15 years ago (August 5, 2004): We reported on proposals by the Metropolitan Police to impose a blanket curfew on under-16s wishing to visit the West End without an adult. The move used the 2003 Anti-Social Behaviour Act to impose 16 ‘dispersal areas’ across the capital including Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus, but it was met with horror by theatre operators.
Society of London Theatre’s chief executive Richard Pulford told The Stage at the time: “We do everything we can to encourage young people to come to the theatre and there is no reason why they should not do so without an adult. Many of today’s industry figures cut their teeth doing this. If a young person comes to watch a performance they cannot avoid being on the streets after 9pm. I am in favour of controlling behaviour but enforcing a blanket curfew in this way is appalling. It will put off a number of people, including parents, going to the West End, which would be disastrous. Scotland Yard did not consult SOLT on this matter, and I have written to ask how they propose going about this.”
However, Metropolitan police deputy Ian Blair said: “We want to make the area safe and enjoyable for as many people as possible. That anyone under 16 should be in the West End of London after 9pm does not seem a good idea. I don’t think any responsible parent would like their 15-year-old unaccompanied in the West End after 9pm.”
If you’d like to read more stories from the history of theatre, all previous content from The Stage is available at the British Newspaper Archive in a convenient, easy-to-access format. Please visit: thestage.co.uk/archive