What difference will the delay in easing Covid restrictions make in Chiswick?

Image above: Downing St press conference announcing the delay in the easing of lockdown restrictions, Monday 14 June

The long anticipated ending of lockdown measures has been delayed by a month, the Prime Minister has announced, as Covid cases have been rising again around the country. What difference will this make in Chiswick?

Chiswick Cinema will still open but will run at a loss

For the new Chiswick Cinema it means that they still don’t know what new films they will show when they open their doors on 25 June. What they do know is that they will be running at a loss.

“We just need to get open” their spokeswoman Katie Gilbert told The Chiswick Calendar.

They are hoping to open with In the Heights, a musical set in New York’s Washington Heights neighbourhood by Lin-Manuel Miranda, who created the smash hit Hamilton, and British drama Supernova, with Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci as a long established couple facing dementia together.

Image above: Chiswick Ciname; photograph Jeremy Vine

After Monday’s announcement that entertainment venues have to keep social distancing measures in place, film distributors are considering whether they will go ahead and release their new films to a smaller audience or whether, like the new James Bond and Top Gun, they will be held back until they can reach the mass audiences on which film financing is predicated.

Meanwhile Chiswick Cinema has a slate of films they can show – some of the Oscar winning films we haven’t had a chance to see on a big screen, classic films such as the original Top Gun, independent films, foreign language films and previews of new films.

Social distancing measures have a greater impact on the finances of small cinemas than they do on large ones. Chiswick Cinema will operate a system based on algorithms which work out the required radius of space around groups of cinema goers who book together, but that means they can’t sell enough seats to make a profit, so until that changes they will be running at a loss.

Image above: Paddling pool at Dukes Meadows; photograph Marianne Mahaffey

The paddling pool in Dukes Meadows will stay closed

The heat wave would normally see lots of families at Dukes Meadows, with small children splashing about happily in the paddling pool. That will remain closed. Kathleen Healy, Development manager for Dukes Meadows Trust told us they have been inundated with enquiries about it, especially when the one in Ravenscourt Park was opened briefly. That closed, because it was impossible to manage numbers, and Dukes Meadows’ pool will remain closed.

Image above: Blues Engineers, Jazz at George IV

“Live music will go on regardless”

Jazz at George IV opened up on 20 May and musicians and audiences have been very pleased and excited to be experiencing live gigs again. Jazz promoter Larry Pryce, of Live Music To Go, which co-hosts Jazz at George IV with The Chiswick Calendar, said:

“It’s not an unexpected bump in the road to freedom, and live music will go on regardless. It is very frustrating as it is difficult to cover costs in these restricted social distancing conditions”.

Ben Bullman, General Manager of George IV told us prior to the announcement:

“While I understand the rationale, it will be very disappointing if we don’t get all restrictions lifted on 21 June and I just hope that we get a new date that’s not too far in the future.

“Pubs thrive on people being spontaneous – and just popping in for a pint or a quick bite to eat. At the moment we are effectively operating as a restaurant with everyone pre-booking and full table service.

“I just can’t wait for people to be sat back at the bar – there’s a whole group of, mainly older male, customers who have effectively just been missing for the last 15 months. Obviously we are on tenterhooks waiting for today’s announcement – as, no doubt, are those brides and grooms waiting to see if their weddings can go ahead with their planned guest lists. There’s a lot at stake.

Image above: Chiswick Cheese Market, May 2021; photograph David Insull

Open air markets will continue as they are

The open-air Sunday markets in Chiswick High Rd will continue as they are. Both the Cheese Market on 20 June and the next Flower Market on 3 July already have Covid safety measures in place. They operate a one-way system, starting at the Police station end of Old Market Place. Visitors and stall holders are required to wear masks and asked to keep their distance from other market goers. There is hand sanitiser available at the entrance and the stalls are well spaced out. The number of visitors in the spaces is also controlled by marshals counting people in and out.

The Sunday morning Food Market at Dukes Meadows will also carry on as it has been. They also keep an eye on the number of people in the market at any given time and operate a queue to get in when its crowded.

The new Junkyard Market which started with such promise at the end of April – ‘a bustling new open air, forward-thinking street food & drink’s market’ bringing a touch of Shoreditch to W4 at Power Road Studios, was put on hold once the Indian Covid variant was found to be present in LB Hounslow. They started as a pop-up which was supposed to be for seven weeks and although short-lived, the food court has been a success and they are applying for a longer term licence.

Image above: Gifford’s Circus 2021 show 

Chiswick House events will continue

The programme of events at Chiswick House will continue as they are at the moment, with restricted numbers. Director of Chiswick House Trust Xanthe Arvanitakis told us:

“Everything we’ve got planned will retain its Covid secure capacity. What we’re finding is that people aren’t booking ahead much. The uncertainty is unsettling, so people are leaving things to the last moment and are just booking the day before.

