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UK live organisations react to PM’s resignation

The UK’s live music industry is facing up to a further period of uncertainty following the resignation of prime minister Boris Johnson.

Johnson, who succeeded Theresa May in 2019, is stepping down as Conservative leader after a controversial three-year reign, but has stated his intention to remain as PM until the autumn, when his successor is decided in a leadership contest.

“It is clearly now the will of the parliamentary Conservative Party that there should be a new leader of that party and therefore a new prime minister,” he said.

His announcement, made outside Downing Street this morning, came on the heels of an extraordinary few days in British politics, which saw mass resignations by more than 50 government members in protest at the PM’s leadership – a crisis triggered by revelations that Johnson was aware of allegations against MP Chris Pincher prior to appointing him as deputy chief whip earlier this year.

Members of UK trade body LIVE have given their reaction to the news, with Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) CEO Paul Reed outlining its ramifications for the live sector.

“The resignation of the PM and subsequent disruption further complicates and slows down the policy making process,” he tells IQ. “It effectively puts the government in a holding pattern until a leadership contest is concluded, when we need intervention on VAT and further support during this recovery phase, in which festivals are facing a range of very difficult trading conditions.”

“The last 24 to 48 hours have been the most turbulent times in British political history”

Dave Keighley, chair of the Production Services Association (PSA), describes Johnson’s exit as “inevitable”.

“The last 24 to 48 hours have been the most turbulent times in British political history,” says Keighley, speaking to IQ. “It was, in my mind, inevitable that Boris Johnson was left with no alternative but to resign. I for one, thought he should have resigned when he was issued with a fine for breaking lockdown rules. In the end it is always the lies and deceit that cripple politicians and their careers.

“Boris has been the victim of his own arrogance, selfishness and stubbornness. Let’s hope the party and government can find a replacement as soon as possible.”

The move has also created speculation regarding the culture secretary position, currently held by Johnson loyalist Nadine Dorries.

The Music Venue Trust’s CEO Mark Davyd told Music Week that Dorries, who became the seventh politician in less than five years to hold the post when succeeding Oliver Dowden in 2021, was the first culture secretary to decline a meeting with the organisation since it was founded in 2014.

Media, digital and infrastructure minister Julia Lopez and tech and digital economy minister Chris Philp, meanwhile, both joined the government exodus earlier this week.

LIVE CEO Jon Collins recently spoke to IQ about how the government could help the live music industry navigate its well-documented post-pandemic challenges.

“Significant cost pressures and the cost-of-living squeeze mean trading remains challenging,” he said. “It is of vital importance therefore, that the government takes steps to support those across the live music ecosystem. In particular, introducing a cultural rate of VAT on ticket sales which would secure the sector’s recovery, boost the UK economy and deliver many more weekends like the one that lies ahead.”


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England to scrap all remaining Covid restrictions

The English live music industry has welcomed the government’s plans to lift all remaining coronavirus restrictions.

Prime minister Boris Johnson today (21 February) announced the ‘Living with Covid-19’ plan which will put an end to self-isolation and free testing.

From Thursday (25 February), the legal requirement to self-isolate after a positive Covid test will be removed in England.

Meanwhile, free Covid testing – which has reportedly cost £15.7 billion – will end for the general public in England from 1 April.

The PM says restrictions can be lifted now because the levels of immunity are high and deaths are low.

“This is not back to business as usual for festivals and it is not a case of ‘job done’ for ministers”

The live music industry has hailed the end of Covid-19 restrictions as a “huge relief” but warns that ongoing support from the government is needed.

Paul Reed, CEO of the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF), says: “While we welcome legal restrictions around Covid-19 coming to an end and the prospect of a full capacity festival season, the effects of the pandemic are still being felt by the independent festival sector and the need for government action remains. With festival organisers facing crippling cost increases of up to 30% across operations and infrastructure, this is not back to business as usual for festivals and it is not a case of ‘job done’ for ministers.

