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Brussels venue to reopen regardless of restrictions

Brussels venue Koninklijke Vlaamse Schouwburg (KVS) plans to open its doors on 26 April, defying current restrictions, in a bid to increase pressure on the Belgian government to reopen the cultural sector.

The country’s strict lockdown measures are set to ease on 25 April but venues may not be permitted to welcome audiences until 1 May at the earliest, after the government withdrew its decision to allow outside performances of up to 50 people during April.

The venue’s operators want to demonstrate that it is possible to organise events safely and plans to host 50 people in a 500-capacity room on five consecutive nights for a theatre performance.

According to organisers, the performance will take place under strict precautions concerning ventilation, measuring CO2, guiding and controlling public flows, registering visitors, keeping a safe distance, mandatory mouth mask and disinfection gel.

“This is a signal to the government to finally take our industry and our efforts seriously,” KVS says in a statement on the venue’s website.

“This is a signal to the government to finally take our industry and our efforts seriously”

In the statement, KVS refers to crowded parks, squares and trains: “It is revengeful: after a year of pandemic, we as a society have still not succeeded in organizing what can be organized safely. Culture can be part of the solution. And there are indeed alternatives. And there is indeed a great social need for safe encounters and culture.

“To prevent public support from completely eroding, to prevent dangerous, badly organised gatherings from occurring too often, there is a need for safe ways to enjoy culture.”

Opposition party Groen has called on the minister of culture Jan Jambon to turn the performances into a test event, according to De Tidj.

“By turning KVS’s plans into a test event, people are not forced to take the risk of prosecution just because they want to do their job in complete safety. It is also a constructive signal to the cultural sector and we can use the information later. This could well be a win-win,” says Groen MP Elisabeth Meuleman.

Jonathan will play from 26–30 April at 8 pm in KVS. Tickets, which are priced at €25, have sold out for all five nights.

 


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French Covid expert: ‘Cultural places are lower risk’

The head of infectious diseases at France’s largest hospital says that the risks of Covid-19 contamination in cultural places are “much lower than in the family, professional or school environment”, provided restrictions are observed.

Appearing on French cable channel BFMTV, Eric Caumes from the Pitié Salpêtrière hospital in Paris said that even in cultural places where there are lots of people – such as theatres, stadiums and museums – the risks of Covid-19 contamination is low if social distancing measures are adhered to and masks are worn.

Caumes’ comments are in line with multiple clinical trials which have found little risk of an infected person transmitting Covid-19 in an indoor concert venue, including Spain’s Primacov and two German trials – Restart-19 and Konzerthaus Dortmund. France has announced test concerts of its own, scheduled for the spring.

The infectious diseases chief went on to say that the reopening of culture is essential to avoid a mental health crisis in France and stop citizens from “turning into zombies” – adding the government must consider the “global dimension of health”.

The infectious diseases chief said that the reopening of culture is essential to avoid a mental health crisis in France

“The limit [for hospitals] is not very far, we are so close to the level that we are afraid of…but I am not sure that confinement would improve the psychic parameters which are rather worrying,” he said.

French culture minister, Roselyne Bachelot, has said that museums and monuments will be the first to reopen when there is a drop in the number Covid-19 cases but cinemas, concert halls and theatres are to remain closed until further notice.

Bachelot recently met with the organisers of major French festivals as concern mounts over the impact of France’s ongoing health state of emergency, though the participants say it did not result in any concrete guarantees regarding the festival summer.

The culture minister will hold another meeting with the festival sector on 15 February, by which time she will need to have concrete answers and solutions for festival organisers, says live music association, Prodiss.

Meanwhile, France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, is under pressure from his scientific counsel to impose a third lockdown, warning the leader the country’s curfew and other restrictions are not enough to curb the virus.

 


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French festivals reschedule as new lockdown looms

French president Emmanuel Macron is set to make a decision this weekend on whether to place France into a third national lockdown, in a move that could be a death knell for the country’s festival summer.

