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“A real success”: 0.03% of fans infected at UK pilots

The British culture secretary has hailed as “a real success” recent UK pilot events after just 15 positive cases of Covid-19 – equivalent to 0.026% of attendees – were recorded among 58,000 people.

Speaking to the Evening Standard, Oliver Dowden says he is “very hopeful” the UK will meet its 21 June target for a full reopening of venues, theatres and clubs without social distancing, following encouraging results from recent Event Research Programme (ERP) test events, which included the Brit Awards, the Sefton Park Pilot music festival, The First Dance club shows and sports fixtures including the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley Stadium.

According to Dowden, there were no positive cases from the Brits, which took place with an audience of 4,000 at London’s O2 earlier this month, and two from Sefton Park Pilot, a one-day music festival in Liverpool.

Nine cases, meanwhile, were detected among the 6,000 clubbers who attended the two The First Dance events, held in Liverpool ahead of Sefton Park pilot, and no cases were reported from Wembley. The final four infections were detected at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, which hosted 17 days of the World Snooker Championship.

Oliver Dowden says he is “very hopeful” the UK will meet its 21 June target for a full reopening

No social distancing was in place at any of the ERP events, which used lateral-flow tests (LFTs) to check attendees for the coronavirus prior to entry.

A spokesperson for Dowden’s ministry, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, tells the Standard the figures are based on what has been seen “so far”, and that further data needs to be collected on other events. A full report will be presented to the prime minister at a later date.

The provisional findings from the ERP events come as Festival Republic, the organiser of Sefton Park Pilot, announces a second music festival, this time with camping, which will form part of the second phase of the programme.

As IQ reported earlier this month, the three-day event will be held in June and aims to build on the previous pilot by simulating the full, multi-day festival experience familiar to attendees of FR events including Reading Festival and Download.

“Following the huge success of our Sefton Park event, we are delighted to contribute to phase two of the government’s Events Research Programme with the creation of the first three-day camping festival, which will be the Download Pilot at Donington Park,” explains FR managing director Melvin Benn.

“This massive next step will help us understand and study the safe return of large-scale festivals with no social distancing or face masks over a full weekend. [It is] the return of the full festival experience we have all been waiting for, and a much needed return to work for musicians, backstage crew, caterers and many more that form part of the UK’s exemplary live music industry.”

“This massive next step will help us understand and study the safe return of large-scale festivals”

Download Pilot will have a capacity of 10,000 and take place from 18 to 20 June at the long-time home of Download, Donington Park in Leicestershire. Tickets are priced at £120 and go on sale on 1 June for Download 2022 ticket holders (the festival was cancelled for a second year in a row earlier this month), with general sale starting on 3 June. No day tickets will be available, with all attendees expected to camp on site.

As with Sefton Park Pilot, all festivalgoers will be required to produce proof of a negative LFT for entry, and also encouraged to take a more accurate PCR test before or after the event. Once in, no social distancing or mask wearing will be required: Download’s “loyal community of rock fans will be rewarded with the closest [thing] to a festival experience possible, with no social distancing, no masks, camping and the return of moshing”, according to Festival Republic.

The Download Pilot line-up will be announced this Friday (28 May).

 


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Hope on the horizon for UK cancellation insurance?

After an ongoing battle for event cancellation insurance in the UK, the government has indicated it will intervene if commercial insurance is still unavailable when the country is scheduled to fully reopen.

In yesterday afternoon’s (13 May) DCMS (Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport) select committee meeting, secretary of state Oliver Dowden said that if events still cannot go ahead by stage four of the roadmap (21 June) because of market failure with commercial insurance, the government would “intervene in the same way we did with Film & TV“.

When Dowden was asked whether festivals and events should write off this summer, he answered “no”.

“My first priority is to make sure we get the events industry up and running, which requires us to reach stage four by 21 June,” said Dowden.

“Once we get to that point, if events still can’t go ahead because of the failure of a commercial insurance market, we stand ready to use government intervention in exactly the same way we did with Film & TV. I’ve had extensive discussions with the prime minister and chancellor on this but we must first know if something can go ahead, and if the final barrier is lack of commercial insurance then we can go about acting.”