“AIF reiterates its call for ongoing support from government in the form of continued VAT relief on festival tickets to maintain the current reduced 12.5% rate on tickets beyond the end of March; and to also explore some form of government-backed loan scheme for suppliers to alleviate some of these pressures and encourage investment in the festival supply chain.”

Greg Parmley, CEO, LIVE says: “The end of Covid-19 restrictions represents a huge, welcome relief to the live music sector, which lost billions in revenue throughout the pandemic. But with spiralling costs and thousands of companies struggling with pandemic debt, it’s crucial that government does not abandon and set the sector adrift, just as it starts to tread water again.

“We are calling for a reverse to the planned hike in VAT rates and the imminent end to business rates relief in order to avoid further business closures and job losses within our sector.”

“The extension of VAT & Business rates relief remains a key ask”

Michael Kill, CEO of NTIA, says: “The withdrawal of the remaining covid restrictions is welcomed by the industry, and will further support business recovery and go some way to regaining customer confidence.

“Our responsibility to keep customers and staff safe remains our focus, maintaining baseline mitigations as we have done since the 19th July 2021.

“Experts have suggested that recovery to pre covid trading levels will take several years, but we cannot lose sight of the short term role that the government must continue to play in supporting the sector, beginning with the chancellor’s budget in March.

“The extension of VAT & Business rates relief remains a key ask, allowing businesses the financial headroom to survive, on this long road to recovery.

“Given the commitment and support, over the last two years, that the sector has given to the government’s public health strategy, it is only right that they recognise and support the hardest-hit industries through the final phase of this crisis.”

Greg Marshall, general manager of Association for Electronic Music (AFEM), says: “AFEM welcomes the end of all legal Covid-19 regulations and the move to guidance announced in the UK today. However, the fragility of the chain of businesses and individuals which make up the electronic music club and events ecosystem needs to be recognised. Ongoing support measures will be required to ensure the recovery of this sector, in parallel with industry action to build consumer confidence and ensure a return of audience numbers to all event types in the long term”.

England follows in the footsteps of DenmarkSweden, the Netherlands, Finland, Germany, Austria and Switzerland – all of which have recently announced plans to lift all remaining restrictions.


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Vaccine passports to be introduced in England

Vaccine passports and facemasks will be required in order to attend concerts in England as part of tougher restrictions unveiled by the government in response to the Omicron variant.

Speaking at a hastily arranged press conference in Downing Street, prime minister Boris Johnson said the rapid increase in infections meant it was necessary to implement its “Plan B” measures to combat the spread of the virus.

The new rules, he said, would “help to keep these events and venues open at full capacity, while giving everyone who attends them confidence that those around them have done the responsible thing to minimise risk to others”.

From next Wednesday (15 December), the wearing of face masks will be mandated in all venues where crowds gather, and Covid certificates will be needed for:

* Venues where large crowds gather, including nightclubs

* Unseated indoor venues with more than 500 people

* Unseated outdoor venues with more than 4,000 people

The introduction of a negative LFT in the certification scheme follows extended lobbying by the sector to include the measure in any new restrictions. Earlier this week the Scottish government also added LFTs to their own rules.

Johnson added that, “The NHS Covid Pass can still be obtained with two doses but we will keep this under review as the boosters roll out.”

The introduction of Plan B results in an unfair double standard

Reacting to the announcement, a spokesperson for music trade body LIVE said: “The introduction of Plan B results in an unfair double standard that allows people to go on all-day pub crawls in crowded bars without having to prove their Covid-19 status, whilst live music venues get hit with certification.

“Across the country, music venues and events already have tried, tested and workable systems in place to ensure that live events continue to be safe – and these remain effective. However, after such a prolonged closure throughout the pandemic it is important the industry is able to remain open and that the government have listened to the industry and included the use of lateral flow testing in covid certification.”

The botched rollout of Scotland’s vaccine passport app earlier this autumn cost venues £250,000 a week, according to the Music Venue Trust.

The Scottish Music Venues Alliance reported a 39% dip in business per week, amounting to £249,471.23, since vaccine certification became mandatory for large events and nightclubs on 1 October, while a vast majority of people experienced repeated problems in registering and uploading their personal vaccine status to the app.

