The National Lottery has announced an initiative to enable hundreds of thousands of theatregoers to enjoy socially distanced pantomime this Christmas in theatres across the nation.
The initiative will see The National Lottery buy seats that need to remain empty to enable social-distancing, complying with relevant government and public health guidance. By making it viable for theatres to open their doors to the general public, up to 250,000 tickets are expected to be available, with more than 20,000 free tickets available for National Lottery players and the rest to go on sale.
This will generate vital income for theatres and help restore jobs – while providing much-needed cheer for panto lovers at Christmas.
‘Pantoland at The Palladium!’, starring Julian Clary and featuring Beverley Knight making her London Palladium panto debut, is the first of a number of productions at theatres across the country to be announced, with further venues to be confirmed in the coming weeks.
Performances will begin at the iconic venue on 12th December 2020 running until 3rd January 2021, with tickets on sale from today. Details of how National Lottery players can access free tickets will be announced in November.
The production at the London Palladium is produced by Qdos Pantomimes, the largest pantomime producers in the UK. The National Lottery is working with Qdos to secure other venues nationwide and these will be announced over the coming weeks.
The announcement comes as The National Lottery looks to thank its players for the huge contribution they make, raising £30M each week which has enabled hundreds of millions of pounds to benefit projects at the forefront of the coronavirus pandemic.
In addition to the 20,000 free tickets, National Lottery players will also have a chance to be a guest in the Royal Box at the London Palladium, with other initiatives to thank players to follow in the coming months.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “Today, we launch Operation Sleeping Beauty. We must hope for the best and plan for the worst. Our hope is to get some panto back on this Christmas, and despite the very challenging backdrop we are going to give it our best shot. We have already supported the sector with our £1.57bn Culture Recovery Fund and I’m grateful to National Lottery players for helping to make this happen.”
Michael Harrison, Managing Director of Qdos Entertainment said: “Pantomime is a critical part of the calendar for many theatres. As a result of lockdown in March, venues were forced to close their doors, placing the live performance industry in crisis, causing job losses and placing the viability of theatres large and small at risk. This initiative will be a lifeline for those venues, whilst enabling us to provide much needed uplifting entertainment at such a challenging time.”
Nigel Railton, Chief Executive of National Lottery operator Camelot, said: “These are unusual times and we know there will be challenges in making this happen but it is undoubtedly worth a try given the huge contribution National Lottery players make. We are delighted to be working with productions across the nation to make socially-distanced panto happen this Christmas. We know many National Lottery players are loyal panto fans so whether they are able to buy tickets for their families or are lucky enough to get access for free, this is all about saying thank you to players who make amazing things happen, just by buying a ticket.”
Thanks to National Lottery players, up to £600M is currently being used by charities and organisations affected by the impact of the coronavirus outbreak across the arts, community and charity, heritage, education, environment and sport sectors. This includes up to £300M in funding support from the National Lottery Community Fund which is being used to help groups best placed to support people and communities through the crisis – from helping support food banks to causes that combat loneliness and isolation, support for the elderly and projects that aid health in the community.