According to local media, Macron is leaning towards a so-called adapted lockdown (confinement adapté), rather than the strict stay-at-home measures seen in March in November, with recent polling suggesting a majority of French now oppose a third ‘hard’ lockdown. The last lockdown was eased just before the Christmas holidays as the number of Covid-19 patients in hospital fell; under two months later, however, and hospitals are now again at a nearly “100% occupancy rate” in some regions, health minister Olivier Véran warned yesterday (28 January) .

While the confinement adapté would allow some businesses and organisations to stay open – particularly schools, reports Le Monde – the move towards more stringent rules dampens France’s prospects for a more normal summer, particularly when it comes to live entertainment.

Several French music festivals, particularly those catering to local acts, have already postponed to later this year – among them early summer event Festival Papillons de Nuit (20,000-cap.) in Saint-Laurent-de-Cuves, which has moved to the end of August, and the multi-venue Bordeux Rock, which optimistically rescheduled from January to April – and it is feared that further restrictions, particularly the extension of France’s health state of emergency, will put further pressure on the live music sector.

Several French music festivals have already postponed to later this year

The French Senate voted yesterday to extend the Health Emergency Law, which grants the government special powers, including restricting freedom of movement or assembly, until 3 May (revised from 1 June).

More concerning, however, is the bill’s provision to postpone the end of the state of emergency’s “exit regime” (régime de sortie) – a vaguely defined transitional period designed to be a halfway house between the emergency and relative normality – until 30 September: well after France’s major music festivals and summer shows would have taken place.

Just 15% of France’s music festivals took place as planned in 2020, according to Quentin Thomé, who runs French festival site Tous Les Festivals, meaning operators are more determined than ever to go ahead in some this summer.

Sharing the site’s latest research on the health of the French music festival sector with Les Echos, Thomé revealed 95% of festival operators are counting on staging an event in summer 2021, despite the slower-than-expected vaccine roll-out in France.

“Cultural businesses are still awaiting decisions from the authorities”

The Tous Les Festivals survey additionally reveals that even some of the country’s biggest open-air music events, including the 65,000-capacity Vieilles Charrues, are prepared to go seated-only, with social distancing, if it means they can go ahead – while others, including Printemps de Bourges, have already reduced their capacities.

“Cultural businesses are still awaiting the decisions of the authorities on the resumption of live shows, capacities, health measures, social distancing, masks… so many elements that have still not been [addressed],” said a spokesperson for Papillons de Nuit, announcing its postponement earlier this week. “By organising the festival in August, we at least have the possibility we can do it in good conditions.”

It is hoped France’s festival promoters will have more clarity on what will be possible this summer after a meeting today (29 January) with culture minister Roselyne Bachelot. Among those attending the meeting are representatives for Au Foin de la Rue (2–3 July) and Hellfest (18–20 June), the latter of which wrote to Bachelot earlier this month begging her to “put an end to this unbearable waiting situation”.

The 2021 festival season will come under the microscope at the ILMC panel Festival Focus: Reboot & Reset on 5 March. Tickets for ILMC 33 are available at the discounted winter rate of £119/£139 until 14 February.

 


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Dutch test shows postponed, lockdown extended

The Dutch government has postponed four of the ‘Back to Live’ test shows that were scheduled to take place this month, after extending the country’s lockdown by three weeks.

The postponed test shows include a cabaret performance by Guido Weijers at the Beatrix Theater in Utrecht, a business conference at the Jaarbeurs in Utrecht and two football matches at the home grounds of NEC and Almere City FC.

The ‘Back to Live’ test shows are being organised by FieldLab Events (a joint initiative with Event Platform, the Alliance of Event Builders and the government) with the aim of determining how events with an increased visitor capacity can take place safely and responsibly during the pandemic.

Minister for health, Hugo de Jonge, announced during a press conference on Tuesday (12 January) evening that the cabinet will determine next week when the events get the green light.

“In this context, while we still do not know so much. Where primary schools cannot even open, it is not smart to hold events that involve 100 people together. We want to know a little more about the British variant, in the context of the Dutch measures,” he says.

“In this context, where primary schools cannot even open, it is not smart to hold events that involve 100 people together”

Fieldlab spokesman Riemer Rijpkema told Nu.nl: “We still believe that our field studies take place in a safe environment, even with the UK variant that has now surfaced. But we understand that people want to investigate the impact of this variant further.”