Vaccine passports have a damaging impact on night-time economy businesses

Mark Davyd, CEO Music Venue Trust, says: “Whilst this is obviously a blow to the progress in the battle against the virus, we are pleased that the government has listened to the grassroots music venue sector and adopted a Covid Pass policy that recognises testing and applies to larger gatherings – those venues operating at above 500 capacity.

“MVT’s #TakeaTest policy has been extremely successful in limiting infection incidents in grassroots music venues, and we welcome the announcement that this has been recognised in the new policy. Regardless of the size of the event you are attending, we continue to urge music lovers to #TakeaTest”.

Michael Kill, CEO of the Night-time Industries Association (NTIA), adds: “Vaccine passports have a damaging impact on night-time economy businesses, as we seen in other parts of the UK where they have been implemented. Trade is down 30% in Scotland and 26% in Wales following their implementation.

“The UK government have twice ruled out vaccine passports before twice changing their mind. The mixed public health messages this week that have been coming out of the government have arrived at the worst possible time – the pre-Christmas period is absolutely crucial for our sector. And now it is announced damaging vaccine passports are to be implemented.”

Check out the latest information on certification schemes, social distancing requirements, mask mandates, capacity restrictions and lockdowns affecting key European markets here.


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Live music to reopen in England on 19 July

The British live music industry is expected to fully reopen without any restrictions from 19 July, prime minister Boris Johnson announced in a press conference today (5 July).

The PM set out details for the delayed fourth and final stage of the UK government’s roadmap, to be confirmed on 12 July, in which the majority of England’s remaining Covid restrictions will be lifted.

The rollback of legal Covid-19 restrictions will see Britain move to a system of individual responsibility and instead give businesses and organisations discretion to keep measures in place.

From 19 July onwards, face masks will be voluntary, the requirement to scan a QR code when entering a venue will be abolished, and regulations that require businesses to collect customers’ contact tracing details will be no longer be enforced.

Social distancing rules will be dropped, Covid status certification will not be required in law as a condition of entry for visitors to any setting, and table service at bars will no longer be mandatory.

Large events, such as music concerts and sporting events can resume without any limits on attendance or social distancing

The reopening will mark the first time since the start of the pandemic that the £4.6 billion live industry will be able to resume full-capacity events, including festivals.

Large events, such as music concerts and sporting events can resume without any limits on attendance or social distancing requirements and attendees will no longer be legally required to wear a face mask.

Elsewhere in the UK, Scotland is reducing restrictions to the lowest level on 19 July and plans to remove all restrictions on 9 August. The Welsh government will review the country’s restrictions on 15 July when they will announce further details.

And Northern Ireland executives will be meeting this week to discuss their data before making further decisions on easing restrictions.

While the British live industry has welcomed the news of a full reopening, associations, festivals and promoters have once again reinforced the need for a government-backed insurance scheme to support the sector’s recovery and boost organisers’ confidence.

“We need a government backed scheme to provide the security needed to start investing in events over the coming months”

Phil Bowdery, chairman of Concert Promoters Association, says: “I am delighted that the government has made the right choice today, letting the much-loved live music sector get back to doing what it does best.

“While we absolutely cannot wait to safely welcome back our fans, we are missing one piece of the puzzle – insurance. We need a government backed scheme to provide the security needed to start investing in events over the coming months, shoring up our industry and stimulating the wider economy as we build back following the pandemic.”

Paul Reed, CEO for the Association for Independent Festivals, added: “We welcome the prime minister’s statement and that large events including festivals are expected to be able take place from 19 July. It is positive for organisers, fans and artists alike that there will be some activity this year, though clearly it is too late for the estimated 56% of UK festivals that have already been forced to cancel and are still awaiting details of emergency funding and the next round of the Culture Recovery Fund.

“We now urge government to finally act on insurance and announce a government-backed scheme immediately. Insurance remains the key obstacle to planning with confidence and there is no rationale for not implementing such a scheme if the government’s roadmap is truly irreversible.

