SOUTHEND theatres are set to secure bigger and better shows than ever before after joining forces with a major entertainment company to bounce back from Covid-19.

HQ Theatres – which operates both Westcliff’s Cliffs Pavilion and Palace Theatre – have announced their new venture with Trafalgar Entertainment, to fast-track recovery once venues are finally able to re-open.

It will bring the theatres together with impresario Sir Howard Panter and Dame Rosemary Squire’s international live entertainment business, after an extremely tough year for the industry.

The husband and wife team are both highly regarded across the globe.

They stand as the founders, co-owners and joint chief executives of the Ambassador Theatre Group - the world’s number one live theatre company with about 50 venues in Britain, the US and Europe. 

The move is seen as a huge “vote of confidence” in the live theatre sector. 

Ellen McPhillips, director of Southend Theatres, said: “Together we will create a hugely positive force within the theatre and entertainment industry.  

“Regional theatre has been through the most challenging of times. This is a great boost and importantly a vote of confidence – both the Cliffs Pavilion and Palace Theatre will benefit from partnering with such a dynamic and talented company.  

“Coming together gives us strength, resilience and without doubt a very bright future.”

Julian Russell, chief executive of HQ Theatres, said after a tumultuous 2020, they are already seeing confidence being restored in people buying tickets at the end of this year and into 2022.

He added: “This will undoubtedly bring the business more resilience and also accelerate and fast track re-opening.

“The Trafalgar Entertainment group will be able to provide a range of expertise that before wouldn’t have been available before.

"And it should also enable investment in production that may not have been available to us previously.”

Welcoming the news, Charles Mumford - former managing director for Southend Theatres - is confident the venues will be in good hands.

He said: “I was definitely surprised to have heard this was happening at first glance, HQ have already been such a successful brand on their own and both theatres have had a phenomenal track record as venues.

“That being said, Rosemary Squire and Howard Panter are veterans of the British theatre industry, and so I’m sure the venues will be in safe hands.

“They both are so well known for production and managing venues, so this could open an exciting new door for Southend theatres.”

Mr Mumford predicts it will be a challenging task to bounce back from the blow of the Covid pandemic, but is confident show-goers will be keen to get back through theatre doors.

He continued: “It has been so difficult for the industry, the sector has been hit very hard by the pandemic. 

“To have the capacity of a theatre reduced by 50, 60 per cent for social distancing doesn’t make shows very viable, so it has been a very hard time.

“Entertainers have to also sing, dance, and perform in close proximity too, so a lot of theatres have been mothballed.

“Getting up and running again is not as easy as turning on a tap, shows have to be produced, advertised and sold, so you can’t just instantly open.

“I suspect it will be a difficulty in the short term, but I know people will be anxious to get back to seeing their favourite entertainment and shows.”

Staffing arrangements at Southend Theatres will not be affected by the changes with the move unlikely to result in any job losses. 

Dame Rosemary Squire, joint chief executive and executive chair of Trafalgar Entertainment, is looking forward to the new partnership.

She said: “HQ Theatres is a fantastic business and on behalf of the team at Trafalgar Entertainment, we’re thrilled to be partnering with them for the future. 

“It’s a credit to the whole team that they have navigated the recent closure period so successfully and are poised to emerge intact and well placed for future growth as the sector rebuilds. 

“Our aim is to add value and investment, through Trafalgar Entertainment, to their portfolio of venues including the Cliffs Pavilion and Palace Theatre, to accelerate growth and to build the business.”