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Live industry welcomes likely return of full capacity shows later this month

By | Published on Tuesday 6 July 2021

Live Music

The live music sector has welcomed the news that full capacity shows will be able to return on 19 Jul in England as most remaining COVID restrictions lift on that day.

It was originally hoped that those rules would end on 21 Jun, of course, but they were kept in force because of concerns about the newer delta variant of the coronavirus. However, yesterday UK Prime Minister ‘Boris’ Johnson said that the plan now was very much to get rid of as many COVID rules as possible on 19 Jul, although a final confirmation of that is still pending until next Monday.

Some medical experts had cautioned against a complete lifting of regulations on 19 Jul given there has been another surge in COVID infections in recent weeks, and the removal of pretty much all the current rules relating to social distancing, face masks and home working will likely further escalate the spread of the virus.

However, because of the vaccination roll out, the current surge in infections has not resulted in a significant increase in hospitalisations – unlike during other surges – which is why the government is now more confident that the removal of the vast majority of existing COVID rules is a viable approach. It remains to be seen if that proves to be true.

But, for a live sector that has been pretty much unable to run commercially viable shows since March last year, the removal of social distancing in venues, and the reopening of clubs, is an incredibly welcome development. Plus, of course, in recent weeks the cultural industries have become increasingly frustrated that large gatherings for sporting events have become the norm again while venues and clubs remain in shutdown.

That said, while a date has now seemingly been set for a reboot of the live and night-time economies in England – future COVID surges, variants and lockdowns permitting – industry reps continue to call for more support from government, in particular state-backed cancellation insurance for larger scale events. Although the UK government has resisted calls for such insurance schemes previously, it has said it would consider that kind of support once most ongoing COVID restrictions have been lifted.

With all that in mind, the industry will continue to put pressure on ministers as it awaits final confirmation of the lifting of COVID rules next week and the return of full capacity shows the week after.

In the meantime, here are a lots of music industry people responding to yesterday’s news…

Greg Parmley, CEO of LIVE: “The live music industry is very pleased with the Prime Minister’s statement, and it seems we will finally see a return to full capacity performances on 19 Jul. We have watched the rest of the economy reopen while our doors have been forced to remain closed since the start of the pandemic, but today’s announcements will generate considerable excitement amongst music fans across the country”.

“To save the rest of the summer and autumn schedule we now desperately need a government-backed insurance scheme to provide the security required to invest in events. Government ministers have repeatedly said that a scheme would be announced once the legal barriers to full performances were removed. Well, we are now almost at that point and there must be no further delay if we are to reap the benefits of the superb vaccine roll-out”.

Mark Davyd, CEO of the Music Venue Trust: “This is obviously extremely welcome news for millions of live music fans, for artists, crew, venues and local communities who have been deprived of music for so long. Since March 2020, Music Venue Trust’s aim has been to reopen every venue safely. We have been working alongside the grassroots music venue sector throughout to identify methods by which we can do that, regardless of any current government guidelines and resulting limitations and restrictions. The keyword for us and the sector throughout these long difficult months has been ‘safely'”.

“This announcement is hugely important and provides the opportunity to revive live music. It does not, however, change the central mission or the importance of the word ‘safely’. We are re-energising our efforts to work with our fantastic network of grassroots music venues to ensure that what each of them delivers to the public meets the highest standards of COVID security and safety within the new guidelines”.

Phil Bowdery, Chairman of Concert Promoters Association: “I am delighted that the government has made the right choice today, letting the much-loved live music sector get back to doing what it does best. While we absolutely cannot wait to safely welcome back our fans, we are missing one piece of the puzzle – insurance. We need a government backed scheme to provide the security needed to start investing in events over the coming months, shoring up our industry and stimulating the wider economy as we build back following the pandemic”.

Paul Reed, CEO at the Association Of Independent Festivals: “We welcome the Prime Minister’s statement and that large events including festivals are expected to be able take place from 19 Jul. It is positive for organisers, fans and artists alike that there will be some activity this year, though clearly it is too late for the estimated 56% of UK festivals that have already been forced to cancel and are still awaiting details of emergency funding and the next round of the Culture Recovery Fund”.

“We now urge government to finally act on insurance and announce a government-backed scheme immediately. Insurance remains the key obstacle to planning with confidence and there is no rationale for not implementing such a scheme if the government’s roadmap is truly irreversible. We also need to ensure there is clear guidance for organisers and local authorities no later than 12 Jul, so that events don’t unravel at a local level. We ask that government also explore solutions for staff that will be affected by test and trace and isolation policies working at events this summer”.

David Keighley, Chair of the Production Services Association: “It’s really good to hear from our Prime Minister that we can hopefully and finally get back to normal after the 19 Jul. The concert touring, festivals and events sector of our economy have been the hardest hit by COVID. We were the first to stop and we are only now being allowed to reopen. We must all be truly thankful for the vaccines as this is the reason we can almost get back to normal”.

Michael Kill, CEO of the Night Time Industries Association: “We have been encouraged by much of what the Prime Minister said today about what government restrictions will look like in the next phase of reopening. The end of social distancing; the end of the rule of six and table service for indoor mixing; no ban on mass events; the removal of the need to scan a QR code to enter venues; and the decision not to introduce COVID status certification – these are all very important steps that we have been campaigning for, because they are the restrictions which have decimated the night time economy over the last sixteen months”.

“We were disappointed again, despite the positive noises, that the Prime Minister did not confirm that reopening would be going ahead on the 19 Jul. As we commented at the time of the last decision on restrictions, one week is simply not enough time for businesses to plan to reopen – and it betrays the sense that the government doesn’t understand what it takes to reopen a businesses after over a year without trading”.

“To hear the Prime Minister say that we need to learn to live with this virus is a long overdue step, and will be a relief to our sector. It is difficult to overstate the significance of the impact the pandemic has had on this industry. The government’s support package has been important but insufficient. After 479 days closed, we now need that counter set to zero so we can start to rebuild”.

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