“We also need to ensure there is clear guidance for organisers and local authorities no later than 12 July, so that events don’t unravel at a local level. We ask that government also explore solutions for staff that will be affected by test and trace and isolation policies working at events this summer.”

“Insurance remains the key obstacle to planning with confidence and there is no rationale for not implementing such a scheme”

Greg Parmley, CEO of LIVE, says: “The live music industry is very pleased with the prime minister’s statement, and it seems we will finally see a return to full capacity performances on 19 July. We have watched the rest of the economy reopen while our doors have been forced to remain closed since the start of the pandemic, but today’s announcements will generate considerable excitement amongst music fans across the country.

“To save the rest of the summer and autumn schedule we now desperately need a government-backed insurance scheme to provide the security required to invest in events. Government ministers have repeatedly said that a scheme would be announced once the legal barriers to full performances were removed. Well, we are now almost at that point and there must be no further delay if we are to reap the benefits of the superb vaccine roll-out.”

Mark Davyd, CEO of MVT, responded: “This is obviously extremely welcome news for millions of live music fans, for artists, crew, venues and local communities who have been deprived of music for so long. Since March 2020, Music Venue Trust’s aim has been to Reopen Every Venue Safely. We have been working alongside the grassroots music venue sector throughout to identify methods by which we can do that, regardless of any current government guidelines and resulting limitations and restrictions. The keyword for us and the sector throughout these long difficult months has been ‘safely.

“This announcement is hugely important and provides the opportunity to revive live music. It does not, however, change the central mission or the importance of the word ‘safely’. We are re-energising our efforts to work with our fantastic network of grassroots music venues to ensure that what each of them delivers to the public meets the highest standards of covid security and safety within the new guidelines.”

David Keighley, chair of the Production Services Association, added: “It’s really good to hear from our prime minister that we can hopefully and finally get back to normal after the 19 July. The concert touring, festivals and events sector of our economy have been the hardest hit by Covid. We were the first to stop and we are only now being allowed to reopen. We must all be truly thankful for the vaccines as this is the reason we can almost get back to normal.”

“To save the rest of the summer and autumn schedule we now desperately need a government-backed insurance scheme”

Sacha Lord, co-creator of Parklife festival, which is due to take place in Manchester in September, tweeted: “If the PM [prime minister] does give the green light for the 19th [July], the chancellor must immediately announce festival insurance, in line with other countries. Freelancers and the supply chain are dependent on this.”

Adam Gregory, festival director at Bloodstock Open Air, which is due to take place in Derbyshire in August, echoes the call for insurance.

“There’s still no indemnity to allow us to plan safely…the uncertainty still remains,” Gregory tells IQ. “That’s something that needs immediately addressing so that we can again start planning for 2021 and 2022. Also international travel for artists coming to work should be given the opportunity to do s0 without having to quarantine.”

Gregory says that even though some Covid precautions are no longer mandatory, Bloodstock Open Air will still insist upon certain measures.

“I think there’s a moral responsibility to make sure that, as an event, we do the right thing for everybody attending the festival. I’m sure there will be events out there that just to go back to pre-Covid times and just remove absolutely all the measures but I don’t necessarily think at this moment in time that’s the right thing to do. We can’t go back to business as usual, as much as we all want to, I don’t think that’s necessarily the right thing to do.”

John Giddings, promoter of Isle of Wight festival, also due to take place in September, has welcomed the “collective responsibility” the government is placing on the nation and says it’s “about time” test and trace requirements are dropped.


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UK industry reacts to reopening roadmap

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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Visas: Brexit war of words heats up

The European Union has hit back at claims by the British government it rejected the latter’s proposals for visa-free travel for touring artists, escalating the public war of words over the issue between the bloc and its recently departed former member state.

In response to a report in the Independent which claimed UK negotiators had knocked back an offer from the EU for visa-free touring, a UK government spokesperson told IQ earlier this week it was actually the EU which insisted on travel restrictions for musicians – saying Britain has supported, and will always support, “ambitious arrangements for performers and artists to be able to work and tour across Europe”.

