UK pantomime season saved as National Lottery steps in to fund festive shows

Dwarves up and down the UK are Happy tonight as pantomime ­season has been saved – thanks to the National Lottery.

Theatre bosses feared they could not fund the festive shows because they would have to leave too many seats empty to comply with social distancing.

But the National Lottery has pledged to buy empty seats at the Palladium and it is working with panto producer Qdos to extend the scheme to up to 34 other ­venues nationwide.

The total cost to the Lottery has not been announced but it means pantos such as Snow White and The Seven Dwarves are viable again.

Productions across Britain will be confirmed in the coming weeks. Pantoland At The Palladium has already announced that it will go ahead, with a three-week run from December 12.

Julian Clary, Ashley Banjo and Diversity, Nigel Havers and Beverley Knight will star.

Director Michael Harrison said it “promises to be a spectacular and exciting celebration of this wonderful art form that has been so devastated and decimated by Covid-19”.

He added that it meant over 200 front of house and backstage people will now have jobs over Christmas. Theatre legend Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber added: “Christmas 2020 needs a ­pantomime, and this one has never meant so much to our ­industry and our audiences.”

Some other venues had already ­announced that their pantos would go ahead.

Nottingham Playhouse and Blackpool North Pier’s Joe Longthorne Theatre will both host runs of Cinderella.

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