“So the ongoing unsettled nature of things makes it impossible to plan but on the other hand, if people aren’t able to go away this summer, we’re here, with lots going on”.

Chiswick House opened to the public on 27 May, with art installations by three major artists, both inside and outside the house. Bring into Being features the work of Jaimini Patel, Peter Adjaye and Turner Prize winning artist Mark Wallinger, who has created an interactive sun dial in the gardens of Chiswick House.

Giffords Circus is already nearly sold out, as they are selling 400 seats per show rather than the usual 600. They’ve dispensed with the usual benches and have replaced them with individual seating. As people arrive they’ll be seated, with gaps left between parties. The Life Lessons festival will also continue as planned.

Open air cinema at Chiswick House will be unaffected. Luna Cinema has done its seating plan with Covid distancing in mind and is in any case outdoors and not until August. Their line-up of classic and feel-good films includes Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet, Knives Out, Grease and The Greatest Showman. 18 – 21 August, in the Walled Garden

Image above: 2021 spring / summer season at Chiswick Playhouse

Chiswick Playhouse unsure whether summer musical can go ahead

Monday’s announcement throws everything up in the air again for Chiswick Playhouse. Up till 27 June they have planned socially distanced productions with fewer tickets sold, but their new summer musical, From Here, planned to open on 1 July is now in doubt.

Artistic producer Wayne Glover told The Chiswick Calendar:

“This makes a huge difference to us and is quite detrimental. I understand why the decision has to be made, or course and we will do our level best to make sure the shows go on, but we now have to contact all the creative freelances involved in incoming productions to see if they can still put their shows on with a reduced number of tickets.

“Our new musical for the summer, From Here, was planned for sale at full capacity and we have to check with everyone involved to see if it can still go ahead”.

Although shows planned before then have been programmed in with the expectation of Covid restrictions, Chiswick Playhouse was hoping they would be able to add a few seats for shows such as An Evening with Phyllis Logan and An Evening With Torin Douglas. Both are being put on as part of the Bedford Park Festival and both currently sold out.

Image above: Cream tea; stock photograph

Bedford Park Festival loses its cream teas

Bedford Park Festival‘s organisers hoped for the best but planned for the worst, so the only direct casualty of the announcement will be no cream teas for the Bedford Park Open Gardens. They are already planning events with social distancing in mind: entry to the gardens for Open Gardens for example is staggered. To reduce crowding visitors are asked to pick an arrival time of 2.00 pm, 3.30 pm, or after 3.30 pm.

The organisers decided long ago to cancel the opening Green Days weekend and the traditional Friday night launch party of the Summer Exhibition. Both the Summer Exhibition of art works and the Photography competition / exhibition are available to view – Summer Exhibition from Monday 12 – Friday 18 June in St Michaels & All Angels Church and the Photography competition / exhibition 19 / 20 June in the Parish Hall.

All the art works in the Summer Exhibition are also available to view here on The Chiswick Calendar and the Photography competition / exhibition entries will be available to view from Friday 18 June.

Other than that, the delay in ending Covid restrictions just means fewer people will be able to book for the events than they had hoped, which will mean less money for the church’s charities.

Image above: Ealing Comedy Festival 2019

Ealing Comedy Festival will continue, but just not make any money for the organiser

Tickets for the Ealing Comedy Festival went on sale last week, as the organiser Simon Randall (who runs Headliners comedy club in Chiswick) had to make a decision on whether to go ahead or not. He hires a huge marquee which normally seats 1,000 people, so will be running it at half capacity. Selling 500 seats will cover his costs but not make him any money, he told The Chiswick Calendar.

“We gambled and lost” he said. “We gambled, as many a wife has done before with Boris Johnson, that he would keep his word”.

The Prime Minister did say from the outset that the easing of lockdown restrictions would be “data led”. He said on Monday (14 June) that June 21 had always been a “not before” date, whereas the new date for the ending of Covid restrictions, 19 July, he regards as a “terminus date”.

The comedy festival is not till 21 July, so they may yet find that they are able to sell more tickets, but it will be a close call whether they get enough warning.

“Tickets have been selling incredibly well” he told us. “Saturday night is already sold out. If we get a bit of notice we can put more tickets on sale and we might actually make a bit of money”.

The Ealing Comedy Festival runs 21 – 25 July. Russell Kane is hosting the opening night. Paul Sinha, Sean Walsh and Milton Jones are among the comedians performing during the week, with Jo Caulfield and Rich Hall heading the line up on Saturday night.

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