Indoor gigs given green light to return in UK with social distancing

Indoor gigs given green light to return in UK with social distancing

The Music Venue Trust (MVT) has reiterated that it is unviable for "the vast majority of grassroots music venue" to reopen, despite the government confirming that indoor live music performances can resume with social distancing from tomorrow.

DCMS has been working with the live sector on pilots of performances with socially distanced audiences to inform final guidance for venues in the run up to the restart date, including a successful pilot show by Frank Turner at The Grand in Clapham last month. 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. 

Clapham Grand has already confirmed a series of comedy shows following today's announcement. The MVT has welcomed the progress, but warned that only around 100 of the country's 900 small music venues would be able to operate under the current restrictions.

"Unfortunately, it remains the case that the vast majority of grassroots music venues are not financially able, or even have the physical premises layout, to deliver these newly permitted events," it said. "Those that can make social distancing work will be unlikely to be able to stage government compliant events tomorrow with this much notice.

"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 real venues, might be achievable in the foreseeable future.

"Those English venues that can create events that comply with this new guidance, about 100 across the country of the 900 currently closed, will be hugely relieved to finally be able to open their doors in the coming weeks. We hope that the public will support the events that can now happen."

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

Tom Kiehl, UK Music

UK Music Acting CEO Tom Kiehl gave the news a similarly cautious welcome, adding the music industry still faces an “extraordinarily difficult” future.

“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," he said. “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.”

Theatres, music halls and other venues closed since the Covid-19 shutdown in March were originally set to be allowed to reopen at reduced capacity in the UK from August 1, but that date was postponed by two weeks following a spike in coronavirus cases.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: "At every stage I have said our plan to reopen society and the economy is conditional and that it relies on continued progress against the virus.

"Today, we are able to announce some further changes which will allow more people to return to work and the public to get back to more of the things they have missed. However, as I have always said, we will not hesitate to put on the brakes if required, or to continue to implement local measures to help to control the spread of the virus."

Culture secretary Oliver Dowden said: "The nation’s hard work to keep the virus under control means we can now make further careful progress on recovery with allowing audiences back for indoor performances, fans back at sports events and the reopening of more Covid-19 secure leisure businesses.

"We must all continue to Stay Alert but today’s welcome news means these organisations can finally get going safely, and we can enjoy more of the things we love as a nation. I have no doubt that they will work incredibly hard to keep their fans, patrons, and customers safe."

The Incorporated Society Of Musicians’ CEO Deborah Annetts, said: "It is welcome news that after much delay socially distanced indoor live performances can now take place as part of the government’s five-stage roadmap for reopening.

"Despite being highly skilled, the majority of musicians are not highly paid, and their income is overwhelmingly dependent on performing. The fact still remains that until live music venues can fully reopen without social distancing, musicians will not be able to fully return to work, and their income will be far less than before Covid-19, which is not sustainable.  

"We remain concerned that those eligible for the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme will only covered by the scheme until August. Musicians face the prospect of no further financial support as they transition back to work. The government must extend the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme until at least the end of the year, and widen the eligibility criteria for freelancers to access vital support during this difficult time. The music industry, which is one of the last sectors of the economy to reopen, provides so much cultural and economic value to our country, and without additional financial support for freelancers, we risk many of our most talented musicians leaving the industry."

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