When Dowden was asked whether festivals and events should write off this summer, he answered “no”.

In yesterday’s IQ Recovery Sessions, Festival Republic’s Melvin Benn revealed the formation of an ‘Events Indemnity Sprint Group’, which has been tasked by the government with finding solutions to the issue of events insurance.

When asked whether the government’s plan to intervene is coming “too late”, Dowden responded: “Through the Culture Recovery Fund (CRF) we have acted – particularly round two and with round three. There are challenges around bringing forward indemnity and insurance, firstly in not knowing we can fully go ahead with events from 21 June.

“It is not reasonable to expect the taxpayer to provide indemnity if it is not possible for the events to happen. There are also questions in relation to scope. At this stage, it would be better to get clarity exactly where the gap lies when things open, to then determine the extent of government intervention to fill the final mile.”

A recent AIF (Association of Independent Festivals) member survey revealed that 92.5% of respondents do not plan on staging their events without some form of government-backed insurance or indemnity scheme, with the measure being described as vital not optional.

“We stand ready to use government intervention in exactly the same way we did with Film & TV”

According to the association, more than 25% of the UK music festivals have already been cancelled due to a lack of government-backed insurance, including Glastonbury, Download and Boomtown.

Tim Thornhill of specialist brokers Tysers Insurance tells IQ: “On 21 June many more events this summer will have cancelled because of the pressure to pay deposits to the supply chain and increasing financial exposure of organisers as time is needed to plan and build events.

“This is despite the UK being ‘completely on track at the moment with the roadmap with the vaccination rolling out as planned’ said Dowden who has a ‘single-minded determination to get full reopening from the 21st June’. This determination and optimism need to be accompanied by setting up a government-backed insurance programme immediately. The planning and announcement of insurance need to run concurrently with the planning of safe events with the Events Research Programme (ERP) and successful pilots.”

The results of the UK government’s ERP will determine how larger events can take place in step four of the roadmap.

Insurance schemes have already been announced in Germany (€2.5bn), Austria (€300m), the Netherlands (€300m), Belgium (€60m), Norway (€34m) Denmark (DKK 500m) and Estonia (€6m).

Read more about the issue of event cancellation insurance via specialist brokers here.

 


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UK targets “special summer” with new test events

Upcoming major events such as the Brit Awards and FA Cup final may be run as ‘pilot’ events designed to trial the return of large, non-socially distanced audiences to UK venues, culture minister Oliver Dowden has said.

In an interview published in yesterday’s Sunday Times, Dowden, the secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, said the British government will use a dozen events held in late April and May to test allowing spectators to return to sports venues, theatres and nightclubs without social distancing. Currently, under prime minister Boris Johnson’s ‘roadmap’ out of the UK’s latest lockdown, all restrictions on indoor gatherings are set to be lifted from 21 June.

Among the 12 events observed under the so-called Events Research Programme (ERP), said Dowden, could be the World Snooker Championship final, held at the 980-seat Crucible Theatre in Sheffield on 17 April; football’s FA Cup final, staged at Wembley Stadium (90,000-seat) on 15 May; and the UK music industry’s main annual awards ceremony, the Brits, which are scheduled to return to the O2 (20,000-cap.) in London on 11 May.

According to the BBC, the government hopes up to 20,000 fans could attend the FA Cup match – double the 10,000 people who will be permitted at outdoor events in England from 17 May.

Other ERP events will take place at a nightclub, a comedy club and a conference venue, according to Dowden’s Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

“These test events will be crucial in finding ways to get fans and audiences back in safely without social distancing”

Brits organiser BPI said last autumn that it is planning for the awards – which traditionally take place in February – to return with a “spectacular event” in May. The 40th Brit Awards took place in February 2021, a month before the Covid-19 pandemic forced the closure of the O2 and other venues. IQ has contacted the Brit Awards for comment on the 2021 event.

According to DCMS, the ERP will use a range of “non-pharmaceutical” methods to prevent the spread of Covid-19 at the events, including pre- and post-event testing, enhanced ventilation, novel venue lay-outs and the monitoring fans’ movements and interactions.

