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UK music sector reacts to newly permitted events

Lockdown measures in England will be eased from Saturday, permitting live indoor performances, but the news has been met with scepticism

By IQ on 14 Aug 2020

UK government delays venue reopening

Boris Johnson and the British government are easing lockdown measures but upping fines


image © Andrew Parsons/10 Downing Street

Socially distanced live indoor performances will be able to resume in England from Saturday, as the government eases lockdown measures.

The relaxed measures signal Stage 4 of the government’s five-stage roadmap for the return of live performance, which was announced on 17 July and delayed from 1 August until tomorrow.

Though the date for reopening will bring some relief to the UK’s music sector, a number of industry bodies have expressed scepticism about the economic viability of live music returning.

“Unfortunately, it remains the case that the vast majority of grassroots music venue members of the Music Venues Alliance are not financially able, or even have an appropriate layout in the physical premises, to deliver these newly permitted events,” says Mark Davyd from the UK’s Music Venue Trust.

“Those that can make social distancing work will be unlikely to be able to stage government compliant events with this much notice but will be relieved to finally be able to open their doors in the coming weeks.

“However, despite the challenges the announcement presents, we broadly welcome this progress towards the return of live music. If gigs are going to return in stages, which is the government plan, then we have reached Stage 4 of that plan and can begin to imagine that Stage 5, real gigs at venues, might be achievable in the foreseeable future,” concludes Davyd.

“It remains extraordinarily difficult to resume events and gigs in an economically viable way”

Michael Kill, CEO of Night Time Industries Association says: “While we welcome the government’s announcement of the further easing of lockdown measures, this is still a long way off being back to normal for many businesses in the night time economy and events sector.”

“While some bars and restaurants have been able to open with a limited capacity, many are only just breaking even and we expect live music venues and performance spaces to have similar issues with viability, only able to accommodate for limited numbers under the current government social distancing measures.

“We still have many questions with regard to the operational conditions for opening these businesses, but would urge the government to consider a more robust communication strategy with a realistic timeframe to allow businesses the opportunity to prepare for opening,” says Kill.

Acting CEO of campaigning and lobbying group UK Music, Tom Kiehl, says: “Further easing of lockdown for live performance is a symbolic moment, yet it remains extraordinarily difficult to resume events and gigs in an economically viable way.”

“The government must ensure support measures for all aspects of the sector – including venues, festivals, musicians, performers and crew – are in place while many individuals and businesses in the sector still cannot get back to work.”

“We still have many questions with regard to the operational conditions for opening these businesses”

The UK’s live music sector has organised a number of campaigns, including #LetTheMusicPlay and #WeMakeEvents, which called for government support in various areas of the industry.

Though the initiatives were successful in prompting the government to unveil a £1.57bn package of grants and loans for music and arts organisations, the industry needs more government support to sustain the live industry’s broader ecosystem.

Industry bodies are calling for a multi-year extension of the cultural VAT rate reduction beyond January in line with DCMS’s recent recommendations and a government-backed reinsurance scheme to allow shows to go ahead.

Also as part of this weekend’s easing of lockdown, the government is enforcing tougher measures including a clampdown on illegal gatherings of more than 30 people, which could see those responsible hit with spot fines of up to £10,000.

The government’s previous restrictions on concerts were met with a rise in Britons attending illegal, non-socially distanced “quarantine raves” in woodland near cities including ManchesterLeedsLiverpoolOxford and Lichfield, Staffordshire.

 


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