THEATRE directors are “frustrated” yet “hopeful” to raise the curtain again soon, despite lockdown measures likely seeing them closed for at least a year.

The performing arts industry has been hit hard by Covid-19 and artists across East Lancashire are becoming increasingly frustrated that they have not been able to host performances to the public for the past 10 months.

Blackburn Empire Theatre, on Aqueduct Road, closed their doors March 14 last year, and chairman Michael Berry said he has everything in place as he remains hopeful that he can raise the curtain very soon.

He said: “It’s a terrible time for all of us. Our big problem is we have about 40 volunteers and 5 staff and they want to be working, they want to be doing something.

“I think we are talking perhaps May or something like that but I could put shows on in February if things were right.”

The theatre, which received £108,000 back in October as part of the Government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund, has put in precautions for them to be audience ready when they get the greenlight.

Michael continued: “We have got so many artists that want to come, we have put all the Covid-19 precautions in place but this virus is defeating us all.

“If we could have opened in January, I could have had a full programme for the rest of the year. What I had in January we are having to put back to next year.

“Everybody is chomping at the bit, artists, producers, saying we’re ready when you’re ready.”

Restrictions, which have been in place for most of last year in East Lancashire have kept theatres from opening their doors since March last year, and despite hopes that lockdown will end in February, the Prime Minister said that easing of restrictions will be gradual, meaning it is very unlikely the curtains will open for several months yet.

Blackburn Musical Theatre Company (BMTC), which was founded in 1912, normally hold a large-scale musical in May at the Empire Theatre, as well of staging concerts and events in connection with other local organisations

BMTC publicity officer Anna Cryer said: “We usually have our first get together for our production on the first Monday after New Year, so it’s been really difficult this week to go back into lockdown at a time when we’d usually be back together.

“It’s been such a sad year for everyone involved in theatre, whether as amateurs or professionals. We miss our friends and getting together every week for rehearsals at the Empire Theatre and we look forward to being back there and supporting them in their recovery once the pandemic is over.”

The company has around 50 performing members, and at least as many again in non-performing supporters, crew, committee and volunteers. BMTC is a registered charity and runs on a not-for-profit basis.

The musical theatre group were set to host a performance of Fiddler on the Roof in May 2020, but postponed it for May 2021, before having pushed it back again until May 2022.

Over in Oswaldtwistle, The Civic has become frustrated at the length of time they have remained closed to audiences, but is hopeful that they will be given the green light to welcome audiences back to the theatre soon.

The theatre, which celebrated its 10th anniversary last year, was hopeful and prepared to open last September, but further restrictions were implemented, keeping theatres closed across the county.

Creative director, Gayle Knight said: “We were one of the first industries to close back in March last year.

As the vaccine horizon is in sight, performing arts people hope it will allow ‘curtain up’.