Trafford’s drive-in theatre hit with ‘ridiculous’ delay on opening

A huge drive-in theatre near the Trafford Centre that was due to launch today has been advised to delay its opening.

The Drive Inside theatre should have opened for the first time this evening, with a Manchester’s Got Talent variety show.

But Trafford council has said the plans are ‘not compatible with the current Covid restrictions’.

The director of Beyond Theatre, which is behind the drive-in theatre, says they’ve been advised ‘at the eleventh hour’ to hold their official opening until Monday May 17.

The ‘coronavirus safe’ theatre
(Image: Beyond Theatre)

That is when the government’s roadmap reaches step three, and specifies that theatres can welcome back audiences.

Though drive-in events have been permitted since April 12, the official guidance clearly states: “People attending drive-in events should remain in their vehicle for the duration of the performance.”

At Drive Inside, ticket-holders will drive into a designated parking area beneath a 68,000 sq ft marquee, but are then given access to an adjacent viewing area.

Trafford council officials say they advised the organisers back in April that the proposed operation is not in line with the government’s current coronavirus restrictions around drive-in events.

The arrival of the ‘world’s first Covid safe venue’ was first announced last summer, but its launch has been delayed several times.

Director Paul Levin says the order to delay Drive Inside’s run of events once again is ‘extremely disappointing’, and treating it the same way as a conventional theatre is ‘ridiculous’.

He says that the venue is open on all sides with a free flow of fresh air, and has been created with the advice and guidance of local environmental health professionals.

Other events planned at Drive Inside include tribute nights, family-friendly theatre shows, and the Miss Manchester contest.

Paul said: “It is extremely disappointing that at the 11th hour we have been advised not to open before May 17, when ‘theatres’ are allowed to operate under the Government’s roadmap.

“The DriveINSIDE Theatre is nothing like a traditional theatre and we have worked extremely hard and invested heavily to ensure we can offer a Covid-safe live event experience.

“The DriveINSIDE Theatre is a tent, open on all sides, with the free flow of fresh air. The audience enters in their own cars and then occupies their own socially distanced space next to their car.

“We have been in constant contact since September 2020 with the relevant local environmental health professionals and we have followed all of their advice and guidelines. In fact, we were led to believe that we could operate at up to Tier 3 restrictions.

“It is ridiculous that we are being treated in the same way as a traditional theatre and it is completely unfair to the performers and the people who were looking forward to enjoying live performances again after such a long time.

“The shows that were due to take place before May 17 are being rescheduled and we are working hard to contact the people who had bought tickets as quickly as possible.

“We thank all the performers and the public affected for their patience and understanding.”

A spokesperson for Trafford Council said: “The organisers were advised in April that their plans were not compatible with the current Covid restrictions.

“The government guidelines state that drive-in events are permissible at this time, providing people do not leave their vehicle.

“As this is not the case here, we advised that the event could not go ahead until restrictions had eased further.

“As ever, we are committed to working with businesses regarding Covid restrictions so that people are safe and the risk of Covid infection is minimised.”

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