Just the ticket – future optimism as curtain rises again on theatre industry

THE shows must go on much to the relief, pleasure and optimism of a Saddleworth company at the centre of the entertainment business.

In ‘normal’ times Uppermill-based Handshake Ltd would expect to promote, produce and manage more than 400 live shows annually including locally at the Civic Hall and Mossley’s
George Lawton Hall.

But for 18 months, coronavirus pulled the plug and lowered the curtain on the industry, putting some individuals and companies out of business and denying millions a chance ‘of a good
night out’.

Slowly but encouragingly venues are re-opening, tours being re-booked and performers excitedly anticipating a return to the stage.

Oh What A Night

And Handshake managing director Stuart Littlewood, a doyen of the entertainment world for more than half a century, is delighted.

Next month (Friday, October 22) Uppermill Civic Hall will reverberate to the music of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons as the ever popular ‘Oh What A Night’ show returns.

In November, Middleton Arena is the place to be for some rock ‘n’ roll Showaddywaddy style.

If the current ABBA revival excites, how about ABBA Mania at Manchester’s Palace Theatre on January 7, 2022?

And making yet another expected sell out return to Saddleworth on March 12, 2022 is ex Spandau Ballet and Eastenders star Martin Kemp.

“It has been tough, make no mistake,” explained Stuart. “And it is going to be a challenge in the next six to 12 months to persuade people theatres are Covid safe and they can go out and enjoy themselves again.

“Audiences are still sceptical, especially in the older age groups. They are not certain they want to go and sit in a theatre or not.

“A lot of people have got out of the habit of going to the theatre again.

“But I think outdoor shows and festivals with the younger element of the population can demonstrate that going to see entertainment again is still good. After all, there is only so much television people can watch!

“We as promoters and the venues themselves have taken appropriate steps to make the environment Covid free with better air flow, better sanitisation and extra cleaning of facilities.

“So, I am optimistic for the future that people will come back to theatre and to places like Uppermill Civic Hall.

“We have been encouraged by our ticket sales in the last two to three weeks across the shows we have got on sale. You can see the improvement.“Life isn’t risk free. There is an amount of risk in everything.

“But the vaccination has been fantastic and where people have been jabbed and double jabbed, it (coronavirus) seems to be under control.

“We have a number of shows coming to the area and we hope the public will come and support them. These are great nights out.

“And the performers – many of whom have received no government help or gone on furlough – are glad to be back in stage doing what they love which is entertaining people.”

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