‘These test events will be crucial in finding ways to get fans and audiences back in safely without social distancing. We will be guided by the science and medical experts, but will work flat out to make that happen,” says Dowden. “We want to get the people back to enjoying what they love and ensure some of our most important growth industries get back on their feet.

“These are important steps towards the safe and special summer we all crave, and that I’m fully focused on delivering.”

 


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Academy Music Group, Ronnie Scott’s receive CRF grants

Academy Music Group (AMG), Ronnie Scott’s and London Venue Group (LVG) are among the eight arts and cultural organisations in the UK to receive grants between £1 million and £3m from the second Culture Recovery Fund (CRF) tranche.

Venue operator AMG, whose shareholders include Live Nation, will receive just under £3m (£2,981,431) to “help meet the core operating costs” of its 20 live music venues across the country, including O2 Academy venues in London, Leeds and Liverpool.

While world-renowned jazz club Ronnie Scott’s has received a grant of £1,272,631 to “explore streamed performance opportunities for emerging and established British musicians”. The club says it’s delighted that “the fundamental importance of Ronnie Scott’s” has been recognised.

And venue operator LVG, owned by Mumford & Sons member Ben Lovett, has been awarded £2,358,902 to maintain its venues Omeara (cap. 320), Lafayette (600) and recent addition The Social (250) during closure and “enable them to explore streaming options in the future”.

“We are overjoyed that we are able to ensure that all our members of staff can now look ahead to Christmas without the looming threat of redundancy, and to protect the extended Venue Group family; a team of bright, passionate, capable, industry professionals who we’ve been trying to support however possible since being forced to close our venues back in March,” Lovett wrote on Instagram.

“These grants will help the places that have shaped our skylines for hundreds of years and that continue to define culture”

“These grants will help the places that have shaped our skylines for hundreds of years and that continue to define culture in our towns and cities,” says culture secretary Oliver Dowden at the department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), which has been working alongside Arts Council England to disperse the fund.

“From St Paul’s and Ronnie Scott’s to The Lowry and Durham Cathedral, we’re protecting heritage and culture in every corner of the country to save jobs and ensure it can bounce back strongly.”

Elsewhere, in Scotland, 203 organisations and venues have received a share of £11.75m through the first tranche of the Scottish government’s Culture Organisations and Venues Recovery Fund, delivered by Creative Scotland.

“The Scottish government is determined to do everything within our powers to see the sector through this crisis,” says culture secretary Fiona Hyslop.

“This emergency funding will provide vital support to a wide range of cultural organisations and venues across Scotland currently facing extreme challenges due to the coronavirus pandemic. It has been designed specifically to help organisations cope with the immediate issues they are facing and to help save jobs.

“I am pleased to see such a wide range of organisations supported, from comedy clubs and theatres to galleries and production companies.”

See results from the first round of the UK’s CRF here.

 


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UK Culture Recovery Fund details revealed

The British government today (29 July) set out application guidance for £622 million in grants, as part of its much-anticipated £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund.

The first round of funding – allocated through Arts Council England (for arts and cultural organisations, including music businesses), the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Historic England (heritage sites), and the British Film Institute (independent cinemas) – totals £622m, with £500m reserved for Arts Council England (ACE).

The £500m ACE fund (which includes the £2.25m for grassroots music venues announced earlier this week) will allow cultural-sector businesses to “reopen/restart their operations, where appropriate” or “operate on a sustainable, cost-efficient basis, so that they are able to reopen at a later date”, according to the ACE guidance for applications, which open on Monday 10 August.

The fund, which is open to companies based in England, will support costs incurred between 1 October 2020 and 31 March 2021 including staff salaries, freelance employment and operation costs; maintaining buildings while closed; redundancy pay-outs, debts incurred during the Covid-19 pandemic; and reflating cash reserves of up to eight weeks of turnover.

Grants of between £50,000 and £3m are available; all applications over £1m will be referred to a Culture Recovery Board, appointed by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). The board is chaired by businessman Sir Damon Buffini, with the music sector represented by Claire Whitaker, formerly owner and director of jazz promoter Serious.

