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Plea for council to underwrite panto due to COVID concerns


The arts body which runs Perth Concert Hall and Perth Theatre has called on Perth and Kinross Council to consider underwriting this year’s panto.

Tickets for Cinderella have already gone on sale but while bosses at Horsecross Arts remain optimistic about ticket sales, they are less sure about the impact of vaccine passports and Test and Protect.

Having missed the ball last year, Cinderella hopes to grace the Perth Theatre stage from November 27 until December 31.

The panto is billed as being back with “more sparkles, singing and shout-outs than you can wave a magic wand at”.

Tickets went on sale in August but sales are expected to increase from October.

Horsecross chief executive Nick Williams and its head of finance and administration Willie Anderson presented an update to Perth and Kinross Council ’s scrutiny committee on September 15.

Mr Anderson reported the organisation had – for the time being – got itself into a financially stable position.

He said he was pleased to report they had concluded 80 per cent of the internal organisational development and governance work stemming from Horsecross Arts’ problems in 2019.

And the chief executive shared his hope this work would be completed before he reports back to the scrutiny committee at the end of the year.

Mr Williams said: “In terms of our financial model the panto is our biggest risk that we take every year.

“We have formally requested that Perth and Kinross Council consider underwriting that show in case there are challenges around things like Test and Release [Protect] which could shut down the show for 24 hours. And we are in dialogue around that at the moment.”

He told councillors a “significant chunk” of Horsecross’s annual budget went on the panto. The Horsecross chief said it costs around £197,000 to put on a panto for six weeks and the organisation expected to take £225,000 in ticket income.

PKC’s head of culture and communities confirmed the council was in “detailed dialogue” with Horsecross about underwriting the show.

Fiona Robertson told the committee: “Clearly the panto is important and we all want to see good stuff happen.”

She told the committee issues such as late ticket sales and the impact of the vaccine passport were key.

Earlier in his presentation, Mr Williams had highlighted the uncertainty surrounding vaccination plans and how it will affect audiences and ticket sales.

The chief executive told councillors: “As we currently understand, it will affect standing performances only.”

Horsecross currently has two standing performances in the autumn – both of which are reported to be almost sold out.

Details of the vaccination programme are still being ironed out with the Scottish Government scheme due to go live on October 1.




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