Business News Live Business

Music Venue Trust proposes alternative to government’s roadmap for resuming live performances

By | Published on Monday 29 June 2020

Music Venue Trust

While there was plenty of criticism last week of the UK government’s five-step roadmap for getting the live entertainment sector back up and running, the Music Venue Trust was perhaps most blunt in its response. If the government would use the first step to provide the financial support that is required to help live entertainment businesses weather the ongoing COVID-19 storm, it said, no other steps would be required.

When the government announced a relaxation of COVID-19 social distancing rules last week – which will enable some pubs and restaurants to reopen on 4 Jul – when it came to theatres and venues, the official guidance was those businesses could re-open but not stage any live performances.

Presumably ministers meant that those theatres and venues that also operate bars and cafes could re-open, but the “no live performances” restriction made the announcement seem somewhat ridiculous.

Facing criticism that that initial statement on the new social-distancing rules said nothing about when live shows could return, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden then published his five-step road map – or “phased return” plan – that sets out how the government intends to get live performances happening again.

The five steps were as follows…

Stage One: Rehearsal and training (no audiences and adhering to social distancing guidelines).

Stage Two: Performances for broadcast and recording purposes (adhering to social distancing guidelines).

Stage Three: Performances outdoors with an audience plus pilots for indoor performances with a limited distance audience.

Stage Four: Performances allowed indoors/outdoors (but with a limited distanced audience indoors).

Stage Five: Performances allowed indoors/outdoors (with a fuller audience indoors).

While some people in the music and theatre industries were relieved that at least a conversation around the return of live entertainment was now on the agenda, many more were disparaging. Mainly they felt that the government’s plan simply – to use a technical term – “stated the fucking obvious”, and that without any timeline or at least target dates attached the roadmap was basically pointless.

And, more importantly, without the sector-specific financial support that the creative industries have been requesting throughout the pandemic, many venues and promoters won’t survive the next few months while they await for stages three, four and five to begin.

In response to Downden’s plan, the Music Venue Trust proposed its own alternative…

Stage One: Create a sector-specific support financial package immediately so that a functioning model of the grassroots music venue sector survives to require more steps.

Stage Two: Check if you have completed step one. If not, keep checking until you have.

Stage Three: Get out of the way of one of the most dynamic and innovative creative industries in the world and let them get on with it.

Stage Four: Continue to receive massive social, cultural and economic benefits for decades to come because you got steps, one, two and three right.

Stage Five: Realise this doesn’t need five steps, it only needs steps one, two and three. Have the weekend off. But not at the beach.

The Music Venue Trust has already called for a £50 million cash injection from government which, it says, is required to ensure that the UK’s grassroots music venues can survive through to September. One proposal is that ministers redirect a chunk of the £120 million budget that has been set aside for a post-Brexit Festival Of Great Britain, which is planned for 2022.

MVT CEO Mark Davyd added, in response to the government’s roadmap: “We have consistently told government that what the culture sector needs is the support to enable them to do what they do best. We don’t need guidance on how to organise creative activity and connect with audiences, this is what our venues do professionally. We need the money to survive the crisis and plan our own route back to full use”.