THE arts in Worcester is facing an uncertain future because of coronavirus as an urgent appeal is launched to save city theatres.

With theatres and cinemas shut, box offices closed and doubt hanging over Worcester Festival, the city's thriving and vibrant arts scene is fighting to survive the Covid-19 crisis.

This year's popular Worcester Show has already been cancelled but organisers hope the Worcester Festival, set to be held between August 15 and 31, can go ahead in a reduced and virtual form. An announcement about Worcester Beer, Cider and Perry Festival, held during Worcester Festival, is expected in the next two days.

Trustees are also due to meet to decide whether the Three Choirs Festival, scheduled to take place between July 25 and August 1, can still go ahead.

Tickets can still be reserved but payment will only be taken if the festival takes place.

Worcester Live Charitable Trust which operates the Swan Theatre, Huntingdon Hall and the Worcester Repertory has organised a funding campaign to help the arts scene survive the crisis, so far raising more than £4,000 of its £10,000 target.

The trust, made up of 12 members of staff, last year saw 67,917 patrons through the doors of their venues but now are facing a battle.

They also run the popular Swan Youth Theatre and The Young Rep which nurtures the talent of young actors while also providing a home for many local amateur groups who regularly use the theatres.

They have also been working to develop the Swan Theatre as a venue for local groups to meet and run their own classes.

Worcester Live chief executive Sarah-Jane Morgan said: “We have done all we can to cut the venues operation back to its bare bones in order to minimise the running costs of the organisation. Like many other businesses we have used the Government furlough scheme in order to ease the financial burden Worcester Live is currently facing, however we still have to meet the overheads of two buildings, one which is listed, which is why we needed to turn to this campaign.

“Like everyone throughout the entertainment industry the future is so uncertain, but we are determined to save Worcester’s theatres and are doing all we can to ensure the futures of both venues.

"When we are allowed to open again, in line with Government guidance, we will be listening and working with our patrons to ensure their safety and comfort at all times.

"We are examining ways to get back to operation and we are liaising with our colleagues in neighbouring venues across the counties to find the best ways to be ready."

Worcester Live's artistic director, Ben Humphrey is working on plans for ensuring that 'home grown' theatre and work is able to return to audiences as soon as possible.

He said: "We have a fantastic creative team who are incredibly adaptable, and as long as we can ensure the safety of our staff and audience, we are raring to go on a number of projects."

Mrs Morgan went on to say : “Patrons have been incredibly supportive already by accepting the rescheduled dates when the box office are contacting them or by taking a credit note in place of a refund, these actions really help us to keep going. For anyone who hasn’t yet heard from us please be reassured that we will be in contact as soon as we can back to full operation once again.

"We are both overwhelmed by the support we have received so far from the Facebook campaign and we are hopefully that those who love and value the venues, which we know so many do, will give what they can to get us to our target.”

Chris Jaeger, a director of Worcester Festival, said: "It defies words really. So many people are going to lose their jobs in the industry. It's heartbreaking."

Mr Jaeger is a former chief executive of Worcester Live where he worked at the helm for 24 years, founding the festival in 2003.

He now runs a company called 'On a Role' selling one man and one woman shows to theatres but 40 such bookings have been cancelled due to the pandemic.

He said: "We're optimistic and hopeful that some sort of festival can go ahead."

However, he said aspects of the festival could not proceed, including the city's first Asian festival which would have formed part of the events.

Mr Jaeger and former city Mayor, Cllr Jabba Riaz, had been working together on the project but it was thought best to hold it for a year as the Asian community had been affected 'hugely' by the virus and they did not want the first such festival to be a 'damp squib'.

Last year's festival had 520 events while 58 organisation took part but Mr Jaeger fears this year's show will be 'a shadow itself' because of the pandemic and said the arts community was 'in limbo'.

Shakespeare's Richard III which was due to be performed at Worcester Cathedral during the festival has also had to be cancelled. Mr Jaeger is exploring ways to host some events virtually to deliver as much as he possibly can of the festival's calendar.

He is particularly concerned about the impact of the virus on theatres. Mr Jaeger said the Swan had a capacity of 350 but with social distancing this could drop to 60 which would mean some performances would not be viable.

"Even when the Government clears theatres to reopen I think it's going to take much longer for people to have the confidence to come back," he said.

Theatres across the country have been adversely affected by the pandemic.

People can also donate through the Worcester Rep website: visit