Elaborating in an interview with the NME on Wednesday (13 January), UK culture secretary Oliver Dowden explained that the UK sought a “mutually beneficial agreement” that would have included musicians, artists, entertainers and crew in a class of “business visitors” exempt from needing work visas.

“But the EU turned it down, repeatedly,” said Dowden. “It did not propose and wouldn’t accept a tailored deal for musicians and artists. I’m afraid it was the EU letting down music on both sides of the Channel – not us.”

The EU, however, disputes Dowden’s version of events, claiming that the UK rejected special travel rights for artists and musicians prosed by EU negotiators.

“I very much regretted the fact that when it comes to mobility between the two sides that the British didn’t display any greater ambition”

Speaking to the FT, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, said: “I very much regretted the fact that when it comes to mobility between the two sides that the British didn’t display any greater ambition. We had a number of initial proposals on this.”

It has been suggested that the EU’s reported offer of a 90-day visa-free period every 180 days – which would have effectively allowed a three-month European tour by British musicians – conflicted with the British government’s goal of ending freedom of movement between the UK and the EU and immigration reforms under home secretary Priti Patel.

Music industry associations have repeatedly called for clarity around European touring before live music restarts following a successful continent-wide vaccine programme, with umbrella body LIVE (Live music Industry Venues and Entertainment) urging both sides to “work quickly to ensure that once Covid restrictions are lifted, UK artists are able to work across the EU with the same freedom that has been secured for people doing other business activity”.

British prime minister Boris Johnson has confirmed he will meet with MPs to discuss a way forward for the sector. “I know that our friends in the EU will be wanting to go further to improve things, for not just musicians, but business travellers of all kinds,” he said in the House of Commons on Wednesday. “There is a mutual benefit.”

Responding to a petition calling for a visa-free zone for touring artists, the UK government reiterated that “there is scope to return to this issue in the future should the EU change its mind”.


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UK live calls for exemption from new restrictions

The UK live music industry is calling for an exemption from a ban on selling alcohol without food under the tougher tier system announced today. The new rules will replace the national lockdown that expires on 2 December.

British prime minister Boris Johnson today announced that while the UK’s current lockdown will be lifted at the beginning of December, a stricter version of the three-tier system that operated in England before the lockdown began will be introduced.

Under tier 2 restrictions, which will most likely affect the majority of the UK, concert halls are permitted to open with up to 1,000 people or 50% occupancy, whichever is smaller, in addition to the existing regulation around maintaining social distancing.

Also in tier 2, and in news that will impact on all live music venues, though grassroots venues in particular, only venues that operate as a restaurant, serving substantial meals, will be permitted to serve alcohol (last orders will now be at 10 pm, with one hour to finish drinks).

Under tier 3 all hospitality will close except for delivery and takeaway, including indoor entertainment venues. The PM will announce which areas will fall into which tier later this week.

“The consumption of food and the consumption of culture could, and should, be treated equally”

“It is to be welcomed that the government’s intention is that live music can resume where it can be safely delivered,” says Mark Dayvd, CEO at Music Venue Trust.

“The government can deliver on this ambition by correctly identifying the purchase of a ticket as having equivalent intention by the consumer to the purchase of a meal. The consumption of food and the consumption of culture as the main purpose of an individual’s behaviour could, and should, be treated equally.

“Failure to reach equivalency between food and culture on this issue results in a distorted market where an individual can choose to attend a restaurant, consuming as much alcohol as they wish, prior to a gig, but upon arrival at the event cannot consume any alcohol at all.

“We believe consistency within the restrictions is the most likely route by which the public will understand and comply with them. We therefore strongly encourage the government to think again on the specifics of tier 2 restrictions in relation to ticketed cultural events.”

“By removing alcohol sales, any notion of [venues] being able to operate profitably now evaporates”

Phil Bowdery, chair of the Concert Promoters Association, says: “The prime minister’s announcement today is a huge blow for the live music industry. It’s enormously disappointing that venues which have worked hard to operate safely under the existing guidelines, are now subject to additional, arbitrary restrictions on audience numbers.

