Four-week delay to full reopening of venues 'devastating' for live music industry

Four-week delay to full reopening of venues 'devastating' for live music industry

The remaining Covid-19 restrictions are to remain in place for a further five weeks in England.

The live sector had been braced for the return of full capacity performances on June 21, based on the government’s roadmap out of the pandemic restrictions.

However, the coronavirus rules will now be extended by four weeks beyond that June 21 date to July 19. PM Boris Johnson confirmed the delay in a 6pm announcement. 

The delay will allow more people to be vaccinated amid concerns about the increasing infections, which are being driven by the Delta variant. But the move is a huge blow to live sector, which is currently only able to operate shows with social distancing and limited capacities.

Greg Parmley, CEO, LIVE, said: “The briefing we are seeing of a delay to our reopening later this month is devastating to the live music industry. Our research shows that a delay of a month would lead to the cancellation of over 5,000 planned events costing our industry hundreds of millions of pounds. Live music fears being left behind and irreversibly damaged as countries such as the Netherlands, Demark, Israel, the United States and Belgium announce they will begin running large full-capacity live events this summer.” 

Parmley added: “The government said the Events Research Programme would give us the evidence we needed to open safely. We have spent the last three months participating in, and paying for, full capacity pilot events that gave us this evidence. To protect the future of our industry we are calling for full transparency from the government, for them to release the full report that proves how we can open safely and to work with us to give everyone the summer of music we all want.” 

To protect the future of our industry we are calling for full transparency from the government

Greg Parmley

Lucy Noble, chair of the National Arenas Association, said: “It is devastating for the live music sector that we continue to be hit with arbitrary restrictions which make live events unviable. The Events Research Group pilot events were supposed to be the key to getting back to full capacity live performance, and we understand that there were only 15 cases out of 58,000 attendees – although government is refusing to either publish the full report or to allow the sector to open up with the carefully planned precautions which we have been planning and putting in place for months.” 

UK Music chief executive Jamie Njoku-Goodwin said: “This delay is catastrophic for the live music industry – not just for the millions of fans who are desperate to get back to gigs and concerts, but for the event organisers, the venues, and the thousands of musicians and support staff whose jobs and livelihoods are now at risk.

“People across the industry have had June 21 circled in their calendar as the date they can finally get back to work after more than a year and make a living again. But that hope has now been crushed and their futures are shrouded in uncertainty at a time when they most need clarity."

“There is a very real risk now of permanent damage to our sector in terms of a loss of talent and expertise – the live industry has warned there are 5,000 shows at risk of collapse, 250 grassroots music venues at risk of eviction and losses running at hundreds of millions of pounds.

He added: “This delay is particularly disappointing because of the lengths to which the music industry has gone to reduce the risk of transmission and develop effective safe working protocols. We worked with the government on the recent pilot events, which were a huge success and saw just a handful of Covid-19 cases among the 58,000 people who attended.

“Government must immediately support the music industry to mitigate the impact of this delay by extending economic support, especially the Business Rate Relief scheme, furlough and SEISS, and by ensuring freelancers have access to the financial support they desperately need.

“This delay is also exactly why our industry has desperately needed a government-backed insurance scheme. Confidence will be at rock bottom within the sector after today – and so festival and event organisers desperately need that safety net from the government so they can plan with confidence and avoid financial ruin if the rules change again."

Mark David, CEO, Music Venue Trust, added: "After today’s announcement the government is committed to a new reopening date for live music at full capacity of July 19. By this date, the government states that sufficient people will have been vaccinated to permit the opening of society, including full capacity reopening of grassroots music venues. This ambition is well within the current vaccination rate, and we would urge the government to use the full capacity, skills and expertise of the NHS to exceed the current vaccination rate and provide protection for many more people.

"The continued restrictions to culture are a serious blow to the grassroots music venue sector, with potential damage to hundreds of businesses, thousands of staff and tens of thousands of workers. The government should immediately recognise the risk of serious harm being done to people’s lives, business, jobs and livelihoods and respond with swift, decisive action. The clock is ticking. Don’t fail now."   

Michael Kill, CEO, Night Time Industries Association, said: “The government must understand the human impact of this decision, not only considering the public health challenges of the virus but also the people within our sector who are suffering terribly and the real health risks that this represents, given the overwhelming confidence in the vaccination rollout, and the ability for the sector to deliver Covid safe environments.”

“Distressed industries cannot continue to be held in limbo, as businesses are left to fall, any decision to delay without clarity on when they can open will leave us no other option but to challenge the Government, standing alongside many other industries who have been locked down or restricted from opening for an extreme length of time, through no fault of their own, and at their own cost.” 

The NTIA is calling for urgent measures, including extensions to the Restriction Grant for Businesses providing financial support, VAT relief and business rates relief, as well as events and festival insurance cover.

In Scotland, restrictions are set to life on June 28. Limits on indoor gatherings in Northern Ireland will be eased on June 21, while rules in Wales will be reviewed on June 25.

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