Ireland’s live sector reacts to new reopening plan
Live music will return to Ireland for the first time in 18 months under the government’s new phased reopening plan.
In an announcement yesterday (29 August) evening, Taoiseach (prime minister of Ireland) Micheál Martin announced the government’s plan for reopening society over the coming months – including the gradual easing of restrictions on live events.
From 6 September, indoor events and mass gatherings can take place at 60% of a venue’s capacity where all patrons are immune (fully vaccinated or recovered from Covid-19 within the previous six months). At live entertainment events, all attendees must be seated.
For patrons who have mixed immunity status, there will be no change to the current restrictions during September.
“Now, more than ever, we need our government to listen to our voices and support us well into 2022”
Outdoor events and mass gatherings can take place at 75% of a venue’s capacity where all patrons are immune. Where patrons have mixed immunity status, the capacity limit will be 50%, subject to measures including social distancing between groups and face masks.
The next phase of Ireland’s reopening will start on 22 October, when the government will effectively end all restrictions including:
- Requirements for physical distancing.
- Requirements for mask-wearing outdoors and in indoor private settings.
- Limits on numbers at indoor and outdoor events and activities.
- Certification of vaccination, immunity or testing as a prerequisite for access to, or engagement in, any activities or events (with exception of international travel).
- Restrictions on high-risk activities such as nightclubs.
This phase is contingent on Covid-19 cases remaining manageable and 90% of adults being fully vaccinated. Currently, more than 88% of the population over 18 are fully vaccinated, with almost 92% of adults (aged 18 and over) having received at least one dose.
“Imposing a limit of 60% of seated capacity will render most (standing or seated) shows inoperable”
In a statement issued yesterday evening, the Music and Entertainment Association of Ireland (MEAI) welcomed the announcement but called for support as live music returns at reduced capacity.
“Our industry will not be fully reopened until we achieve 100% capacity,” it said. “Our industry will still display the scars of the financial hardship and mental health struggles many of us have endured and now, more than ever, we need our government to listen to our voices and support us well into 2022.
“We need that support so we can build our businesses, build our and your confidence, but most importantly, so we can build, upon our rich and proud heritage and culture, an industry that is bigger, brighter, bolder than ever before.”
Shane Dunne, promoter at MCD Concerts; board member of Epic working group; MD of Irish festival Indiependence, echoed the call for support: “It’s important that government financial support like Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) remains in place for those in our industry who have been out of work for over 550 days and that a scaffolding fund is put in place for 2022 to hold the industry upright at least equal to the funding given yearly to the funded sector here.”
“Seventy-five per cent capacity outdoors is workable but we weren’t given the notice on this that we’ve been asking for”
In regards to the capacity limits, Dunne added: “The 60% seated capacity restriction doesn’t work for our business so really we are closed until 22 October when it is planned for restrictions to be lifted. Seventy-five per cent capacity outdoors is workable but it’s a pity we weren’t given the notice on this that we’ve been asking for, for over a year – we’re swiftly running out of summer.”
Fin O’Leary, veteran promoter and co-founder of Singular Artists (a joint venture between DEAG/Kilimanjaro), told IQ: “Any movement on the relaxation of restrictions is welcomed, but imposing a limit of 60% of seated capacity will render most (standing or seated) shows inoperable, so we’re forced to move all pre-October 22 shows into 2022.”
Ireland’s minister for culture, Catherine Martin, says she will continue to lobby the government for sector-specific support.
“I am pleased that the cabinet understands the challenge our performance sector faces. I personally will ensure that this engagement continues.
“Public health is our priority and this phased approach to alleviating restrictions will take time but by continuing to listen to, and work together with, partners from the sector, we will start to repair an industry that has suffered so severely over the last 18 months. While today’s announcement is a milestone in our recovery, the government knows that Ireland’s art and culture sector needs support to help it thrive once more.”
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Ireland’s MCD: “We are angry and disappointed”
MCD Productions boss Denis Desmond says the Republic of Ireland’s live sector is “frustrated, disappointed and angry,” by the prolonged shutdown of the industry.
Industry representatives held a two-hour meeting with ROI’s minister for arts yesterday (18 August) but still, no date was set for the return of live concerts and cultural events.
“There are 35,000 people who are employed in the sector who haven’t worked in 525 days and it’s terrible,” Desmond tells IQ. “It’s very hard on people who have families and mortgages to pay. The government support is a small amount of money. A lot of people are struggling – not only financially but mentally.”
