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Festivals axed after UK lockdown easing delay

As predicted, a number of UK festivals, among them Black Deer in Kent, have been forced call off their 2021 events at the last minute after yesterday’s government U-turn on lifting remaining coronavirus restrictions on 21 June.

Black Deer, which has a daily capacity of 10,000, was scheduled for 25–27 June, having already postponed by a week to be after the 21st, the final date for lifting all restrictions in England under the UK government’s now-abandoned roadmap. The Americana event, which debuted in 2018, would have featured a line-up that included Van Morrison, Robert Plan’s Saving Grace, Jake Bugg, Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls, Imelda May, Band of Skulls and Foy Vance.

Trade body LIVE had warned that any delay to the 21 June reopening date would wipe an estimated 5,000 concerts, festivals and events from the calendar and cost the live music industry hundreds of millions of pounds in lost revenues.

“We can’t quite put into words how we are feeling right now,” say Black Deer organisers on social media. “The delay by the government on the easing of restrictions means we’re unable to bring you Black Deer Festival 2021. It’s devastating news for all connected with Black Deer. But we’ll be back in 2022.”

https://twitter.com/blackdeerfest/status/1404551430707585024

Elsewhere, several other smaller events have also thrown in the towel, with Glastonferry (5,000-cap.) in Warrington, Bingley Weekender (5,000-cap.) in West Yorkshire and Noisily (2,000-cap.) in Leicestershire among other festivals saying the four-week delay makes their 2021 events untenable.

A statement from Noisily, scheduled for 8–12 July, says: “It is with heavy heavy hearts that we write this message. Today’s announcement was the one that we dreaded – a delay to the release from Covid restrictions. The woods and fields in which Noisily takes place are a part of a working farm, meaning that there is no scope to delay until later in the summer, which means that Noisily 2021 cannot go ahead.”

“We can’t quite put into words how we are feeling right now”

“We know how gutting this is for you all,” organisers continue. “We needed that soul food of meeting in the woods once again, and after pouring our heart and soul into the event on a wing and a prayer, hoping against hope – to have all of that dashed again is beyond devastating.”

Other festivals under threat include popular Sheffield event Tramlines (30,000-cap.), which begins on 24 July, just five days after the new ‘freedom day’.

As the Sheffield Star reports, “that means it could legally still go ahead if the government sticks to the new date”; however, “any further postponement of lockdown easing would force its cancellation, with the existing limit on capacity for outdoor events standing at 4,000, leaving little time to react should that happen.”

Latitude (35,000-cap.), meanwhile, is still on at the time of writing, according to Festival Republic MD Melvin Benn.

In an update posted to the Latitude Twitter account, Benn asks ticketholders to give the company “a little more time” to digest yesterday’s announcement, saying that a decision on the festival should be made by the end of the week. However, the delay doesn’t mean “the end of our hopes for Latitude this year”, says Benn.

Latitude 2021, headlined by Wolf Alice, the Chemical Brothers and Bastille, takes place from 22 to 25 July.

 


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UK fury as government delays reopening date

The British government today (14 June) confirmed that live entertainment businesses will have to endure another month of closure, after deciding that the 21 June date on its roadmap to recovery should be delayed while it deals with the spread of the Delta (Indian) variant of Covid-19.

The devastating decision places numerous businesses in jeopardy, wiping an estimated 5,000 concerts, festivals and events from the calendar and costing the UK industry hundreds of millions of pounds in lost revenues.

“Following more than a year of confusion, lost revenue and cancellations, we are devastated the government has not set out any clear path for the restart of the live music industry,” reads a statement from trade body LIVE (Live music Industry Venues and Entertainment). “The government has been quick to talk up the success of the vaccine rollout, but other countries are now ahead of us in opening up full capacity events with simple Covid certification processes, including the Netherlands, Belgium and the United States.

