Clapham Grand boss Ally Wolf has urged promoters of November shows to reschedule dates rather than cancel outright following the government's announcement of a second national lockdown.
The 1,250-capacity London venue adopted Covid-safe guidelines to host a series of concerts and entertainment shows and increased its social distancing capacity by 100 to 400 after refurbishing its top tier balcony, which had been closed for 15 years.
The Grand received £300,000 in financial assistance as part of the government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund and had November gigs planned by the likes of James Bay, Jack Garratt, Lianne La Havas, Nothing But Thieves and Newton Faulkner. But the latest four-week lockdown of England, which is due to start on Thursday and run until December, has dictated a change of plans.
People have to know there is something to return to and still invest in
Ally Wolf, The Grand, Clapham
“Customer confidence is key for our industry to salvage anything in December and January post this lockdown," said Wolf. "I encourage promoters or acts with December shows not to make any rash decisions; venues can't open without shows and an empty diary in December is heartbreaking. Likewise anyone with affected shows in November, please don't cancel - move dates into December or 2021.
"Customers want to come out, they want to see shows and we can deliver them safely - but they need to see that confidence reflected across the whole industry straight away. If we waiver on it so will they. None of us are taking a pandemic lightly, at The Grand alone we've invested a fortune in remodelling ourselves to accommodate distancing and we are brilliant at it - like so many others too. We will abide by all guidelines as we always have, but people have to know there is something to return to and still invest in.
"We were about to announce the next eight weeks of shows at The Grand, which were our best yet, including our 120th birthday celebrations, and I know we will do so again, but everyone needs to have the same faith. We need an outwards facing positivity from top to bottom - no matter how bad it is internally. No one invests in fear, and all our customers are making investments in us. This pack of cards ain't falling down just yet."
While no specific clarification has yet been given regarding livestream events, Music Week understands Niall Horan's show at the Royal Albert Hall this Saturday (November 7) is still scheduled to go ahead as planned.
Night Time Industries Association Michael Kill said the Prime Minister's lockdown announcement had left the sector facing a "Financial Armageddon".
“It’s frightening to think that given the gravity of the situation, we are still being given limited communication, consultation or time to respond, or plan around these decisions,” he said. “The entire Night Time Economy consisting of thousands of businesses and hundreds of thousands of workers are suffering. Their plight is being made even worse by the huge void in financial support for the sector. Many of our businesses have experienced extreme financial hardship, been presented with unmanageable operational measures and have in some cases been forced into complete closure since March.”
“We are extremely concerned for business owners, operators, freelancers, creatives and people working within this sector. The level of despair and financial pressure this Government has placed them under can only be described as slow torture. As a result we are seeing a substantial rise in people suffering from deteriorating mental health, with many simply unable to support themselves or their families.”
“Without immediate and significant Government financial support and an exit strategy, it is not an exaggeration to say that this will be the final nail in the coffin for many night time economy businesses. And even with support, many viable businesses will be lost. This moment will go down in history as the moment that the Government destroyed a globally significant sector through poor communication and mis-management.”
Deborah Annetts, chief executive of the Incorporated Society Of Musicians (ISM), added that while protecting the population was a priority, the new lockdown would have "devastating consequences" for the music industry.
"For months we have warned the government that self-employed musicians are in desperate financial difficulty whilst venues remain closed, with our highly-skilled workforce struggling to survive without an income since March and excluded from government support," she said. "Now, with no prospect of future work on the horizon, the government has a moral duty to reform the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme, maintaining the level of support at 70%, and expanding the eligibility criteria to include the estimated three million who have been excluded.
"Before this crisis, music and the creative industries made an essential contribution to the health, wealth and culture of our nation. Unless the government introduces meaningful support, we are looking at the devastation of the performing arts and a permanent exodus of talent."