The Managing Director of MAC Theater Belfast in St Anne’s Square has appealed for additional executive support for the arts sector in Northern Ireland after a series of show cancellations.
At the weekend, the MAC announced its decision to close the doors to the theater and cancel the rest of the events in 2021.
It follows a number of other theaters and entertainment venues in the area which also closed after Christmas, leaving thousands to expect disappointed performances.
Last week Belfast’s Waterfront Hall announced it was canceling the rest of its Pantomime shows this year, while on Tuesday the Lyric Theater said the Grimes and McKee Christmas album shows had been canceled.
In a Facebook post on Monday, the MAC said the decision was made due to the increase in Covid-19 cases.
“We are sorry to let you know that the MAC will be closed today and will remain closed until Wednesday January 5, 2022 when we will reopen at 9am,” they wrote.
Unfortunately, the impact of Covid-19 led the MAC team to this decision, as well as the cancellation of the remaining shows in the run of The Untold Truth of Captain Hook. All ticket buyers have been contacted by e- mail by our Box Office team.
“If you were planning on visiting the MAC Galleries or the Cafe Bar this week, we hope you can reschedule your visit when we are open again.
“Until then, stay safe and we’ll see you again in 2022.”
Anne McReynolds, of the MAC, told the BBC’s Good Morning Ulster program that the decision to close the doors until the new year is “devastating for ourselves, the artists we work with and the public.”
She said financial support from the executive was needed, as well as a “renewed sense of urgency and purpose” to ensure the survival of the arts in Northern Ireland.
“We are in desperate need of a new approach that will create long-term answers to long-standing problems which have meant that every citizen of Northern Ireland has been genuinely short of change for decades, in terms of the amount of investment that we have in our arts here, ”she said.
“The shows that close on Christmas is one thing, but the fact that there is no long term plan to get out of this crisis.
“Despite the fact that every politician expresses their deep commitment to the arts in Northern Ireland… we call on our politicians to work with our sector and our Arts Council to make it happen now.
“39,000 are employed by the arts in Northern Ireland. It’s a central part of our economy and our way of life and given that it’s fair to say we haven’t had a good boost. We got a little lost in the workload and the incredible challenges our politicians face. “
Liam McMullan of GBL Productions, the company behind Pantomime’s performances at the Waterfront, said more than 30 shows have been canceled.
“Panto is so important, especially for young children who are brought into the room and who are introduced to the theater for the first time,” he said.
“Of course we can develop things to put online, but it doesn’t have the same effect. We believe the living element of theater is what brings people back over and over again.
“For GBL Productions, we are a commercial theater company, we rely a lot on the income from our shows to continue programming throughout the year.
“Having to cancel more than 30 shows, which potentially represents 10,000 people… this has a drastic effect for the future. He throws huge question marks [next year]. “