 “The government must also provide urgent emergency financial support to those impacted by today’s decision. There are hundreds of millions of pounds from the much-vaunted Culture Recovery Fund unallocated, despite being 15 months on from the start of the crisis. This money needs to get into the industry without any more delay.” 

“It is devastating for the live music sector that we continue to be hit with arbitrary restrictions which make live events unviable,” says Lucy Noble, chair of the National Arenas Association. “The Events Research Programme 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.” 

“It is devastating for the live music sector that we continue to be hit with arbitrary restrictions which make live events unviable”

“LIVE remains astounded that the findings have never published in full, given their centrality to the reopening of live events,” continues the statement. “This data must be published immediately so that the sector is able to see on what basis the government is making decisions about the industry’s future, and so that we can play a collaborative role in future proofing live events for years to come.”

“Failure to take immediate action to support the sector could tip many hundreds of grassroots music venues into the abyss,” comments Music Venue Trust (MVT) CEO Mark Davyd.

“The issue is not simply about a delay in reopening or lifting restrictions. It may on the surface look like a short and manageable pause. But there is no provision in place to bridge the resultant funding gap should this occur. Without some certainty on exactly when grassroots music venues can start trading at full capacity again the majority of the sector, already barely surviving on life support, could flat line.”

Davyd’s plea for financial support has been echoed throughout the nation’s live music community.

“The briefing we are seeing of a delay to our reopening later this month is devastating to the live music industry,” “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.”

“The government said the Events Research Programme would give us the evidence we needed to open safely”

Meanwhile, a flash survey conducted on behalf of the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) reveals the hammer blow that the rumoured delay will have on nightlife business such as clubs and venues, with one in four businesses stating they will not survive longer than one month without further government support, while 50% of the industry say they would not survive longer than two months without aid.

The NTIA research notes that 54% of businesses have spent more than £15,000 in preparation for reopening on 21 June already, while 17.8% have spent more than £40,000. And 58% of businesses estimate they will lose more than £10,000 per week in revenue whilst restricted from trading due to easing of lockdown on 21 June, and a third of businesses estimate they will lose 30% of their workforce due to any delay.

“Night-time economy businesses have waited patiently for their opportunity to open for over 15 months,” says NTIA CEO Michael Kill. “Many have not survived, some are on a financial cliff edge, hundreds of thousands of jobs have been lost, a huge pool of talent has been swept away and others have been left to suffer extreme financial hardship.

“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.”

And Kill notes, “Any delay will drive confidence in the sector to a new low, culminating in workforce leaving the sector, and customers who are starved of social engagement, attending illegal unregulated events in place of businesses that are well operated, licensed and regulated.”

“The government must understand the human impact of this decision”

“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 roll-out, and the ability for the sector to deliver Covid-safe environments.”

Davyd says, “With no funding in place to mitigate any delay in reopening we will see mass evictions and foreclosures by landlords and creditors who ran out of patience a long time ago. The risk of business closures, widespread redundancies and the decimation of our sector is as real now as it was in April 2020.

“The government has the tools it needs to avert a disaster, whatever decisions it needs to make. It has allocated an additional £300 million to support the cultural sector; the prime minister or the culture secretary can swiftly announce that this money will be immediately released to tackle the challenges caused by any delay to reopening.”

Paul Reed, CEO of the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF), says while “AIF understands the rationale for delaying step four of the lockdown roadmap”, “any measures that prevent festivals from operating fully have to be counterbalanced with effective support to ensure businesses can survive.

“For those festival organisers that still have a chance of staging events after July 19, that support is government-backed insurance, which will give them the confidence to continue planning and commit the significant costs that entails. We also must not forget those festivals that have already been forced to cancel or will do so as a result of the delay – they will need a swift and comprehensive financial package to help them survive until the 2022 sales cycle.”

“Any measures that prevent festivals operating have to be counterbalanced with effective support”

Jamie Njoku-Goodwin, chief executive of UK Music, is also renewing calls for a government-backed insurance fund. “This delay is also exactly why our industry has desperately needed a government-backed insurance scheme,” he says. “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.