In comparison, the UK’s live industry has been fully open for a month and Scotland lifted most restrictions on 9 August.
Festival Republic director Melvin Benn told RTÉ’s News at One that the failure to allow live music events to return, including Electric Picnic (co-promoted with MCD), is “unnecessary and wrong,” given Ireland’s high vaccination rate.
He went on to say that Ireland’s situation contrasted with “political leadership” in other countries, including the UK. “It isn’t a different virus [in Ireland].”
“What we really need is a full reopening and a government-backed insurance scheme, similar to the UK”
The promoters’ comments come after their event, Electric Picnic, was denied a licence by the local council on the grounds of the current restrictions.
“We’re still looking at the options and we have written to the government asking why they made the decision. We’ve been assured that we’ll get an answer by next Monday so we’ll wait until we get a reply to review what happens next,” says Desmond.
The government has also promised a roadmap for reopening by the end of next week but it won’t be a silver bullet for the industry, says the MCD boss.
“What we really need is a full reopening and a government-backed insurance scheme, similar to the UK,” he tells IQ. “The most important thing about the UK’s scheme is that the insurance package is valid for 12 months because Covid is not going away. We’ve got to learn to live with it but there needs to be support for businesses.”
Desmond believes the lack of support for Ireland’s live music industry – and other markets in Europe – is down to a lack of understanding. “The reality is, there is little understanding of the contribution this industry makes to the economy and to the wellbeing of people,” he says.
The Republic of Ireland’s perceived lack of understanding is likely exacerbated by a lack of representation in political spheres. It was recently revealed that minister for arts Catherine Martin – whose plan to reopen the sector was snubbed by government – is not yet on the cabinet committee on Covid-19.
The Music and Entertainment Association of Ireland (MEAI) says the lack of representation is “disastrous” for the industry.
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Norway makes it “impossible” for festivals to go ahead
Norway has postponed the final step in the reopening of its economy for a second time, due to the continued spread of the Delta variant of Covid-19.
The government in April launched a four-step plan to gradually remove most pandemic restrictions, and had completed the first three of those steps by mid-June.
Initially, the government’s plan was to restrict festivals to 2,000 attendees until June, 5,000 attendees until August and 10,000 thereafter.
This prompted the cancellation of Live Nation-owned festivals Bergenfest and Tons of Rock, Superstruct-backed Øya Festival, Over Oslo, Picnic in the Park, Stavernfetsivalen, Seljord Festival and Country Festival.
However, after the first delay to the final step of the roadmap, the government increased capacity limits for public events using Covid-19 certification and rapid testing.
A new assessment will be made in mid-August but prime minister Erna Solberg predicts Norway will fully reopen this autumn
As of 8 July, events without designated seating can take place with a maximum of 1,500 people (previously 1,000) indoors and 3,000 people (previously 2,000) outdoors. The audience must be divided into 500-capacity cohorts and the venue’s capacity cannot exceed 50%.
Events with designated seating can take place with a maximum of 3,000 (previously 2,500) indoors and 7,000 people (previously 5,000) outdoors. These events must also be divided into 500-capacity cohorts and the venue’s capacity cannot exceed 50%.
One of the last major Norwegian festivals left – Festningen (The Fortress Festival) in Trondheim – was cancelled yesterday, as organisers said the postponement of the final step had made it “impossible” to go ahead.
A new assessment will be made in mid-August but prime minister Erna Solberg predicts Norway will fully reopen this autumn, provided more residents are vaccinated.
About 80% of adults in Norway have received the first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine and 41% of adults are fully vaccinated, according to the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.
Thanks to an early lockdown in March 2020 and tight restrictions that followed, the nation of 5.4 million people has seen one of Europe’s lowest rates of mortality from the virus.
ID&T to sue Dutch gov over “disproportionate” restrictions
ID&T, the promoter behind festivals including Mysteryland and Awakenings, has announced it is taking the Dutch government to court over new Covid restrictions, which have been reimposed just weeks after they were lifted.
Prime minister Mark Rutte held a press conference last Friday (9 July), in which he announced that restrictions would renew on 10 July and remain until 14 August, in an effort to halt a sudden surge in Covid-19 restrictions.
