The terrible coronavirus has put paid to live performing at the many venues which make Hammersmith & Fulham such a vibrant and lively borough.
But there’s a real determination to bounce back from the pandemic, with venues appealing to their supporters – and the wider public – for morale and financial backing in these troubled times.
Many enterprising arts venues are trawling their archives and coming up with inventive and original ways of celebrating past productions and gigs, while keeping the hearth warm for a return to business once the lockdown lifts.
“We all need to do everything we can to support our popular arts and culture venues during this terrible pandemic,” said Cllr Andrew Jones, H&F Cabinet Member for the Economy.
“They are the backbone to our vibrant arts and culture scene. Together we will build on the success of our Arts Strategy and continue to make H&F one of the leading local art scenes in the country.”
Read more here on our Arts Strategy (pdf 627KB)
Venue by venue
So, here’s a round-up of how local venues are faring, and how to keep up to date with their news during the crisis.
O2 Shepherds Bush Empire
While awaiting news of life after lockdown, the O2 Shepherds Bush Empire is still listing gigs, although it accepts that “some shows and events will be moving to future dates”.
Many concerts planned for May and June have been rebooked to dates in September and October. Anyone who has booked tickets is asked to hold on to them and await news of rescheduling.
When gigs resume, extra safety procedures will be in place to protect artists, staff and gig-goers.
Barons Court Theatre
The popular little subterranean space below the Curtain’s Up pub in Comeragh Road, West Ken, has optimistically listed shows for the summer, including The Magic Cavern close-up illusion show, suitable for everyone over six.
It has joined other London pub theatres in appealing for support during lockdown.
Bush Hall is one of 670 independent music venues in the UK at risk of having to permanently close because the pandemic has hit finances so severely.
It has a live music programme stretching ahead for the next year, but all the gigs are in jeopardy.
“We want to say a huge thank-you to everyone who has helped us through this strange time,” said a Bush Hall spokesman.
“But the situation is dire, and it’s up to music fans and the wider industry to do something.” It is joining forces with the Music Venue Trust in backing the crowdfunding campaign #SaveOurVenues to build a £1million survival fund.
The Bush Theatre
There is information on plans for the future, and on ways to support the theatre through coronavirus, on the website of the Uxbridge Road, Shepherds Bush, theatre.
The Bush has been running quizzes via @bushtheatre and has loaded up production photos to Instagram.
Shows are still being listed on the website in the hope of a swift return, and tickets can still be booked. The building, including the Library Cafe, remains currently closed to the public.
The former Hammersmith Odeon has been closed since lockdown, but future events are being planned – including a free Mo Gilligan show for NHS and key workers on 14 November.
Most Apollo shows up to late summer have been cancelled or rearranged, with full details about individual shows on the website. Whoopi Goldberg and Jennifer Saunders had been due to perform the feelgood musical Sister Act in late July and into August, but that has been rescheduled for similar dates in 2021 – so existing ticket-holders will keep their same seats.
Comedian Jimmy Carr is hoping to put the smile back with a series of stand-up nights between 9 and 28 November. His pre-show warning? “Having political correctness at a comedy show is like having health and safety at a rodeo.”
The theatre near Earls Court, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, has been forced to cancel all scheduled shows until September.
But it has been posting reviews and images from past productions over those 40 years - while scripts from old shows can be bought via the website.
It is backing a playwriting prize for new UK playwrights, and has extended the deadline for entries to 30 June to give an opportunity to anyone inspired while staying at home.
While the palace is currently closed, there are still plans to stage the late-summer Outdoor Cinema shows in the gardens, including Renee Zellweger’s award-winning performance in Judy on Wednesday 16 September on the main lawn.
Sian Harrington, chief executive, said that the hardest decision in recent weeks had been closing the gardens – just as they were bursting into life with the fresh spring colours.
“Having seen for myself how busy our gardens were on the weekend of 21 and 22 March – which was wonderful in one way – it became clear to me that it would be impossible to regulate things for everyone’s safety,” she said, adding that advice on enforcing social distancing had led the trust to reach its decision.
The palace is, however, running an online shop selling gifts, books, plants and toys.
The free-entry comedy club at the Grove pub at 83 Hammersmith Grove, W6 – Instant Laughs – was showcasing up to a dozen talented stand-ups in short bursts on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday evenings, but has had to close during the pandemic.
Jazz Café POSK
The Polish Social & Cultural Association at 238 King Street, Hammersmith, has been forced to suspend all public events, including performances in its Jazz Cafe.
Joanna Mludzinska, POSK chair, explained: “All events have been postponed; a decision that has been extremely difficult to make and which will cause serious financial difficulties in the coming months.”
She has appealed for donations to be made to the centre’s charity account until normal service can be resumed, and has pledged that the centre is determined to resume its mission “to proudly serve the Polish community in Britain and show the best of Polish culture to all audiences” once lockdown lifts.
West London’s leading drama school Lamda – the oldest drama school in the UK, which treats H&F residents to half-price tickets when it can perform – is currently closed.
The nature of drama involves students working in close proximity, so face-to-face teaching has had to move online. As a result, no public performances are being staged for the time being.
The London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, based at the college at 155 Talgarth Road, W14, boasts alumni including Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Ruth Wilson, David Oyelowo and Rory Kinnear.
July’s exams will entail online assessments, with students taking examinations in their own homes... observed, via Zoom, by examiners.
Bookings are being taken for the Lyric panto, Aladdin, with early-bird offers until the end of May. It runs from 14 November to 3 January 2021.
There’s a free screening of A Doll’s House, Rachel O’Riordan’s acclaimed 2019 production, on 20 May, available from 2.30pm to midnight on YouTube.
The theatre continues to work in the community with initiatives such as the key workers project, in conjunction with H&F Council, designed to stimulate children’s imaginations via playwriting. Full details on the Lyric's website.
You can back the Lyric Square theatre via the Lyric Recovery Fund.
The Fulham theatre company which is the UK’s only drama centre focused on supporting those in recovery from addiction, has launched an ambitious programme of lockdown activities to compensate for the fact that members can no longer gather in Munster Road.
Both the Write Now and Drop-in Drama groups are welcoming new participants, with newcomers no longer having to live in London, or even the UK, to take part online; the only requirement being abstinence on the day of the workshop.
Using video conferencing and phone, anyone can join in. The next group in Outside Edge to move online will be the Women’s Drama Group.
A programme of community activities and curated online events has launched under the banner Virtual Riverside and includes virtual cinema screenings, followed by post-movie discussions via Zoom.
Liza Pulman’s show, The Heart Of It, which had been part of the opening season following the Hammersmith riverside venue’s reopening after a five-year redevelopment, has been rearranged for a week-long run in April 2021, with tickets going on sale shortly.
Under The Bridge, Fulham
The club beneath the east stand of Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge stadium in Fulham Road may not be hosting live music events, but it is streaming some memorable shows from the past.
Robbie Williams’ gig from 2016 was replayed recently, and other gigs from the past are being lined up, including Ed Sheeran’s intimate concert in the underground space in November 2018.
Many of the gigs which had been due to take place in April and May have now been rescheduled to provisional new dates later in the year. For instance, the BB King Blues Band will now be performing on 4 December after postponing their May date.
Fans of the Zombies will have to wait until 4 March next year after the original 21 May date was called off.
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