The Grand in Clapham has hailed the success of the first government pilot show held at the venue with Frank Turner last night (July 28).
DCMS is working with the sector on pilots of performances with socially distanced audiences that will inform final guidance for venues in the run up to the August 1 restart date for indoor gigs.
Turner's concert, which also featured Beans On Toast and Ciara Haidar, was held before a crowd of 200 in the 1,250-capacity venue. The Grand's manager Ally Wolf stressed that while the pilot was successful, it should not be taken as representative of the wider live business.
We operated on less than 20% capacity... which isn't sustainable for the future
Ally Wolf, Clapham Grand
“Holding the first government pilot for live music is a step in the right direction for the industry but not without its challenges," said Wolf. "It’s important to say that this pilot, though a successful and great show, is by no means representative of the wider live music venue industry as we are a Variety Hall that provides not only music events, but comedy, bingo, cinema and more.
"We operated this evening on less than 20% capacity; from 1,250 to 200. This paired with vastly increased operational costs to fit with Covid Compliance, without a reduction in any of our fixed overheads, means that we are opening to a loss of revenue, which isn’t sustainable for the future.
"We want to thank Frank Turner, Beans On Toast and Ciara Haidar for performing this evening and all our staff for pulling tonight together to make something magical happen."
He added: "We have a unique opportunity - one that we realise isn’t available to the majority of other music venues - our layout and capacity potentially enables us to reformat our seating and events. We also need to increase our capacity via refurbishing the disused upper circle which would increase seated capacity by 150 people. We also need to execute the plans we had drawn up for a roof garden to create the vital outside space the venue needs, but more than anything improve our accessibility for all our customers.
"This isn’t just about surviving our enforced Covid closure, or about reopening for one show, one week or even a month. This is about future proofing one of the world oldest entertainment venues, to make sure in it’s 120th year The Clapham Grand is made secure for audiences to enjoy shows for centuries to come.”
Turner, who stars in this week's cover story about the grassroots sector, told Music Week that socially distanced live gigs were a "step in the right direction".
“We can’t just launch straight back into how things were in early March, it’s going to be a long, drawn-out process and these shows are the first step on that road,” said Turner. “It’s a way of demonstrating both to audiences and to venues and indeed to the government that it is possible to do this in a way that is safe for everybody involved."