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UK stars weigh in on ‘final countdown’ for insurance

UK superstars have joined the chorus of industry experts and trade associations calling on the UK government to commit to underwriting cancellation costs of events such as music festivals and tours, to enable the restart of the live entertainment sector from this summer.

Jools Holland, Depeche Mode, Johnny Marr, Sir Cliff Richard, Robert Plant, Roger Daltrey, Amy McDonald, The Chemical Brothers, Frank Turner and Judas Priest are among those who have weighed in on the ongoing petition for a government-backed insurance scheme, similar to those launched in Norwaythe NetherlandsGermanyAustria and Belgium.

The industry’s call-to-action comes days before chancellor Rishi Sunak is set to unveil the Budget. Alongside a government-backed insurance pot, the industry is also urging the chancellor to grant extensions on the 5% VAT rate on ticket sales; employment support; and business rates relief for shuttered venues.

The industry deems event cancellation insurance the ‘last remaining barrier’ to planning events this summer after British prime minister Boris Johnson announced a ‘cautious’ reopening roadmap that could allow festivals to take place after 21 June, but says the window of opportunity for this summer ‘will slam shut very shortly’.

“With the cut-off point for many organisers at the end of the month, this really is the final countdown for many businesses”

Paul Reed, AIF CEO, says: “The prime minister has set out a roadmap and a ‘no earlier than’ date for festivals, and audiences have responded, demonstrating a huge appetite to be back in the fields this summer. But we need government interventions on insurance and VAT before the end of this month when festivals will need to decide whether they can commit to serious amounts of upfront capital.

“Now that we have a ‘no earlier than’ date, insurance is the last remaining barrier to planning. We know that government is aware of the insurance issue and AIF has provided evidence and data to support the case. Having injected huge consumer confidence, government should intervene at this stage and ensure that our culture-defining independent festivals can mobilise and plan for this summer. With the cut-off point for many organisers at the end of the month, this really is the final countdown for many businesses.”

AIF, whose members include Boomtown Fair, Shambala, Boardmasters, End of the Road and Bluedot, recently conducted a member survey in which 92.5% of respondents confirmed they cannot stage events without insurance and described insurance measures as ‘vital’ not optional.

“The window of opportunity for this summer will slam shut very shortly. The government needs to act now”

Tim Thornhill, director of Tysers Entertainment and Sport Division, is working closely with the live entertainment insurance industry and live music industry umbrella organisation Live, to urge the government to work with industry to find a solution.

Thornhill comments: “The government has successfully created a scheme that has enabled the film and television industries to get back to work. Now they need to do the same for the live events industry. But the window of opportunity for this summer will slam shut very shortly. The government needs to act now.

“The live events industry is a massive employer and a significant generator of economic activity. Music alone employs over 200,000 people, with music tourism contributing £4.7bn to the UK economy*. The new YouGov survey shows that demand is there – they will buy tickets and spend on accommodation, food and drink. The government can unlock this boost to the economy at no cost to themselves, just a commitment to help underwrite the cost of cancellations should they occur.”

“This cover will allow our business to function as soon as it is safe for us to do so”

Jools Holland comments: “The solution to this problem could be simple – and what’s more, it doesn’t involve the government paying out money now. Maybe not even in the future, unless Covid strikes again. All we need from the government is the commitment to help if necessary.”

Roger Daltrey CBE comments: “The music business and arts have been enormously affected by the Covid-19 virus, with the ongoing health issues plus the problems thrown up by the government’s essential decision to close our places of work. The government however needs to understand how our industry functions. Promoters, especially those with festivals, bands and any touring acts have enormous outlays before commencing a tour, so insurance for these costs is paramount.

“Insurance companies will no longer cover these costs for Covid-19, which will render much of our business unviable as no promoter can risk setting up an event or tour without this cover. All we ask of our government is to put in place an insurance policy that, in the event of this situation happening again, will cover these costs. As it may be 100 years to the next pandemic it is extremely unlikely that this will involve the government paying out any money, but this cover will allow our business to function as soon as it is safe for us to do so.”

“We have seen the impact on the many people who help make the live shows happen”

The Chemical Brothers comments: “Like many other people we have had to put a lot of work on hold in the last year, and we have seen the impact on the many people who help make the live shows happen. Thousands of jobs have already been lost across the UK live music industry, with many more at risk. The UK government has already provided a financially backed scheme for the film industry, which has allowed production to resume. All we ask is that the same approach be taken to help those in the live events industry, which needs the support too and provides so much to the UK economically as well as culturally.”

