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U.K.’s Clapham Grand Takes On the Challenges of Staging Socially Distanced Shows

FOH Staff • International News • November 5, 2020

Socially distanced seating within London’s Clapham Grand venue

LONDON – Even if health authorities give venues the green light to reopen with social distancing measures in place, an analysis of the risks and rewards might convince some venue operators to simply stay dark.

One venue bucking that line of thought with a spirit of can-do optimism, however, is London’s Clapham Grand. The 1,300-capacity venue reopened in a limited capacity shortly after restrictions in the U.K. lifted in July, and on Sept. 6, a renovated upper tier balcony boosted the venue’s socially-distanced seating capacity from 280 to 380.

The renovated upper circle

The Clapham Grand has hosted post-Covid-shutdown music and comedy from Frank Turner, Jimmy Carr, Russell Howard, Louise Redknapp, Daniel Sloss and Al Murray, among others. And while the latest shutdowns ordered by the U.K. authorities disrupted the venue’s plans for November, the Clapham Grand is still selling tickets for December shows ( and encouraging acts affected by the November closures to consider postponing their shows to December or 2021 rather than just canceling outright.

The Clapham Grand hosted a “Save Live Comedy” charity show in August featuring Al Murray, Jayde Adams and other comedians. Attendance in the 1,300-capacity venue had to be limited to 280. A refurbished upper balcony has since expanded capacity to 380.

Ally Wolf, the manager of the Clapham Grand, issued the following statement recently:

Customer confidence is key for our industry to salvage anything in December and January post this lockdown.

I encourage promoters or acts with December shows not to make any rash decisions; venues can’t open without shows and an empty diary in December is heart breaking. Likewise anyone with affected shows in November, please don’t cancel – move dates into December or 2021.

Customers want to come out, they want to see shows and we can deliver them safely – but they need to see that confidence reflected across the whole industry straight away. If we waiver on it so will they.

None of us are taking a pandemic lightly, at The Grand alone we’ve invested a fortune in remodeling ourselves to accommodate distancing and we are brilliant at it – like so many others too. We will abide by all guidelines as we always have, but people have to know there is something to return to and still invest in.

We were about to announce the next 8 weeks of shows at The Grand, which were our best yet, including our 120th birthday celebrations, and I know we will do so again, but everyone needs to have the same faith.

We need an outwards facing positivity from top to bottom – no matter how bad it is internally. No one invests in fear, and all our customers are making investments in us.

This pack of cards ain’t falling down just yet.

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