“The UK has one of the most vibrant live music scenes in the world, and the music industry is one of the sectors that should be driving our economic and cultural recovery from this pandemic. If the industry is not to be allowed to operate without restrictions for another month, then continued economic support and an insurance scheme is more vital than ever.”

“If there is to be a one-month delay,” concludes LIVE, “the government must spend that time ensuring there is a simple Covid certification scheme in place by the end of it to ensure that full- capacity events can go ahead, as they are now doing in other countries such the US, Belgium, Denmark and the Netherlands. Businesses remain unable to plan or proceed in any meaningful way, leaving them hamstrung as part of an industry in limbo.

“With hundreds of millions of pounds of the Culture Recovery Fund left unallocated within government, this needs to be pushed out to the music and live entertainment industries urgently to tide the sector over until a concrete way forward is agreed.”

 


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21 June: Delay would lead to 5,000 UK cancellations

Research published today (10 June) shows that even a four-week delay to the deadline for lifting the final restrictions on live events in the UK would cost the live music sector over £500 million and leave the summer festival season at risk of total collapse.

More than 5,000 shows by artists including Olly Murs, Tom Odell, Rag’n’Bone Man, Beverley Knight, McFly, Alexandra Burke and Rudimental would either need to cancel or postpone if the 21 June deadline was pushed back, incurring immediate costs across the live music supply chain and further damaging an industry already hanging in the balance, according to industry body LIVE (Live music Industry Venues and Entertainment).

The rumoured move, as IQ reported earlier this week, comes despite the fact that, by the government’s own evidence, large-scale events can happen safely with the right precautions in place.

Through LIVE, a federation of 13 associations representing more than 3,000 live music companies, the live sector is calling for government to publish the data from the first round of Events Research Programme (ERP) pilots, so “they are able to follow their own science” and allow live businesses to reopen with Covid-safe precautions. The ERP findings which have been released by government to the media show that with screening, improved ventilation and other mitigating factors, mass events are reportedly as safe as a trip to the supermarket.

“We implore the government to follow their own scientific data that proves live events are safe with the right mitigations”

Lucy Noble, chair of the National Arenas Association, says: “The pilot shows at the Brits and Liverpool were touted as the key to getting back to full-capacity live performance, which is why it’s extremely frustrating that the government refuses to publish the full report and allow the sector to open up through the carefully planned precautions which are currently waiting in the wings.

“We implore the government to follow their own scientific data that proves live events are safe with the right mitigations. Now is the time for them to protect the live events sector for generations to come.”

Any delay to the 21 June reopening date would have significant and immediate repercussions for grassroots music venues, with 248 venues facing an immediate threat of eviction if the government does not fully compensate their financial losses from delayed reopening, says Mark Davyd, CEO of Music Venue Trust.

“In the event of any delay to reopening, government action to restore confidence to the sector will need to be swift, decisive and comprehensive,” says Davyd. “Any decision to delay places the sector in the most perilous and uncertain situation since April 2020. All that has been done by government, the public, artist and communities to save our venues risks being undone.”

“We cannot keep waiting indefinitely without knowing when step four will take place”

The UK’s much-anticipated summer festival season would also see significant casualties, with 65% of all Association of Independent Festivals members saying they will be forced to cancel if faced with a five-week delay – and 21% already gone.

Jim King, CEO of European festivals for AEG Presents, comments: “A delay into July without a clear road map to get back to step four [full lockdown lifting] puts an impossible strain on all festivals, including AEG’s All Points East festival, along with our suppliers across the industry.

“We cannot keep waiting indefinitely without knowing when step four will take place, and this uncertainty will undoubtedly result, by default, in more cancellations. We are desperate for the UK festival season to begin again, but an undated reopening makes long term planning and investment unfeasible.”

 


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