Sir Cliff Richard comments: “The live events industry has suffered hugely as a result of the pandemic and has been shut down for nearly a year. Venues, performers and crew have all been badly affected. People’s jobs and income have vanished almost overnight. OUR BUSINESS BRINGS INSPIRATION AND HAPPINESS INTO PEOPLE’S LIVES. WE CAN MAKE THEM SMILE WHEN THEY ARE SAD AND WE CAN HELP THEM SING WHEN THEY HAVE NOTHING TO SING ABOUT! We need the government to help us plan for when it is safe to resume OUR business.”

“The industry is facing near catastrophe without adequate government support”

Amy MacDonald comments: “When people attend a gig they buy a ticket, turn up and enjoy the show. What they don’t always understand is the months of preparation that went on behind the scenes to get to that particular point. Thousands of emails and phone calls, meetings, site visits and not to mention huge amounts of money spent to just get to a point where the tickets are on sale. Another important aspect of preparing for a show is the need to ensure the event but it’s now impossible to get any insurance to cover these shows.

“As we have seen from the recent cancellation of Glastonbury, the live industry cannot even plan to start up again because it is too much of a risk without any insurance. The live industry has been put on hold for nearly a year and with no date for a return and no chance to even plan a return, the industry is facing near catastrophe without adequate government support. Nobody wants to live in a world without live music.”

“Can the PM tell us why he won’t help an industry that contributes billions to the UK economy each year?”

Robert Plant comments: “We all desperately want the UK live industry back on its feet again, so we can enjoy our favourite bands or sports event. Yet without insurance to cover these events, these things can’t happen. So please, can the PM tell us why he won’t help an industry that contributes billions to the UK economy each year?

“We’re not asking for any money, just a commitment to help if Covid ever strikes again. We don’t want a hand-out, we just need a hand up.. to help us get back on the stage. I’ve spent 55 years performing in halls, clubs, theatres and concerts halls across the UK. Now we’re in unchartered waters, soon there will be nowhere left to play. So I’m lending my voice to this campaign in the hope that the government will see sense and lend support before many of our beloved music venues disappear forever.”

Harvey Goldsmith CBE, promoter, comments: “As promoters and producers of live concerts we cannot produce tours without insurance against Covid. We are the risk takers and often have to pay considerable sums upfront to be able to create the tour. If the government at any time decide it is unsafe to continue, or commence a tour, we must be able to take insurance to protect us, as any normal business would expect. If no insurance is available our business will collapse.”

“The single most powerful measure the government could take is to underwrite any losses from Covid-19 cancellations”

Philip McIntyre, promoter, comments: “I would like to support your campaign to have the government underwrite any losses suffered from Covid 19 cancellations whilst the pandemic is still prevalent. My company is in the top five of all live entertainment groups in the UK we are obviously keen to start operating again but we worry about uninsured risk. Now we have a plan to come out of lockdown the single most powerful measure the government could take is to underwrite any losses from Covid-19 cancellations after June this year.

“This would give the risk takers so much confidence they the live arts would return to normal by December this year. If there are claims they would more than likely be on a regional basis and not onerous and the business generated in town and city centres would more than cover them in my estimation the government would be in profit 12 months ahead of a no action situation.”

Frank Turner comments: “It cannot be exaggerated, the devastation caused in my industry by the pandemic. We’re doing what we can to hang on and plan for a better future. An insurance plan will help us survive and come back quicker, and it doesn’t involve the government paying out any extra money now (or possibly ever). It would make an enormous difference.”

“Every effort is made to reduce the costs of a cancelled concert including trying to reschedule a date”

Johnny Marr comments: “The solution to getting music back up safely is easy and it doesn’t involve the government committing money now. All we need from the government is the commitment to help if necessary with an insurance scheme backed by them, and that will get our crews and suppliers back working. The government would only have to pay out in the worst case.”

Barrie Marshall MBE, promoter, comments: “The tremendous work of the NHS and the vaccination programme means that live events can start soon, this gives us hope that we can begin to share those magical moments and wonderful concerts once again. However, we need the government to help us by providing financial backing in the form of an insurance fund. This is needed to cover the costs of an event if it must be cancelled as a result of a Covid outbreak. Every effort is made to reduce the costs of a cancelled concert including trying to reschedule a date in the future but there are some circumstances where this is not possible.”

“We help to get our industry back on track and to help restart live events in a safe, effective way once it’s possible to do so”

John Giddings, promoter, comments: “Our industry has been hit immeasurably over the past year and we need to get it back up and running again. The government has got to help!”

