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UK industry reacts to reopening roadmap

Live music is expected to return to indoor venues by the end of May, with a view to lifting all restrictions by 21 June, the government has announced

By IQ on 22 Feb 2021

Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson


image © Flickr/Number 10

Indoor performances are expected to return to music venues across England towards the end of May, provided the country’s Covid-19 response is going as planned, prime minister Boris Johnson announced today (22 February).

Johnson has set out a “cautious” four-step roadmap for the reopening of society, with at least five weeks between each step. The first step commences on 8 March when children will return to schools, while outdoor gatherings of either six people or two households will be allowed from no earlier than 29 March.

Step two, which will commence no earlier than 12 April, will see non-essential retail and outdoor hospitality open without curfew.

Step three, expected to launch no earlier than 17 May, will see music venues, sports stadiums cinemas, pubs, restaurants and other hospitality businesses welcome people indoors subject to social distancing and capacity limits, depending on the size of the venue.

Indoor performances will be restricted to the lower of 1,000 people or 50% capacity, outdoor performances limited to the lower of either 4,000 people or 50% capacity, and seated outdoor performances, to either 10,000 people or 25% of capacity.

The final step, which will start no earlier than 21 June, will see the government lift all restrictions, allowing nightclubs to reopen and large events to take place “above the limits of step three”.

The final step, estimated to start around 21 June, will see the government lift all restrictions

Larger events in step four will be influenced by the results of a new research programme which is detailed in new supplementary guidance that states: ‘Over the spring the government will run a scientific Events Research Programme. This will include a series of pilots using enhanced testing approaches and other measures to run events with larger crowd sizes and reduced social distancing to evaluate the outcomes.

‘The pilots will start in April. The government will bring the findings from across different sectors and different settings to determine a consistent approach to lifting restrictions on these events. Depending on the outcome of this work, the government hopes to be able to lift restrictions on these events and sectors as part of Step 4.’

However, the PM has stipulated that to move from one stage to the next, four conditions will need to be met: first, that the vaccine deployment programme continues successfully. Second, that evidence shows vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths.

Third, that infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations, which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS. And fourth, that the government’s assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new variants of Covid that cause concern.

While the UK live industry has welcomed some clarity from the prime minister, it has also expressed disappointment at being the last to reopen and is calling for extended financial support to sustain the sector throughout the next four months.

“We need the government to commit urgently to an extension of the 5% VAT rate on ticket sales and employment support”

A statement issued by recently-launched umbrella trade organisation LIVE says, “The Chancellor now has a choice to make as it is clear live music will be closed, or uneconomical, for the months ahead, with a return to normality not possible at least 21 June, four long months away. Support for businesses and individuals must continue and, in particular, when the Government looks at unwinding the general support packages, they must replace them with sector-specific support for the industries that will take longer than anyone else to reopen.”

Greg Parmley, CEO, LIVE, says: “While it is good to get some clarity following almost a year of confusion, as predicted our £4.5 billion industry is at the back of the queue to reopen. Any return to normality for live music could be months behind the rest of the economy. The chancellor must acknowledge our extended closure in the budget and provide the economic support needed to ensure the jobs and livelihoods of the hundreds of thousands of people that work in our industry exist as we come through this pandemic.

“We need the government to commit urgently to an extension of the 5% VAT rate on ticket sales and employment support that reaches all those unable to work due to the restrictions. To reopen, the sector needs a government-backed insurance scheme to allow shows to go ahead when it’s safe to do so, and with venues shuttered across the UK, an extension of business rates relief would be both fair and necessary.”

“Today’s statement must be accompanied with comprehensive financial support”

David Martin, CEO, Featured Artists Coalition, says: “While the prime minister’s statement offers some green shoots of hope for live music, there is some way to go before we return to pre-pandemic levels of activity. A cautious approach is right to protect lives and reopening too early would be counter-intuitive for the industry’s long-term outlook. However, the government must adhere to its own advice, allowing data to guide decision making, so that we can return immediately when it is safe to do so.

“Ahead of full reopening, government has to learn from previous mistakes and listen to the industry. Last year’s slow response on income support and other financial assistance led to the closure of businesses and the loss of livelihoods. Today’s statement must be accompanied with comprehensive financial support for individuals plus insurance and businesses support measures, including an extension to the reduced VAT rate on event tickets. This will allow the music industry to bounce back effectively and contribute its full potential to the UK’s economic recovery.”

“It is logical that the government will choose to address [our] specific status with sector-specific financial support”

Mark Dayvd, CEO, Music Venue Trust, says: “It is good to hear the government provide conditions under which initially socially distanced events, and then fuller capacity events, can take place. Based on this information, it is now possible to imagine how we Revive Live in grassroots music venues and develop that work into the full return of our domestic music scene.

“We note that this roadmap once again singles out live performance events as a specific risk which require that the sector is treated in a special way. Since March 2020, we have made the case to the government that if this is the case, based on their interpretation of the data, then it is logical that the government will choose to address that specific status with sector-specific financial support to mitigate the damage being done to businesses and people’s lives, careers and families right across the live music industry.

“In light of today’s announcements, the budget next week must clearly lay out exactly how the government is going to provide that sector-specific support. We warmly welcome the government’s acknowledgement of the value of nightlife, committing to not reinstating a curfew and including nightclubs within the reopening timetable.”

“The real risk that suppliers to events face is collapse”

David Keighley, chair, PSA, says: “Whilst we fully understand the risk-averse approach to reopening, government needs to be aware that live events excel in a risk-assessed approach, with the safety of attendees and workers always prioritised. The real risk that suppliers to events face is collapse, to avoid this will require effective financial support that reaches the whole events ecosystem, real support until our sector is allowed to return to viable levels of activity. This is the only way to ensure this valuable economic contributor is in a position to play its essential part in our country’s recovery.”

Paul Reed, CEO, AIF, says: “We welcome the prime minister’s roadmap out of lockdown, presented to the house of commons this afternoon, and are optimistic that many of our member festivals may be able to go ahead in some capacity later on this year. There are still, however, some urgent points of clarity that need to be made around the exact requirements that festival organisers will need to meet, in particular around testing and covid certification.

“We look forward to engaging closely with government on the Events Research Programme and again stress that we are rapidly approaching the decision cut off point for the vast majority of festivals at the end of March. If a complete picture is not given by this time, it will be too late for many to stage events later in the year.

“We also appreciate that this is a best-case scenario and that the government reserves the right to delay the easing of lockdown restrictions if the data dictates. Festival organisers only want to return when it is safe to do so but, if the easing of restrictions does lose momentum and events are suddenly cancelled as a result, it is vital that our sector receives swift and targeted government support to compensate. In addition, government intervention on insurance and VAT remain critical.”

The NHS has so far vaccinated more than 17.5 million people across the UK and the PM hopes to have every adult vaccinated by the end of July.

 


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