“And by removing alcohol sales on top, any notion of being able to operate profitably now evaporates. We need an urgent exemption from this new rule for ticketed events, including grassroots venues.”

Greg Parmley, chief executive of LIVE, the trade body for the live music industry says: “It is hugely disappointing that the new tier system could lead to the closure of hundreds of small music venues up and down the country.

“More than 90% of small music venues cannot serve substantial meals and therefore would be classed as being the same as a ‘wet pub’ and closed under tier 2 of the new system, despite people primarily being there to enjoy the music. We call on the government to make an exemption from those restrictions for ticketed artistic and cultural events in music venues in order to save them from closure at this crucial time.”

“The new tier system could lead to the closure of hundreds of small music venues”

Michael Kill, CEO of the Night Time Industries Association (NITA), says: “The industry has been left angry and frustrated by the new restrictions set out by the prime minister today. This shows a complete lack of consideration and understanding of our sector.

“This will have a catastrophic impact on thousands of businesses and jobs across the sector by the end of the year. For many business owners this is beyond ignorance. This is tantamount to systematically culling our industry with intent.

“The government has simply got this wrong. It is an appalling misjudgement. Our sector has worked incredibly hard alongside government departments, to ensure that our businesses are ‘Covid Safe’, only to be hit again with unworkable restrictions that have no evidence base.

“We are being condemned to an excruciating financial hardship, until the government can rally around a workable vaccine solution. The support from furlough is welcome. However, sadly many of these businesses will not survive to retain their staff and will suffer from a continuation of current extreme problems around cash fluidity, commercial rent debt and exit strategy.

“We can’t help but feel that our industry is being sacrificed for other sectors to open during the festive period.”


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New restrictions on live entertainment in the UK

British prime minister Boris Johnson is expected to announce a 10pm curfew on music venues as part of a swath of new restrictions intended to combat a second wave of Covid-19.

Johnson addressed the House of Commons this afternoon (22 September) following a briefing with scientific advisors yesterday. Among the newly announced restrictions, which come into force tomorrow (23 September), is a rule that businesses selling food or drink (including cafes, bars, pubs and restaurants) – along with social clubs, casinos, bowling alleys, amusement arcades (and other indoor leisure centres or facilities), funfairs, theme parks, adventure parks and activities, and bingo halls – must close by 10pm.

IQ understands the government guidance will state that concert halls, theatres and cinemas may stay open beyond 10pm, but only if the performance started before the curfew. Additionally, venues may not serve alcohol past that time.

The new restrictions, which come as new UK coronavirus cases approach the 5,000 mark, dash industry hopes for a quick return to ‘stage five’ – ie non-socially distanced – shows, with the current ‘stage four’ guidelines, in force since August, set to continue for the foreseeable future.

Guidance will state that venues may stay open beyond 10pm, but only if the performance started before the curfew

In a live broadcast at 8pm this evening, the prime minister is expected to tell the nation that the measures could last up to six months.

Johnson also indicated there would be a halt on all planned ‘pilot’ events (such as the recent Palladium and Clapham Grand test shows) from 1 October, and an end to bar service in pubs and restaurants, which will now be table service only.

In addition, the new £10,000 fines for those who breach social distancing legislation will be extended from individuals to businesses.

While Johnson has insisted the new measures do not mark a return to lockdown (for instance, schools, colleges and universities remain open), the leader of the opposition, Keir Starmer, today urged the government to extend furlough and wage-support schemes to aid those left out of work – a key demand of the music industry backed #LetTheMusicPlay and #WeMakeEvents campaigns.


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Fans are Back: UK firms present Covid pass to PM

Following Wednesday’s much-discussed press briefing, a consortium of UK companies has presented prime minister Boris Johnson with a Covid-19 testing solution that aims to get fans back into entertainment and sports venues.

Described as an “end-to-end, 360-degree” testing and technology solution, Fans are Back was conceived by Manchester-based tech company VST Enterprises Ltd (VSTE), sports marketing consultancy Redstrike, event safety specialist Halo and occupational health provider Latus Health.

