Business News Legal Live Business Top Stories

Live events organisations sue UK government over refusal to publish pilot event research findings

By | Published on Thursday 24 June 2021


Live music trade body LIVE and a number of theatre businesses, including Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group, have launched legal action against the UK government, attempting to force it the publish the findings of its Events Research Programme.

The legal filing accuses the government of breaching its “duty of candour” to be transparent when faced with a legal challenge, and says that none of the reasons given for withholding the Events Research Programme findings withstand scrutiny.

As well as demanding that the ERP findings be published, the organisations behind the legal action are also calling for the government to implement state-backed cancellation insurance, introduce less restrictive COVID quarantine rules, and publish full guidance on restrictions that will be in place when the sector is allowed to reopen at full capacity.

The Events Research Programme began carrying out studies of pilot events earlier this year, with a view to establishing how the live sector might reopen with full capacity audiences safely as COVID rules were relaxed. Despite early indications that the pilot events had resulted in very few new transmissions of the coronavirus, a full report has not yet been published.

Instead, pandemic restrictions have been extended to 19 Jul, nearly a month beyond the original target date for the return of full-capacity shows in England. This has resulted in as many as 5000 live events being cancelled or postponed.

Meanwhile, without any sort of state-backed cancellation insurance, many festivals due to take place after 19 Jul are calling off their 2021 editions, unable to risk a last minute cancellation if COVID regulations extend again, and unable to get cancellation insurance on the commercial market. Numerous festivals have cancelled summer 2021 dates in recent months because of that risk, with the Kendal Calling and Truck festivals joining the cancellation list in recent days.

In their call for a change to quarantine rules, the organisations behind today’s legal action say that, currently, if one person in a theatre production’s cast tests positive for COVID-19, everyone else in the production has to isolate, even if they all test negative. This, they say, is yet another hindrance for shows in rehearsal. They are calling for a move to daily testing.

“The live music industry has been very willing to work with government for the last year to show that our industry can operate safely”, says LIVE co-founder and Kilimanjaro chief Stuart Galbraith. “But it is intolerable that after running pilot shows for the government’s Events Research Programme, at our own cost, we have been blocked from seeing the results, leaving the whole sector in limbo with the real chance that the entire summer could collapse for the second year running”.

“Even now, the live music sector has no idea what the rest of the summer brings, and we are left with a complete inability to plan ahead due to the government’s continued unwillingness to provide some form of insurance to enable events to move forward”, he adds.

Andrew Lloyd Webber comments: “Last week I rejected the government’s invitation for [new show] ‘Cinderella’ to be singled out as a last-minute part of the Events Research Programme. Today, with a range of voices from across the theatre and live entertainment industries, we are forced to take it further. We simply must now see the data that is being used to strangle our industry so unfairly”.

He goes on: “The government’s actions are forcing theatre and music companies off a cliff as the summer wears on, whilst cherry-picking high-profile sporting events to go ahead. The situation is beyond urgent”.

Critics accuse the government of withholding the results of the ERP because they contradict its current policy on COVID-19 restrictions. Earlier this week, the government said that it would publish the report “very soon”, but refused to say exactly when.