The Alliance of Event Builders has added: “The disappointment is mainly because researchers have indicated that despite the British variant of the virus there is no reason to postpone the Fieldlabs and that this perspective is urgently needed. With the postponement of the Fieldlabs, the opportunity to gain insights by scientists, as has recently been done in Barcelona, ​​Leipzig and other cities, has again been made impossible in our country.”

The ‘Back to Live’ test series, which was approved in December, also includes a concert and a dance event at Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam and two open-air festivals at the Lowlands and Defqon Biddinghuizen festival site, all of which will be organised by Mojo and ID&T. Details are yet to be announced.

The Netherlands will remain in lockdown until 9 February, with a newly introduced curfew, and venues will stay shuttered.

 


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Portugal’s culture sector to stage national protest

A number of Portugal’s cultural organisations are organising a national protest to call attention to the government’s perceived lack of action on ‘the devastating consequences of the pandemic’ for people working in the sector.

Culture workers are calling for ‘effective social protection, due to the total or partial loss of their income due to the pandemic,’ adding that they want social protection to ‘be above the poverty line’.

The protest will take place this Friday (30 January), in a format yet to be determined, under the banner ‘On the Street for the Future of Culture’ (‘Na Rua Pelo Futuro da Cultura’).

 

The demonstration has been organised by a number of organisations including Cooperative Action; the Union of Show Workers, Audiovisual and Musicians (CENA-STE); Plateia – Association of Performing Arts Professionals; the Portuguese Association of Film Directors (APR); the Union of Archaeology Workers (STARQ) and Network – Association of Contemporary Dance Structures.

“We have been brutally suffering for ten months the consequences of job insecurity and the lack of rights and social protection, aggravated by the devastating consequences of the pandemic, which lead us, with no alternative, to economic deprivation, situations of indebtedness and informality,” said Teresa Coutinho of Cooperative Action at an online news conference.

“We’ve been brutally suffering for ten months the consequences of job insecurity and the lack of rights and social protection”

Rui Galveias, head of CENA-STE, added: “It is very important that the Portuguese government understand the strength of culture, because they have not fully understood it. We continue to experience many difficulties in understanding the dimension of these workers and of all the areas they involve.”

According to Amarilis Felizes, of Plateia, the protest is “in response to the non-response” that the organisations received from the ministry of culture at their meeting with officials in December. “We think that being on the street is important to attract attention and we want concrete answers.”

The groups said that they were outraged by the fact that, “as of January 2021, support for those who work as freelancers will be even less and access will be more constrained [with means testing] than those that existed in 2020.”

The demonstration comes as Portugal prepares for a new month-long lockdown, commencing tomorrow (14 January).

Today (13 January), the country has hit the highest number of deaths per day so far (156), the highest number of cases registered in 24 hours (10,556) and the highest daily number of admissions into hospital (197).

 


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Many venues remain closed under new England tier system

Hundreds of venues in England will be forced remain closed when the current lockdown ends on 2 December, the UK government announced today (26 November).

The lockdown is being replaced by a tiered system, in which the regions of England are placed into either tiers one, two or three.

Under tier three – the strictest measures – all indoor entertainment venues must close, according to the BBC. Areas in tier three include vast swathes or the north-east, north-west, Yorkshire and the Humber, the south-west and the East and West Midlands, as well parts of Kent and the south-east.

Tier two, which comprises the majority of the rest of England, prohibits socialising indoors with anyone outside one’s household, allowing only for limited outdoor gatherings. Pubs, meanwhile, may only reopen if they serve food with alcohol.

Michael Kill, CEO of the Night Time Industries Association, says the announcement “of regional tier levels by health secretary Matt Hancock has brought about a stark reality to the night-time economy and hospitality businesses, diminishing hopes of trading through the key festive period for many, with a long winter ahead fighting to survive.

“We are bearing the burden so that other sectors are able to open during the festive period”

“[It is] devastating news, particularly for the Midlands and north of England, Manchester, Birmingham and Newcastle, which have been hardest hit with the implementation of tier three, with the majority of regions being placed in tier two and very limited areas in tier one.

