Supporters of Weymouth Pavilion should have been celebrating seven years since the venue was saved for the community.

Instead, they gathered outside and told of how the lockdown has devastated the performing arts industry, has left venues like the Pavilion theatre fighting for their survival and put people's jobs at risk.

While pubs, restaurants and even cinemas have reopened, theatres remain shut with no indication of when the curtain will rise again.

Campaigners say the government should give individual arts venues a chance and allow them to reopen if they can demonstrate they have correct social distancing measures in place.

Fewer people would be allowed in to watch shows and some work would have to be done to ensure guidelines are followed, but it would help theatres and music venues claw back some money they so desperately need.

They have been closed for almost four months now and are unable to plan ahead without any indication of a reopening date.

The government has promised a major cash injection to help protect the future of theatres, galleries and museums – but operators have been given no details, and it's unclear whether any funding will trickle down to provincial venues which are on the brink of collapse.

Outdoor performances can go ahead – good news for the Pirates of the Pavilion summer show which is switching to the Nothe Fort this August – but there's still no news on indoor entertainment.

For Phil Say, Director of Weymouth Pavilion, the lack of any guaranteed funding at this time, the job retention scheme coming to an end, and no clear signal from the government about when venues can open – or at least can start preparing to open – the future of the Pavilion is uncertain with staff facing redundancy. The Pavilion employs 40 people with all but two of them currently on furlough.

Mr Say is confident the Pavilion can pull through, but challenging times lie ahead.

Mr Say led a community takeover of the Pavilion from the former borough council in 2013 and has given it a new lease of life.

It has gone from strength to strength and is now established as a successful theatre, wedding venue, and conference and events centre.

Following a successful panto season, the Pavilion was gearing up for its 'best year yet' when the pandemic shut it down.

A government grant helped at the beginning, but now its own reserves is helping pay bills while it remains closed (almost £10k a month), but the money is running out.

"It's the not knowing when we might be able to open again which is difficult, there's just no guidance," said Mr Say.

He suggests an 'open no earlier than' date from the government would help the venue plan ahead and get its bookings in order.

Mr Say said the Pavilion and its large stage could easily operate adhering to social distancing, hosting bands and comedians for example, and although the venue would be at reduced capacity it would at least give them a chance to get going.

He added: "What should be a time of celebration – it's also the 60th anniversary of the Pavilion being opened – is a very trying and difficult time. We have to conserve funds so it sadly means potential job losses. We can't cut costs any further than we already have."

He added: "This theatre has a very important place in the community. It is a venue for a myriad of things, it creates jobs, it's an attraction which brings people into the town. Plus we have saved the council money by taking it on. Without the Pavilion the town will suffer greatly."

'Give venues a chance - there are ways round it'

The problem is, suggests local dance teacher and Pavilion supporter Julie Storey, is that the government sees the issue as a ‘full blown West End-style musical or nothing’ – when there is so much more to theatres than that.

She says rather than having to find money to support closed venues why does the government not let each venue – all very different – decide for themselves whether they can safely open, as it has done with hospitality businesses.

She said: “So much can be done in theatres to ensure social distancing guidelines are followed. Why not give venues a chance to do this? There are ways round it.

"It’s not just theatres suffering, it’s the performers, the associated businesses – costumes, props, music and lighting – all are being hit by this continued closure.”

Julie organised an event outside the Pavilion on Saturday which saw groups and performers come together.

Singer Sheryl Lee, representing pub performers, said it should be left up to each pub and the performers to decide whether it’s safe and live music can go ahead.