"SOMETHING much more like normality" is how Nicola Sturgeon anticipates life in Scotland to be this summer.

The process is on its way with pubs, restaurants, gyms and indoor leisure centres all now open again for business. Performing arts venues – theatres and concert halls – are at the end of the line and we accept that. We have had our doors locked for the past 13 months, so we can cope with a few months more. The Government guidelines say that at Level Two performing arts venues can open with a maximum capacity of 100 people and at Level Zero – anticipated by summer – our capacities can stretch to 300. Excellent – our artists and our audiences have waited a long time … Only there is a major catch.

Last week we were informed of the stipulations venues must apply and it is more severe than ever indicated before. Ticket holders in performing arts venues in Scotland must be 2.5 metres distant from each other in all directions and the performers on stage 2.6 metres apart. At the Tron Theatre our 230-seat auditorium would only be able to accommodate 14 single ticket holders on that basis and for some venues it will be worse.

If we reach Level Zero this summer I can have eight people from four households chatting and mixing with each other, maskless, in my front room all day long. If I decide to take my friends to see an hour-long theatre show in the evening we can have a pre-show drink in the bar, facing and talking to each other a metre apart, again maskless, before we join a handful of other folk in the large and fully-ventilated auditorium where we will, with masks on, all sit facing the same way in silence at least five seats apart in all directions.

However, this grim scenario won’t be experienced at the Tron, as we will be forced to stay shut under these new conditions. My understanding is that the vast majority of performing arts venues in Scotland are concluding likewise. With seating capacities restricted by at least 90 per cent it will be economically untenable. From small local theatres through to the country’s largest commercial venues, all need box office income in order to function. On top of this we have no idea if or when the Government will announce plans for beyond Level Zero. Furlough is due to finish in September and there will be no additional financial support for the performing arts venues this year. This will mean further redundancies, some permanent closures, and the continued hardship and loss of work for our freelance arts community. It is worth mentioning that in England theatres are expected to open with one-metre social distancing next month and at full capacity by the summer. Some London West End theatres are already back in rehearsals for their grand re-openings.

Scotland’s theatre and music scene is unrivalled anywhere in the world. Cultural activity is one of our greatest exports. With the issue of these incredibly severe new Government restrictions, we will find ourselves in an impossible situation and our future prospects look dire.

Andy Arnold, Artistic Director, Tron Theatre, Glasgow.


I WAS saddened to read your obituary today of James Levine (The Herald, April 27), and to be reminded of his fall from grace towards the end of his life. It’s also a reminder that, howsoever talented individuals may be, whether in politics, sport or business, it doesn’t mean they are free from grievous defects of character; another reason why the honours system should be scrapped.

I hope your readers who like opera are aware of the fantastic and free broadcasts of past New York Met performances. It’s a different opera every day, and each is streamed for 24 hours. There’s been everything from Franco Zeffirelli’s extravagant production of Turandot in 1987, conducted by James Levine, to Phelim McDermott’s stark set for Philip Glass’s Akhnaten in 2019. Even the Ring Cycle, which is much more enjoyable when you can split it into chunks; four hours of Wagner can be hard going.

Doug Maughan, Dunblane.


OH, Dr Hamish Maclaren, how my late husband would have applauded your letter (April 27).

Jim worked on mainframe computers from the early 1960s until retiring in the 1980s. He, like me, refused to own a mobile device of any sort and not long before he died in 2008 said "may God forgive us for what we have unleashed on the world". He always maintained his sorrow for what had happened to the human race by the misuse of things called "personal", "smart" and "artificial". The world is so full of this artificiality now that normally-functioning humans are badly needed.

Three years ago I came across the following re artificial intelligence: "In 100 years time a clever little AI geek will say "I think there used to be things called humans who could think for themselves – shall we make some"?

Dr Maclaren is so right when he says "we must protect and preserve our humanity, and eschew the quantification of human souls". To see people wandering about through lovely places with their eyes glued to these devices is heartbreaking. They are missing what is beautiful.

Thelma Edwards, Kelso.

* THE letter from Dr Hamish Maclaren says it all for me and no doubt countless others in this regard. We have a third horseman of the apocalypse in our midst after the pandemic and climate change and are irrevocably developing into a race of human zombies.

Where will it all end? Will the last person on earth be able to spell Armageddon without recourse to technology?

John Macnab, Falkirk.