It incorporates Covid-19 testing, contact tracing and a health ‘passport’, and follows Johnson’s suggestion earlier this week that venues could be allowed to open without social distancing through a combination of mass testing and passes/passports certifying attendees’ healthiness.

The plan – which has already been put in front of both Johnson and the British government’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee – involves the use of 10-minute rapid test kits and a secure digital health passport that authorises a person’s identity and their Covid-19 test status.

A built-in track-and-trace app, part of VSTE’s existing VHealth Passport infrastructure, uses anonymised data to detect positive infection contacts in venues, stadia and theatres.

“Concert venues, sports stadia and theatres cannot survive much longer without an end-to-end solution”

VSTE’s CEO, Louis-James Davis, comments: “VHealth Passport is the unique 360-degree solution in getting all music venues, concerts, sports stadia and theatres back to full capacity securely and safely without the need to social distance.

“We know that while social-distancing pilots have worked, they cannot be sustained in the long term because of the financial economics of not having fans present. A regime of rapid testing alongside existing PCR-based tests is the only way we can progress forward, and was in tune with how the prime minister outlined the government’s plan for mass testing. This is vital not just for the British economy, but our entire way of life.

“Concert venues, sports stadia and theatres cannot survive much longer without an end-to-end solution that is safe and secure…”

The Fans are Back plan has won the backing of former sports minister Richard Caborn, as well as Olympians and royals Mike and Zara Tindall (the Queen’s granddaughter).

Davis is optimistic his solution will have greater take-up than the government’s own contact-tracing app, pointing to the fact that music fans will be incentivised to get tested in order to attend concerts again.

The Fans are Back solution incorporates Covid-19 testing, contact tracing and a health passport

“The UK government’s NHS contact-tracing app had a number of issues, from privacy and security through to false flag alerts and a general apathy by the public to engage,” he continues. “Put simply, there was no incentive for the public to engage and adopt the ‘track-and-trace’ system.

“The reason why the VHealth Passport will have greater engagement with the public is simply down to incentive. We engage with audiences to adopt testing and passporting and incentivise their attendance.

“If a music or sports fan or theatregoer wants to attend an event, then they will only be allowed into that venue having taken a Covid-19 test prior to their arrival and their negative test result uploaded to a valid VHealth Passport by a qualified health care professional and scanned upon entry.”

Five months in development, the test and passport combination is priced at £15 (€16.20). VSTE currently has 200 testing centres in its app, and says it expects this to rise to more than 1,000 in the coming weeks.


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Johnson: Covid ‘pass’ could herald safe return to live

The British prime minister, Boris Johnson, said today (9 September) that mass testing for Covid-19 could allow live events to restart without social distancing before a vaccine is available.

In a 4pm press conference, Johnson floated the idea of temporary ‘passes’, issued to people following a negative Covid-19 test, that would allow them to attend a live entertainment or sporting event and “mingle” with other healthy attendees.

The UK is working towards increasing its testing capacity to 500,000 a day, Johnson told journalists, which would allow those who don’t have the disease to behave “normally”, including at major events such as concerts.

He added that such a scheme – which would see venues turning away those who don’t have a Covid pass or who test positive at the door – will be piloted in Salford, Manchester, in the coming months, with plans to roll it out more widely should it prove successful.

Johnson described the idea for virus ‘passports’ as his “moonshot” to restart live events

Johnson described the idea for virus ‘passports’ as his “moonshot” to restart live events, and said he hopes it could be live by next spring.

The press conference follows similar reports in the UK press over the weekend, with health secretary Matt Hancock even more optimistic, telling LBC on Saturday that he hopes 24-hour passes could be available by Christmas.

Festival Republic MD Melvin Benn told IQ in July he is “incredibly optimistic” about the UK’s 2021 festival summer, even in the absence of a vaccine, saying testing for Covid-19 has come on leaps and bounds since the start of the pandemic. He expressed similar sentiments at yesterday’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee hearing at parliament, emphasising the need for widespread testing of would-be festivalgoers.

The UK had 2,460 daily cases of the coronavirus yesterday (8 September).


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