Andrew Lloyd Webber volunteers for COVID-19 vaccine to ‘prove theatres can reopen safely’

14 August 2020, 11:01

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

The musical maestro is desperate to prove theatres are safe to reopen, as coronavirus lockdown gradually eases in England.

Andrew Lloyd Webber has taken part in the Oxford COVID-19 vaccine trial, saying he’ll “do anything to prove that theatres can re-open safely”.

The trial is being run by the University of Oxford and drug company AstraZeneca, who are currently working on the new vaccine ChAdOx1 nCoV-19. Thousands have been taking part across the UK, South Africa and Brazil.

As a volunteer, the 72-year-old composer could be given the vaccine or a placebo.

On 12 August, he tweeted: “I am excited that tomorrow I am going to be vaccinated for the Oxford Covid-19 trial. I’ll do anything to prove that theatres can re-open safely.”

Yesterday, Lloyd-Webber followed up with a photo, captioned: “Just completed the Oxford Covid-19 vaccine trial. I’ll do anything to get theatres large and small open again and actors and musicians back to work.”

Read more: Lloyd Webber says socially-distanced theatres is not “economically possible” >

The world-renowned composer has been vocal about the need for theatres to reopen, as they struggle to survive due to the impact of coronavirus lockdown.

He recently carried out a trail at the London Palladium with singer Beverly Knight, who performed to 640 audience members in a 2,300-capacity venue. Visitors wore face masks, filled out test and trace forms, entered at staggered intervals, and all had their temperature tested. The theatre owner described the trial as a “misery for performers”.

From tomorrow (15 August), theatres can open with social distancing. However, Lloyd-Webber has been openly critical of the government’s guidance for arts venues to open with reduced audiences, saying it is “economically impossible”.

The government’s £1.57bn rescue package for the arts, of which £500m will be distributed as emergency grants by Arts Council England, is now in its application phase. But there’s no guarantee that the money will allow venues to reopen soon – many are saying it’s only enough for them to merely ‘survive’ until Easter 2021.

Read more: Crowds protest ‘disastrous’ Southbank Centre and National Theatre job cuts >

Lloyd Webber carried out a trial at the London Palladium
Lloyd Webber carried out a trial at the London Palladium. Picture: Getty

During lockdown, the Cats composer started offering up free online streams of his biggest hit musicals on YouTube, through the channel The Shows Must Go On. Alongside streamings of The Phantom of the Opera and Joseph, he offered people the chance to donate, leading to £500,000 in donations for the Actor’s Fund.

Read more: Andrew Lloyd Webber’s team tells Donald Trump to stop using ‘Memory’ at rallies >

Lloyd-Webber himself is estimated to take a £20 million hit due to the coronavirus crisis. According to the Sunday Times Rich List, the theatre owner expected to lose millions due to the closure of his West End and Broadway venues.

The composer has also had to delay the opening of his musical Cinderella, starring Carrie Hope Fletcher, until April 2021.