Judas Priest comments: “The world has been more or less brought to its knees because of Covid-19 in this past year. It has affected so many people and businesses in all walks of life in so many ways. Our industry, the entertainment industry (which is a multi-billion dollar business), is suffering massively. It isn’t just affecting us – a band who want to get back out on the road, performing to our fans around the world – but it is affecting mainly our crew (and all the other crews), the venues and their staff, cleaners, security, caterers, local crew, bus drivers, truck drivers, lighting and video personnel, stage set designers and stage set builders. The list is endless.

“We need help, for the venues to be able to put on shows and the artists to be able to perform we all need to get tour insurance that will cover Covid-19 so shows can go ahead. Now we have the vaccine things should be on the way up but we need your help urgently, please!”

Depeche Mode comments: “With the live music industry in the UK shut down for over a year, our crew, our fans, venues, and everyone else who makes shows possible has been badly affected. Jobs and income have vanished almost overnight, and fans and artists alike have been left wondering when live shows will be possible again. We need the government to help us get our industry back on track and to help restart live events in a safe, effective way once it’s possible to do so.”

Government-backed insurance funds will be explored at ILMC during Insurance: The Big Update, while lessons that can be learned from 2020’s lost festival summer will be discussed during Festival Forum: Reboot & Reset.

 


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Harvey Goldsmith: ‘Crew are the engine of our business’

Legendary promoter Harvey Goldsmith CBE was among the UK’s leading live industry figures who attended the #WeMakeEvents campaign in London last night (11 August).

The UK-wide initiative, organised by the Professional Lighting & Sound Association (Plasa), was launched in a bid to draw attention to the struggling freelancers who work across the live events and entertainment sector.

Shows of support took place in towns and cities such as Bristol, Liverpool, Leeds and Bristol and Manchester, where hundreds of out-of-work crew workers took part in a silent march past the city’s closed venues.

London’s display saw thousands of professionals from the sector dress in red and line the banks of the River Thames and the surrounding bridges near Royal Festival Hall, the National Theatre and the Tate. The venues were lit in red to signal a “red alert”.

The finale saw a red-hued boat, carrying some of each industry’s most renowned figures including Goldsmith as well as singer-songwriter Frank Turner and Level 42 bassist Mark King, speed past the venues while the professionals and volunteers symbolised the “throw us a line” theme.

These people here are the engine of our business. Without them, we don’t have a business,” Goldsmith told IQ

“Making events is their livelihood so I’m all for events like this and I’m 100% behind what they’re doing. What they’ve done tonight with #WeMakeEvents is fantastic,” he concluded.

“None of us is worried about the future, we just all want to make sure we can get there”

Audiotonix CEO James Gordon delivered a keynote speech on the boat, relaying the top three objectives of the #WeMakeEvents campaign. The demands include a sector-specific furlough scheme, an extension to the self-employed and income support scheme for freelancers, and grants instead of loans for businesses in the supply chain that have been out of work.

“None of us is worried about the future, we just all want to make sure we can get there and return to being one of the fastest-growing sectors consistently in the UK,” Gordon said.

The UK’s live music sector, in particular, is currently pushing the government for a provisional date to reopen, a multi-year extension of the cultural VAT rate reduction beyond January in line with DCMS’s recent recommendations, and a government-backed reinsurance scheme to allow shows to go ahead.

UK venues were preparing to reopen from 1 August but the government pushed back the next step of lockdown easing by at least two weeks. Goldsmith says he hopes live shows will return without social distancing in the winter but the industry needs the green light first.

“We want a target date. We need four months to get ourselves together, in order to get back,” he tells IQ.

We need to test out different systems for before people arrive at gigs. Social distancing doesn’t work. We want to do a test gig where we can use all of the available safety opportunities to prove that we could do it, like testing and tracking. And then once people are inside they’re inside. I’m working with some venues and we have everything lined up and ready to do a test show in November. We just need a target date.”

#WeMakeEvents follows on from the UK’s initial campaign, Let the Music Play, which highlighted the urgent need for government support to sustain the live industry’s broader ecosystem.

The initiative put forth a social media campaign and a letter laying out the necessary support measures, signed by artists and industry professionals, which was delivered to UK culture secretary Oliver Dowden.

Mere days after the campaign, the British government unveiled a £1.57bn package of grants and loans for music and arts organisations, the details of which were later revealed.

