Has Kent’s entertainment sector changed forever?

Kent, as a county, has been an entertainment destination since the Victorian era. Only a stone’s throw from London, the cities and towns of Kent have been a welcome escape from the hustle and bustle of the capital.

 

This doesn’t mean it’s a sleepy area. Its proximity to London means that Kent has a thriving entertainment sector. Venues like The Hop Farm and the Marlow Theatre are known across the country and have hosted some of the most famous names in theatre and music over the years.

 

Unfortunately, the last two years have been rough for many industries. Many have had to find ways to adapt to being online. Others have been forced to close temporarily until they could reopen in a safer way – some have even had to close permanently.

 

The entertainment sector has been one of the hardest hit. Some venues were able to adjust to the new normal with relative ease, while for others it has been a real struggle. Has Kent’s entertainment sector been changed forever or will it return to its former glory?

 

Casinos and bingo

 

The move towards online casinos away from traditional land-based casinos was already in progress before the Covid-19 pandemic began. However, it has been accelerated by the global concerns facing us all. 

 

While land-based casinos in Kent, such as the Grosvenor Casino in Broadstairs, have remained open, the selection is limited. With a few brands operating most of the casinos in the country, there is little real competition or variety.

 

Online casinos challenge this uniformity by offering a huge variety of games. Many even offer hundreds of different slot machine games. This online casino directory by CasinoSource.co.uk shows the best online casinos that are available to UK players. 

 

Land-based casinos will probably always exist as a cultural phenomenon, but it is likely that most gambling will be done at online casinos. They are more accessible, more convenient, provide a similar experience, and offer users a much wider variety of games.

 

Theatre and music

 

One of the upcoming changes to the Kent theatre world will be the closure of the Theatre Royal in Margate. The current lease is set to expire in April 2022. Initial funding for renovations has already been raised, but not enough to complete the necessary work. No date has yet been set for its reopening. 

 

Margate’s iconic Winter Gardens will also be closing in 2022. The venue has suffered during the pandemic and the temporary closure for renovations seems essential if it is going to survive much longer. A current bid is in to raise funding, but its future is still uncertain.

 

The loss of these two venues, even if only temporarily, will leave an impact on the county. The Theatre Royal is the second oldest working theatre in the UK – it’s been open since the 1780s! The Winter Gardens is a younger venue but even so, it has been the centre of Kent’s music scene for decades.

 

Attending live theatre and music performances is one of the best ways to experience these art forms and immerse in local culture. Thanks to modern streaming technology, many venues and performers were still able to sell tickets to shows in 2020 and 2021.

 

This has been an important lifeline for many artists, but it has a much different feel to it. Watching ‘live’ music from your living room just doesn’t have the same impact as being at a venue. The same is valid for theatre. 

 

Even if the Theatre Royal and the Winter Gardens remain closed, it is unlikely that this change in how we get our entertainment will be permanent. Streaming a film might get you close to the same experience as seeing it at a cinema, but it’s much harder to capture the magic of live music and theatre.

 

Festivals

 

Music festivals are one of Britain’s great entertainment traditions. Yes, music festivals are popular around the world but there is something special about the ones held in Britain. Kent is no stranger to hosting festivals, even if they are a bit more unusual than most.

 

Among the most popular is Broadstairs Folk Week, a summer festival celebrating all things folk. There’s also Rock the Mote in Maidstone. It’s the ultimate tribute band festival and the closest you can get to seeing Oasis, Fleetwood Mac and Ariana Grande on the same stage. What a lineup! 

 

Missing a year has been very hard on festival organisers. Most music festivals operate on fairly slim margins, this is part of why successful music festivals grow slowly and why any experienced organiser could have predicted that the Fyre Festival was going to be an unmitigated disaster

 

Some festivals were able to stream performances or record special performances for ticket holders. JAM on the Marsh handled the transition to virtual beautifully. The entire festival, including nine new concerts and three exhibitions, was filmed from multiple angles and offered to the public for free.

 

Going virtual was a good way for festivals to keep themselves afloat but it won’t be a long-term change. The experience of going to a festival includes more than just the music — there’s the food, the crowds and everything else. Anything short of being there in person feels incomplete.

 

Entertainment options have become increasingly diverse over the last few years. Going virtual might change the experience, but it also makes events more accessible. Some changes are likely to be permanent, but most people miss going to see performances or attend events, so there shouldn’t be too much change.

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