Frustration for Leeds culture venues forced to cancel live performances as thousands attend sporting events

Hyde Park Book Club owner Jack SimpsonHyde Park Book Club owner Jack Simpson
Hyde Park Book Club owner Jack Simpson
It's been a long and difficult year and a half for owners of live music and performance venues across Leeds who have had to cancel, rearrange and delay a multitude of events.

Now, Boris Johnson has announced that the June 21 unlocking date which would see the easing of all restrictions will no longer go ahead.

For culture venues in the city which put on live music, performances and events, this means a continuation of reduced capacities and rearranging events for the foreseeable.

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Hyde Park Book Club owner Jack Simpson says that while he isn't surprised by the delay, he finds it difficult to watch thousands of fans in football stadiums.

Steve Byrne, artistic director of Armley Interplay TheatreSteve Byrne, artistic director of Armley Interplay Theatre
Steve Byrne, artistic director of Armley Interplay Theatre

He told the YEP: "I understand the delay and we've all seen it coming while looking at the rates but I think the thing that winds people up the most in music, arts and hospitality is that our venues are almost singled out.

"We see probably 20,000 people at Wembley all drinking and shouting together but we can't have 200 people together in our well ventilated space.

"Musicians haven't been able to do their jobs for a year and a half and when you look at sport it seems like there's a double standard.

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"We've got a lot of events planned, both new and those that were rearranged, and every time the easing of restrictions gets pushed back, more events need moving.

"It's becoming like a massive game of Tetris."

Jack said that he did expect the delay and that he accepts the situation as long as hospitality restrictions aren't increased again.

He added: "We're hopeful that we can keep getting support from our community and that people will keep coming even if we can't go ahead with events yet.

"We have a civic responsibility and I wouldn't want to lobby for us getting loads of people together if nurses or the elderly were being put in dangerous situations."

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Jack's thoughts are echoed over in Armley as the artistic director of the Interplay Theatre tells of his plans to push back their latest show.

Steve Byrne said: "We were going to do a sensory piece for people with learning disabilities but we will have to stall that because of the proximity of the audience.

"This was a show for which we were hoping to get back to full capacity but we do understand the situation.

"We will explore if there is any way of putting on the show in a Covid-safe way but if not, we're just going with it, it won't break us and we will adapt as theatre does."

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