“Industry and business leaders are speaking up, highlighting the immense impact of restrictions to their sector, individual companies releasing huge redundancy figures, business owners suffering from mental health, and suicide rates within the sector steadily increasing.”

He adds “The government must compensate these businesses for the period of time they have been closed, and the loss of business suffered due to restrictions through the festive period. The sector has suffered horrendously since the start of the pandemic and is bearing the burden so that other sectors are able to open during the festive period.”

Society of London Theatre (Solt) chief executive Julian Bird says the announcement was “a relief for theatres in tier one and two areas, including London’s West End, but equally devastating for tier three theatres yet again forced to postpone or cancel shows – especially pantos, usually an annual highlight for families and a vital source of income for theatres around the country.

“This risks the survival of many venues and leaves thousands of theatre professionals struggling over the Christmas period, particularly freelancers who cannot rely on government support.”

 


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South Australian venues forced to shut immediately

South Australian (SA) venues today have been forced to shutter as the state enters a six-day lockdown from midnight tonight to curb the spread of a coronavirus outbreak.

The lockdown, which will be followed by eight days of eased restrictions, comes after the state detected the first community cases in six months in Adelaide on Sunday.

Under the “circuit-breaker” lockdown, residents must stay home and cannot leave for exercise; mask-wearing will be mandatory in public; all schools and universities will close except for children of essential workers; shops, restaurants, cafes and pubs will close with no takeaway options; and there will be bans on regional travel.

Anyone visiting SA will have to immediately find somewhere to stay for six days and people are being asked not to leave the state for 14 days.

“Covid-19 has swept back into South Australia, posing our greatest health challenge in generations,” says South Australia’s premier Stephen Marshall.

“Covid-19 is a silent enemy and that’s why we’re going hard and going early”

“It’s a challenge I know we will overcome, because we’ve done it before. This circuit breaker will give our world-class health teams the time they need to protect our community. We won’t get a second chance to prevent a second wave of Covid-19. It’s a silent enemy and that’s why we’re going hard and going early.”

The premier praised South Australians’ response to the latest outbreak, saying the cluster had been caught “very early” and authorities know where the links are.

The lockdown comes amid Music SA’s Go Live campaign, an initiative encouraging audiences to safely attend live music from 18 September to 31 December 31 this year.

While SA shuts down, other parts of Australia are opening for business. Yesterday, Queensland initiated a rollback of restrictions, allowing venues and stadia to operate at 100% capacity provided patrons are seated and socially distanced.

Elsewhere, New South Wales is set to host Australia’s first arena shows since the shutdown of the concert business in March and live music under more stringent restrictions has returned to regional Victoria.

 


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Live streams exempted from new UK lockdown

The new lockdown measures which come into force in England tomorrow (5 November) will not affect upcoming livestreamed concerts, the UK culture secretary has confirmed.

In a Twitter thread, Oliver Dowden, the secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sports (DCMS), explained that venues are places of work (people in England are still allowed to travel to work where necessary) and so are exempt from the restrictions, which come to an end on 2 December.



Venues are also allowed to open for rehearsals during the lockdown period.

Among the high-profile streaming concerts taking place in England during lockdown are Niall Horan and Kylie Minogue, a double header for concert streaming specialist Driift, which take place at the Royal Albert Hall London and in a specially created digital world, respectively.

ATC Management’s Ric Salmon, the CEO of Driift, tells IQ he’s “delighted livestreaming has an exemption, and that all Driift shows will continue as planned, including Niall Horan and Kylie Minogue this Saturday, and the Vamps on 21 November 21.

“Given the disruption everyone’s currently facing elsewhere, it’s absolutely crucial that artists, musicians, crew and all in the wider music sector can still have this outlet for work, and we can keep building what is proving to be a vibrant and long-term business that audiences love.”

 


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France and Germany announce second national lockdowns

Germany and France, two of Europe’s largest live music markets, have ordered sweeping restrictions in a bid to temper a second wave of coronavirus.

French president Emmanuel Macron has announced a second national lockdown, starting from tomorrow (30 October) until at least the end of November.

