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Stratford-upon-Avon leisure industry reacts to roadmap: 'We're getting ready for bounce back'

Cautious enthusiasm was the reaction of Stratford district’s leisure industry to the government’s roadmap out of lockdown announced last Monday.

The four-stage plan was set out by Boris Johnson in the Commons will see outdoor attractions and outdoor hospitality venues such as beer gardens will reopen from 12th April, as well as shops, hairdressers, and salons. Meanwhile limited crowds will be allowed at sporting events from 17th May and it is hoped that remain restriction on social contact will be lifted from 21st June.

Nick Birch of Avon Boating (taken prior to pandemic). Photo: Mark Williamson
Nick Birch of Avon Boating (taken prior to pandemic). Photo: Mark Williamson

Cllr Tony Jefferson said: "We are pleased the government has signposted a preliminary path back to normality and that our businesses now have some indication on when they might be able to reopen – although we recognise this is very much a first stage in what could be quite lengthy transition.

"Stratford District has been particularly affected by the pandemic compared to other regions, so we know how important it is to get this recovery right - which means reopening gradually rather than quickly and risking further lockdowns.

"If all goes well, we hope to see tourists return to our district once again to enjoy all it has to offer and help the economy recover.”

“Before that happens, we would implore everyone to continue to follow the rules and to encourage people to support Stratford district businesses as much as possible by purchasing from them online."

And Helen Peters, chief executive of Shakespeare’s England, said the plans give tourism businesses a date to aim for.

“It makes perfect sense to do it this way so that we don’t find ourselves back in another lockdown situation once again just months down the line at a time when tourism and hospitality businesses are busy,” she said.

“Now what we have some preliminary dates, it gives the industry sensible preparation times for businesses to restock, reorganise staffing and check all their Covid secure mitigation is in place.

“This will all help build confidence amongst our visitors, allow businesses to plan and stimulate the economy.”

Meanwhile the managing director of the oldest business in Stratford said he had no doubts that Stratford would bounce back.

Nick Birch of Avon Boating, which was founded in the 1850s, commented: “Hopefully this will be a great year for everyone for English tourism and Stratford for locals and visitors alike. We’ll make the most of what we’ve got. England’s the best place to be in the Summer because it’s such a lovely country and there’s great things to do. My wife is Italian and even she prefers it here!”

Mr Birch said he took on board that not all businesses were in such a buoyant position as his, but he said at least there was now an end in sight. He said: “We will get over this. The whole world’s been in this situation and it looks like we will come out of it before everyone else and we will be able to enjoy the summer. What’s not to look forward to?”

RSC artistic director Gregory Doran sadi the lockdown easing was hopeful. He commented:

“While we understand that this timeline remains contingent on infection rates continuing to decline, this latest news means we are able to move forwards with greater optimism. We look forward with anticipation to the moment when we can, once more, open our doors with full-scale productions to celebrate all that is brilliant about live theatre.

“Despite this news, it continues to be a challenging time for theatres big and small, and for members of the freelance community, who are such a vital part of our industry, and who have, in many cases, found it disproportionately hard to access financial support.”

Mr Doran pointed out that it would not be able to pay back loans it had borrowed to see it through the pandemic until 2040.

Although he could not yet give a date when the RSC’s programme would resume, he said: “We will continue to work through what this timeline means for the planned re-opening of our buildings in 2021, our rescheduled productions of ‘The Winter’s Tale’ and ‘The Comedy of Errors’.”

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