“Help is on the way to our much-loved cultural and heritage organisations”

A further £258m is reserved for a second round of grants later in the financial year, in addition to £270m in repayable finance. More details on the outstanding elements of the £1.57bn package – worth £1.15 billion to “cultural organisations” – will be revealed later this year, a DCMS spokesperson tells IQ.

“Help is on the way to our much-loved cultural and heritage organisations with our £1.57 billion fund,” says UK culture secretary Oliver Dowden. “This support package will protect buildings, organisations and people to help ensure our wonderful institutions, big and small, pull through Covid.

“Today we’re publishing guidance so organisations know how to access help. We’re also calling on organisations to be creative in diversifying their income streams and the public to continue supporting the places they love, so this funding can be spread as far and wide as possible”.

Adds Nicholas Serota (pictured), chair of Arts Council England: “Arts and cultural organisations are an integral part of public life in villages, towns and cities across the country. We warmly welcome and are pleased to be administering this vital investment from government, which will help ensure as many organisations as possible survive the existential challenge posed by Covid-19 so they can continue to serve their communities safely in the future.”

The deadline for the first round of applications is 21 August 2020.

 


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UK govt dedicates £2.25m to grassroots venues

The UK government has announced that the first tranche of funding from its £1.57 billion cultural recovery package will be used to save around 150 grassroots music venues from insolvency.

Culture secretary Oliver Dowden made the announcement over the weekend, saying that £2.25 million from the overall package has been earmarked to support venues at imminent risk of collapse.

The money is expected to benefit up to 150 venues across the country and will be received by organisations within the next few weeks.

Arts Council England will administer the financial support, providing grants of up to £80,000 to help cover essential on-going costs including rent, utilities, maintenance contracts and other bills incurred between 4 August and 30 September 2020.

Eligible venues include those that present live grassroots music events in any music genre, including multi-arts venues that host other events alongside a main music programme and those that play “a significant role” in developing talent.

The fund is being launched at the request of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee, which recently urged the government to do more to support the live industry. Members of the UK live music industry had also previously raised concerns over the lack of information surrounding the distribution of funds from the rescue package, which was first unveiled at the beginning of July.

“Nearly all of our globally successful music stars started out at UK clubs and live music venues – and we must make sure those organisations weather the Covid storm”

Further information on eligibility criteria and funding distribution is expected this week.

“Without our grassroots music venues, we wouldn’t have the Beatles, Adele or Elton John. Nearly all of our globally successful music stars started out at UK clubs and live music venues – and we must make sure those organisations weather the Covid storm,” comments Dowden.

“The first £2.25m of our unprecedented cultural rescue package is targeted at their survival. We’re working to deliver the rest of the £1.57bn emergency package as quickly as possible, so that we can protect and preserve our precious culture, arts and heritage for future generations.”

Beverley Whitrick of the Music Venue Trust (MVT) says the organisation “warmly welcomes” the funding for grassroot venues facing “urgent, short-term challenges”.

“Without this help, the sector would be facing a wave of permanent closures,” says Whitrick. “Throughout this crisis we have worked closely with DCMS and are delighted that the urgent need for this intervention has been recognised and responded to.”

MVT has also been working with the government in Scotland, where £2.2m was recently dedicated to supporting grassroots venues.

The news come as venues across the UK struggle in the face of the Covid-19 crisis, with many having to cut staff, or being forced to close their doors forever. Manchester venues Gorilla and Deaf Institute were recently saved from the brink of closure after being bought by venue operator Tokyo Industries.

Applications for the UK funding are open until 3 August. More information about the fund and how to apply is available here.

 


This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times.

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Indoor shows to return to England in August

Indoor performances will return to venues across England from 1 August, provided audiences adhere to social distancing measures, prime minister Boris Johnson announced today (17 July).

However, the prime minister has also announced that local authorities “will have new powers in their areas”, meaning they can “close specific premises, shut public outdoor spaces, and cancel events” in response to outbreaks of the virus.

Central government will also be able intervene with events. “Where justified”, says Johnson, ministers will have the power to “close whole sectors or types of premises in an area, introduce local “stay at home” orders and reduce the maximum size of gatherings beyond national rules”, increasing uncertainty for event organisers.

