Crunch time for Christmas as pantos evaporate but outdoor events gain confidence

Trees in the arboretum illuminated for Christmas

Bedgebury Arboretum

With the arrival of August, and no end to social distancing in sight, many theatres have given up hope of presenting their pantomimes this Christmas. This will be a financial disaster for regional theatres, as the pantomime season generates much of their annual income.
However, other Christmas events are looking a bit more hopeful …

Pantomimes postponed to 2021

Sadly, August so far has seen an increasing shower of cancellations of pantomimes throughout the country. Major panto production company Qdos did warn earlier in the year that early August would be the decision date for most producers of Christmas shows.

Clive Rowe on stage as panto dame

Hackney Empire panto. Photo Robert Workman.

Although indoor theatre performances are permitted from 15th August, it seems that pantomime (and many other shows) is not financially viable with social distancing in place.

Recently cancelled or postponed Christmas pantos include those at the Hackney Empire,Lyric Hammersmith Theatre, Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch and Theatre Royal Stratford East in the London area; and those at the Birmingham Hippodrome, Hull New Theatre, Blackpool Grand, Bradford Alhambra, the Mayflower in Southampton, Darlington Hippodrome, Nottingham Theatre Royal, Royal & Derngate in Northampton, Belfast’s Grand Opera House, and King’s Theatre, Edinburgh.

Meanwhile, Sadler’s Wells in London has extended all show cancellations to 24th January 2021, and Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker! is another casualty of coronavirus – with its national tour and Christmas season at Sadler’s Wells postponed to next year.

Christmas magic outdoors this year

Still, elsewhere in the domestic tourism industry, there is light in the darkness as many gardens and stately homes feel confident enough to launch bookings for their Christmas illuminated trails.

Image of Longleat House with Christmas light projections

Longleat House will be illuminated during the Land of Light Christmas spectacle.

These include Kew GardensChristmas at Kew, which is back for its eighth year and Christmas at Bedgebury, which is returning for its third year at Bedgebury National Pinetum in Kent. Longleat is offering a brand new Land of Light event, illuminating seven themed areas across the Wiltshire estate. Tickets will be available on their website from early autumn. The National Trust has been reviewing its festive illumination events. Bookings are now open for the Christmas lights at the beautiful gardens at Stourhead, Wiltshire, as well as those at Dunham Massey, Cheshire, and Belton House, Lincolnshire.  Leonardslee Lakes & Gardens in Sussex is holding Leonardslee Illuminated once again after the success of its first season in 2019. Visitors can enjoy Christmas light and lantern displays throughout the gardens, live music, and a silver moon floating over the lake. Not to be left out, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is holding Christmas at the Botanics for the fourth year, with a fire garden and giant luminescent sculptures.

Night landscape of Leonardslee Gardens with illuminated moon effect suspended over the lake

Leonardslee Illuminated

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