Panto legend Bob Golding pleads for patience as struggling Alban Arena emerges from under lockdown

St Albans panto legend Bob Golding has called on the public to support the creative arts industry, i

St Albans panto legend Bob Golding has called on the public to support the creative arts industry, including the Alban Arena. Picture: Andy Hollingworth - Credit: Archant

Charismatic panto legend Bob Golding has penned a heart-breaking open letter to the St Albans public to “help save art”.

Appealing to residents of the cathedral city, the Alban Arena patron, who is notoriously upbeat, said: “The thought of not having a forum to watch inspirational, beautiful, hilarious powerful awesome art is empty, dark and pointless.

“Think of any piece of music you love, any singer that’s made you cry, any scene from a movie, any piece of writing from a poem or play …

“Think of the visions on a stage of big casts lifting your spirits, or solo performance, paintings in a gallery or theatre foyer…

“Or a solitary comic making you laugh until your face aches… Think of the emotions of watching your own children in a choir, to hear the human voice soar beyond the roof of that building.”

The 49-year-old actor went on to ask people to reschedule tickets or obtain a credit note, rather than request refunds, to avoid further harm to the Civic Centre venue.

Bob explained that it’s been “extremely difficult for the wonderful staff at the Arena”, who were unable to help all customers with enquiries due to necessarily being furloughed.

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His campaign comes as theatres across the country face permanent closure, amid uncertainty around government restrictions regarding reopening and funding crises.

An eleventh hour government move to pledge £1.57 billion to the arts was announced this week to help keep Britain’s arts sector alive.

The announcement on Sunday followed huge public pressure to protect museums, galleries, theatres and music venues - as landmarks the Royal Albert Hall and the National Theatre were on the brink of collapse.

But it is still unclear which venues will benefit from it, and specifically how - and what is a grant and what is a loan.

The long-awaited rescue package is being branded as the biggest one-off investment in UK culture to date.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson described arts and culture as “the linchpin of our world-beating and fast-growing creative industries”, saying they “make our country great”.

But £270 million of the colossal sum is earmarked for loans with £880 million being given as grants. Sadly, it is too late for a number of UK theatres and arts venues who have had to permanently close.

Bob said: “It’s very possible we are facing a huge crisis. Your theatre will need you to be as loyal and supportive as you have been for the last 50 years of the venue’s existence.

“Our current situation finds almost all sectors in a difficult state. It almost seems too futile to ask for help, as all places are suffering.

“Please. If you care for culture, help your local theatre in whatever way you can.

“Think of powerful messages of sorrow or hope from Shakespeare of Dickens… The moments of unity at certain times of the year together as a family in your theatre. It’s yours, it’s ours. It’s utterly essential because without art what are we?

“Thank you so much for everything up to now and please continue to support and, if necessary, save the arts.”

This is due to be Bob’s 10th year in pantomime, as a question mark hangs over Evolution Productions’ Mother Goose run between December and January.

The annual festive family event is a highlight of the year for the city centre venue, which hosts a variety of theatre company productions, stand-up comedy, concerts, drinks festivals, films screenings and the Scout Association’s gang show each year.

Bob added: “The Arena needs public support, sympathy and patience, even after this announcement. We just really need people to reinvest rather than demand refunds.”

The manager, Beverley Langdon, has stated bookings are being moved into 2021 and beyond.

Alternative options exist for customers who can’t make the new dates, and 90 per cent of postponed performances have been rescheduled with tickets moved to the new date.