The announcement follows the reopening of outdoor shows last week and marks the fourth stage of the government’s five-step roadmap to reopening the live entertainment industry. The fifth and final phase of the plan will see venues reopen with fuller audiences.

The news also comes less than 24 hours after four popular English venues – Gorilla and Deaf Institute in Manchester and VMS Live-operated the Welly and the Polar Bear in Hull – announced they were closing due to Covid-19 pressures.

“The UK’s performing arts sector is renowned across the world and I am pleased that we are making real progress in getting its doors reopened to the public with social distancing”

Upon reopening, venues will have to put a limited number of tickets on sale to reduce numbers; sell all tickets online to facilitate track and trace systems; place social distancing markers in areas where queues are likely to form; increase deep cleaning of auditoriums; schedule sufficient time between performances; and ensure artists and their teams also observe social distancing wherever possible.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) is working with the sector on pilots for performances with socially distanced audiences that will inform final guidance for venues in the run up to the 1 August reopening.

“The UK’s performing arts sector is renowned across the world and I am pleased that we are making real progress in getting its doors reopened to the public with social distancing,” comments culture secretary Oliver Dowden.

“From August indoor theatres, music venues and performance spaces will safely welcome audiences back across the country.

“This is a welcome step in the path to a return to normal and, coupled with our £1.57 billion rescue package, will help secure the future of this important sector.”

Guidance for venues can be read in full here.

 


This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times.

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Outdoor events get go-ahead in England

Small open-air concerts, festivals and other live events can resume in England this weekend, provided social distancing measures are applied, the government announced yesterday (9 July).

The news comes in a week of positive developments for the UK live industry, following the announcement of a £1.57 billion aid package for the cultural sector on Sunday and a reduction in value-added tax (VAT) levied on event tickets on Wednesday.

The easing of restrictions, which sees the country move to stage three of a five-step roadmap for the reopening of the live entertainment industry, allows outdoor shows to take place “with a limited and socially distanced audience”.

Venues will also have to use electronic ticketing systems and keep a record of visitor details in case test and trace measures are needed.

“Our culture, heritage and arts are too precious to lose. That’s why we’re protecting venues like theatres from redevelopment if they fall on hard times,” says culture secretary Oliver Dowden.

“From 11 July we can all enjoy performances outdoors with social distancing and we are working hard to get indoor audiences back as soon as we safely can, following pilots.”

The government is currently working alongside industry bodies including the Musicians’ Union and UK Theatre, as well as with venues such as the London Palladium, to pilot a number of small indoor performances to inform plans on how to get indoor venues back up and running.

“It is a step forward that some performances can resume in limited outdoor settings, but there is still no date for a return to indoor live performances”

Indoor events will be permitted to reopen in England in the next stage of the roadmap, restricted to a “limited, distanced audience” and stage five allows for the reopening of all events with fuller audiences, but dates have yet to be given for the latter stages of the recovery roadmap.

Dowden adds that the government is working to give “further clarity on restart dates”.

Members of the UK entertainment industry have repeatedly criticised the absence of dates from the government’s reopening roadmap.

“It is a step forward that some performances can resume in limited outdoor settings, but there is still no date for a return to indoor live performances, either with restricted or full audiences,” comments Incorporated Society of Musicians CEO Deborah Annetts.

“This uncertainty hangs over many thousands of musicians whose income is overwhelmingly dependent on performing, and whose lives have ground to a complete halt as a result of Covid-19.”

Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) CEO Michael Kill says that the announcement “lack[s] any real detail or information on where our sector stands”.

“We implore the government in the strongest terms to recognise our sector within Arts and Culture, and prioritise sector specific support before some amazing cultural businesses are lost forever,” says Kill.

Photo: UK Parliament (CC BY 3.0) (cropped)

 


This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times.

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#LetTheMusicPlay: UK biz mobilises to call for aid

The leading lights of Britain’s live music industry – including some of its biggest touring talent – have today (2 July) issued an urgent plea for government aid to the sector, warning that a lack of support and continued uncertainty around reopening is having a “devastating” impact in one of the world’s biggest live music markets.