Under the new stringent measures, all non-essential business will close and residents will only be permitted to leave home for essential work or medical reasons.

Covid daily deaths in France are at the highest level since April with over 36,000 cases confirmed yesterday (28 October).

President Macron said the country risked being “overwhelmed by a second wave that no doubt will be harder than the first”.

Elsewhere, Germany is imposing a ‘soft’ national lockdown, with new measures coming into force from next Monday (2 November).

President Macron said the country risked being “overwhelmed by a second wave that no doubt will be harder than the first”

Restaurants, bars, leisure facilities and cultural institutes will be forced to close until the end of November, alongside the majority of businesses and workplaces, while public gatherings will be limited to two households or up to 10 people.

Schools, nurseries, hairdressers and shops, however, will stay open.

German chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday morning that the number of Covid-19 patients in intensive care had doubled in the last 10 days, and hospitals would be overwhelmed within weeks unless further steps were taken to curb the spread of the virus.

Merkel also said that contact tracing operations in many parts of the country had broken down, with authorities unable to locate the origin of 75% of infections.

German health officials said today that another 89 people had died in the past 24 hours, with a record 16,774 infections.

 


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European markets adopt stringent Covid measures

Across Europe, governments are introducing tough new restrictions in an attempt to battle a second wave of coronavirus.

France has declared a public health emergency after confirming 22,951 cases of Covid-19 yesterday (14 October).

President Emmanuel Macron has reacted by imposing a night-time curfew in the capital Paris and its suburbs, as well as Marseille, Lyon, Lille, Saint-Etienne, Rouen, Toulouse, Grenoble and Montpellier, affecting 20 million people out of a total population of some 67 million.

The 9 pm–6 am curfew will come into effect from Saturday and last for at least four weeks, with a view to extending to six.

“We have to act. We need to put a brake on the spread of the virus,” said president Macron during a television address yesterday.

“We have to act. We need to put a brake on the spread of the virus”

Elsewhere, Germany has announced a “hotspot strategy” to tackle its cases, which are today at the highest daily figure since the start of the pandemic, with 6,638 recorded cases.

If an area records more than 35 new infections per 100,000 people over seven days, masks will become mandatory in all places where people have close contact for an extended period. The number of people allowed to gather will also be limited to 25 in public and 15 in private spaces.

Once a threshold of 50 new infections per 100,000 is exceeded, even tougher restrictions will apply. These include limiting private gatherings to 10 people or two households, and the closure of restaurants after 11 pm.

“I am convinced that what we do now will be decisive for how we come through this pandemic,” said chancellor Angela Merkel.

Earlier today, Spain‘s north-eastern region of Catalonia forced bars and restaurants to close for 15 days. Once again, venues will have to operate at 50% in accordance with the new measures adopted by the Generalitat, after less than a month of operating at 70% in many Catalan municipalities.

All cultural activities must end – and venues must close – before 11 pm. Spectators must always be seated and in a pre-assigned seat.

“I am convinced that what we do now will be decisive for how we come through this pandemic”

Northern Ireland has imposed a four-week circuit breaker lockdown, forcing the closure of non-essential retail outlets, gyms, pools, leisure centres, as well as the hospitality sector – excluding takeaways and deliveries.

Infection rates “must be turned down now or we will be in a very difficult place very soon indeed,” first minister Arlene Foster told lawmakers in the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Yesterday, a partial lockdown came into force in the Netherlands, limiting music venues and theatres to a maximum of 30 visitors, in conjunction with the pre-existing metre-and-a-half rule and the rule that no more than four people may attend a performance or concert together.

The new restrictions also include a widespread ban on outdoor events and a ban on alcohol consumption in public areas between 8 pm and 7 am. Discotheques and night clubs must now remain closed until a coronavirus vaccine is on the market.

The measures came into effect yesterday (14 October) and will remain in place for at least two weeks, after which the cabinet will assess the infection rate and decide on next steps.

Czech Republic, which has the highest rate of infection in Europe over the past two weeks at 581.3 cases per 100,000 people, has imposed a three-week partial lockdown, shutting schools, bars and clubs until 3 November.

 


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