 


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Clapham Grand holds UK-first socially distanced show

The Clapham Grand in London yesterday held the UK’s first socially distanced show in a music venue since the coronavirus lockdown in March.

The show is one of several being held as part of a series of ‘pilot’ (trial) performances in England, in partnership with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, ahead of the return of indoor shows on 1 August. The London Palladium, the Andrew Lloyd Webber-run theatre, held a similar pilot show with Beverley Knight last week.

Featuring Beans on Toast, Ciara Haidar and headliner Frank Turner, Grand Aid on 28 July saw the Clapham Grand operating at less than 20% of its 1,250-person capacity.

Ally Wolf, manager of the venue, stresses that the pilot was “a step in the right direction for the industry, but not without its challenges”, with the socially distanced show, as expected, making a loss for the venue. “It’s important to say that this pilot, though a successful and great show, is by no means representative of the wider live music venue industry,” he explains.

“We operated this evening on less than 20% capacity: from 1,250 to 200. This, paired with vastly increased operational costs to fit with Covid compliance, without a reduction in any of our fixed overheads, means that we are opening to a loss of revenue, which isn’t sustainable for the future.

“We operated this evening on less than 20% capacity … which isn’t sustainable for the future”

“We want to thank Frank Turner, Beans on Toast and Ciara Haidar for performing this evening, and all our staff for pulling tonight together to make something magical happen.”

He also shares the venue’s plans to make the most of its capacity while socially distancing is in place in the UK: “We have a unique opportunity – one that we realise isn’t available to the majority of other music venues – [in that] our layout and capacity potentially enables us to reformat our seating and events.

“We also need to increase our capacity via refurbishing the disused upper circle, which would increase seated capacity by 150 people. We also need to execute the plans we had drawn up for a roof garden to create the vital outside space the venue needs, but more than anything improve our accessibility for all our customers.

“This isn’t just about surviving our enforced Covid closure, or about reopening for one show, one week or even a month. This is about futureproofing one of the world oldest entertainment venues, to make sure in its 120th year the Clapham Grand is made secure for audiences to enjoy shows for centuries to come.”

 


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MVT campaign raises almost £25k in three days

The Music Venue Trust (MVT) has raised over £22,500 so far as part of its #saveourvenues campaign, which launched on Monday (27 April), in aid of 556 UK grassroots music venues in danger of permanent closure.

Following on from the launch of MVT’s grassroots music venues crisis fund last month, #saveourvenues encourages fans and artists to select a venues to support from an interactive map, which includes links to fundraising campaigns.

Artists can also receive the tools and guidance to perform a gig from their homes in support of a particular venue.

Venues listed as ‘at risk’ include the 200-capacity Green Store Door in Brighton, the 900-capacity Leadmill in Sheffield and the 200-capacity Lexington in London.

Each venue has its own crowdfunding page with a clear target of the funds it needs to raise in order to stay afloat during the Covid-19 crisis. Once that target is reached, any excess donations will go to the central #saveourvenues fund to help the wider grassroots community.

The wider fund has currently raised £22,837 of a £100,000 target, just three days into the campaign. MVT’s GMV crisis fund, which has so far raised over £182,000 thanks to significant donations from Amazon Music, SJM, artists and music fans, will be renamed the #saveourvenues fund, forming part of the same initiative.

Those wishing to support the campaign can also do so through the use of the #saveourvenues hashtag and social media templates.

“The #saveourvenues campaign is a brilliant way of giving artists and music fans a chance to get involved and play a big part in helping them survive”

Singer-songwriter Frank Turner, whose recent series of performances ‘Independent Venue Love’ for local venues Nambucca in London (300-cap.), the Joiners in Southampton (200-cap.) the Railway Inn in Winchester (150-cap.) and the Forum in Tunbridge Wells (250-cap.), raised thousands of pounds, provided a “major” inspiration for the campaign.

“The UK live music industry is staring into the abyss right now,” says Turner. “The success of [my livestreamed] shows demonstrated the love that exists between music fans and their favourite grassroots music venues so the #saveourvenues campaign is a brilliant way of building on that and hopefully giving artists and music fans a chance to get involved and play a big part in helping them survive.”

“We are confident that we can help create real momentum that will see artists and venues working together to raise much needed funds,” comments MVT CEO Mark Davyd. “We are also calling on the wider music industry to support us too. We have received some magnificent support so far from music companies, but we need a lot more to step up and help save this essential part of the music eco-system.”

Those wishing to donate in excess of £1000 should contact Davyd directly here.

Photo: Henry W. Laurisch/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0) (cropped)

 


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