The appeal is centred on a letter to the UK’s culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, signed by 1,500 artists and bands, including Ed Sheeran, the Rolling Stones, Dua Lipa, Sir Paul McCartney, Skepta, Rita Ora, Coldplay, Eric Clapton, Annie Lennox, Sir Rod Stewart, Liam Gallagher, Florence and the Machine, Depeche Mode, Iron Maiden, Lewis Capaldi and Little Mix.

In the joint letter, the artists say: “UK live music has been one of the UK’s biggest social, cultural, and economic successes of the past decade. But, with no end to social distancing in sight or financial support from government yet agreed, the future for concerts and festivals and the hundreds of thousands of people who work in them looks bleak.

“Until these businesses can operate again, which is likely to be 2021 at the earliest, government support will be crucial to prevent mass insolvencies and the end of this world-leading industry.”

New research shows the live music sector added £4.5 billion to Britain’s economy in 2019, and supports 210,000 jobs. While the UK is the fourth-largest music market in the world by value of ticket sales – and the second-biggest per capita – the appeal notes that state support for live music lags behind other countries, with other European governments such as France and Germany using public money to kickstart their concert industries post-Covid-19.

“Government support will be crucial to prevent mass insolvencies and the end of this world-leading industry”

To coincide with the letter, hundreds of artists will today begin posting films and photos of their last live show using the hashtag #LetTheMusicPlay. Fans will also be encouraged to post about the last gig they went to, in a mass show of support for the UK’s on-pause live business.

“It’s incredibly important for artists like myself to speak up and support the live music industry in the UK,” says Dua Lipa. “From the very start, playing live concerts up and down the country has been a cornerstone for my own career. I am proud to have had the chance to play through all the levels: small clubs, then theatres and ballrooms, and into arenas, and, of course, festivals in between each touring cycle.

“But the possibility for other emerging British artists to take the same path is in danger if the industry doesn’t receive much-needed government support in the interim period before all the various venues, festivals and promoters are ready and able to operate independently again.”

The UK live music industry is asking for:

The business and employment support package should include, they say, a government-backed insurance scheme to allow shows to go ahead; an extension of the furlough scheme and help for the self-employed to prevent mass redundancies; rent breaks for venues to allow them to reopen; an extension of business-rate relief to the entire live music supply chain; rolling over fees for single-premises event licences for festivals; and financial support for lost box-office income.

“Every day, literally, I hear of another friend in music losing their job, shutting up shop or switching careers. This pandemic has affected everyone; it has taken many lives and forever changed many more,” says Ben Lovett of Mumford & Sons and Venue Group. “Live entertainment has not been the headline, nor do I believe it should’ve been – at least until now.

“We really have to pay some attention to what our cultural landscape is going to look like on the other side of this, and we’re hoping that #LetTheMusicPlay will pull some of this into focus for a minute.”

“If the government doesn’t step up and support the British arts, we really could lose vital aspects of our culture forever”

Other artists to have signed the letter to Dowden include Take That, the Stone Roses, Foals, James Bay, Genesis, the Chemical Brothers, Johnny Marr, Slade, Biffy Clyro, Bastille, Muse, Sir Tom Jones and Manic Street Preachers.

“The UK’s venues, festivals, performers and crew bring so much to this country’s culture and economy, but they are now facing desperate financial challenges,” says Emily Eavis, organiser of Glastonbury Festival. “If the government doesn’t step up and support the British arts, we really could lose vital aspects of our culture forever.”

“July would normally see the UK embarking on a world-famous summer of live music, but this year the lights are switched off and the microphones unplugged,” adds Phil Bowdery, chairman of the Concert Promoters’ Association. “Live music has sought to play its role in helping tackle coronavirus, with many artists providing entertainment for people from their homes. But our shutdown is likely to go on for much longer than most, with many concerts and festivals unable to operate until 2021 at the earliest.

“Without rapid government support, the long-term impact will be devastating, with the loss of hundreds of thousands of highly-skilled jobs and billions of pounds from the UK economy.”

 


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