the cultural venues in the city that had been able to re-open in a measured safe way before the city first went into Tier 3 just before the latest national lockdown, will be able to re-open next week.
In addition to this, there are very real concerns about the ongoing impact closure is having on the mental health and well-being not just of the city's cultural workforce, but also on local people who are being starved of all the benefits attending cultural events and venues brings with it.
Councillor Luthfur Rahman OBE, Executive Member for Culture, Leisure, and Skills, 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.
"Having followed to the letter every single rule laid down by government since March, the impact of this on Manchester's culture, events and hospitality sector is yet another nail in the coffin and will be even more devastating.
"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. They have done everything they possibly can and have invested massively in making their venues as safe as they absolutely can be for audiences to return. People would be safe visiting them.
"This continued closure will have a further devastating impact - and not just on the future viability of venues, or on people's jobs in the sector. The knock-on negative impact it will have on connected businesses and the wider economy is immense and cannot be overstated.
"We also need to have a proper conversation about the significant impact all this is having on the mental health and well-being of the city's cultural workforce, as well as on that of local people who are being starved of all the benefits attending cultural events and venues brings with it.
"We completely understand that in a pandemic public health has to come first, but the current restrictions are irrational and inconsistent and 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."