IT is one of the highlights of the festive season, entertaining families for almost 50 years. But for the first time in its history, Chipping Norton Theatre will not have a pantomime this winter.

The theatre had planned to stage Rapunzel in the run up to Christmas, but today revealed it had postponed the production to next year.

The theatre said: "It is with great sadness that we are announcing the postponement of our autumn programme of live events and our pantomime. The Chipping Norton Theatre panto has been performed, without interruption, for the last 47 years. Sadly, for us and many fellow venues across the country, the risks of proceeding with a show this year are simply too great.

"Being such a small venue, social distancing measures mean that much of our programme becomes financially unviable. Most of the live shows planned for this autumn have now been rescheduled to spring 2021."

Theatre director John Terry said: “We have searched and searched for a way of continuing the sacred tradition of the Chippy pantomime, but it simply isn’t possible to get the show on without gambling the entire theatre’s future.

"It is heartbreaking for everyone at the theatre to be unable to welcome people into a building that should be busy and full of life.”

Oxford Mail:

The theatre has said it will, however, continue its programme of community workshops and participatory work this autumn – both online and some in-person. There will also be socially distanced cinema screenings.

Mr Terry said: "We are pleased that we can at least continue with some cinema programming and our incredible youth theatre and community programme. We are planning and hoping that we can return in the Spring, ready for action!"

The theatre added: "This is not the end of the road for The Theatre Chipping Norton. We continue to face unprecedented uncertainty over the coming year – uncertainty that has shaken this much loved and unique organisation to its foundations. But, with the ongoing support of our community, we are determined and unshaken in our belief that this beautiful theatre, founded over four decades ago, will be here, still creative and ambitious, for many decades to come."

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"We will begin contacting ticket holders over the next two weeks, and ask that customers please wait to be contacted by us to arrange transferring or refunding their tickets."

Supporters have been asked to help the theatre by donating to its Head Above Water fundraising campaign, becoming a member, giving the value of their tickets to the venue, or holding the value of their tickets as a credit to use for a future event.