Under the new measures, multi-day events will be banned and only one-day festivals will be permitted until 14 August, provided visitors are given a seat and no more than a thousand people attend.
In the press conference, Rutte said the government won’t give any more clarity until 14 August for events after that date – leaving organisers in a stalemate situation.
ID&T called the measures “disproportionate” and announced that the company would be filing a draft subpoena with the court today (12 July).
“It is our expertise to organise events well and safely and we know that our audience has the discipline,” says said Ritty van Straalen, CEO of ID&T.
“It feels like a death knell for our industry”
“We are now the good who suffer from the bad and it seems that the government prefers holidays over festivals. You can’t go into recess at a crucial moment like this and leave the industry dangling. Young people are disproportionately affected by these measures. The social importance of our industry is enormous.”
Mojo-promoted event A Campingflight to Lowlands Paradise (aka Lowlands) is due to take place on 20–22 August but festival director Eric van Eerdenburg tells IQ that the Dutch government has created an “unworkable situation”.
“For our festivals, Lowlands (20–22 August) and Down The Rabbit Hole (27–29 Aug), as well as suppliers and artists, this has created a lot of uncertainty. We are already building the infrastructure as we speak, and will continue to do so as we believe it should be possible to let them happen,” says Eerdenburg.
“Our belief is based on a constructive relationship between Mojo and the ministries of health and economic affairs, as well as the Outbreak Management Team that advises the government, we will get more clarity on how we can move on after close consultation in the next few days,” he added.
The Association of Dutch Poppodia and Festivals (VNPF) and the Association of Event Makers (VVEM) are also hoping to sit down with ministers to get a perspective on the summer season and discuss extra support measures.
In January, the government announced a €385 million insurance fund which would compensate organisers 80% of the costs of their event if it is cancelled due to state-enforced coronavirus measures.
“You can’t go into recess at a crucial moment like this and leave the industry dangling”
However, VNPF and VVEM are calling for the compensation to be increased to 100% and extended to organisers who have to cancel within an “unreasonably short period of time” but can’t claim under the scheme.
Eerdenburg says that Mojo is also pushing for the scheme to cover fees for UK artists, as well as those of Dutch and EU artists.
In a joint statement, the VNPF and VVEM wrote: “It feels like a death knell for our industry. Of course, it is understandable that measures are taken when the infection rate increases. However, within those measures, the industry that has not contributed to that higher infection rate at all is being hit hard. It was precisely our industry – the only industry in the Netherlands – that has actively sought solutions in recent months in collaboration with science and ministries.”
Fieldlab Evenementen – an initiative of the Dutch government and several trade bodies – recently revealed findings from three months’ worth of pilot events in the Netherlands show that the risk of Covid-19 infection, when following certain hygiene and testing protocols, is about the same as being at home.
According to OurWorldinData, daily cases in the Netherlands have risen almost sevenfold, from a rolling seven-day average of 49.2 per million people on 4 July to 328.7 on Sunday (11 July).
The Dutch prime minister today (12 July) acknowledged that the cabinet made an error of judgment with the rapid relaxation at the end of June. “What we thought was possible, was not possible.”
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.
21 June: Delay would lead to 5,000 UK cancellations
Research published today (10 June) shows that even a four-week delay to the deadline for lifting the final restrictions on live events in the UK would cost the live music sector over £500 million and leave the summer festival season at risk of total collapse.
More than 5,000 shows by artists including Olly Murs, Tom Odell, Rag’n’Bone Man, Beverley Knight, McFly, Alexandra Burke and Rudimental would either need to cancel or postpone if the 21 June deadline was pushed back, incurring immediate costs across the live music supply chain and further damaging an industry already hanging in the balance, according to industry body LIVE (Live music Industry Venues and Entertainment).
The rumoured move, as IQ reported earlier this week, comes despite the fact that, by the government’s own evidence, large-scale events can happen safely with the right precautions in place.
Through LIVE, a federation of 13 associations representing more than 3,000 live music companies, the live sector is calling for government to publish the data from the first round of Events Research Programme (ERP) pilots, so “they are able to follow their own science” and allow live businesses to reopen with Covid-safe precautions. The ERP findings which have been released by government to the media show that with screening, improved ventilation and other mitigating factors, mass events are reportedly as safe as a trip to the supermarket.
“We implore the government to follow their own scientific data that proves live events are safe with the right mitigations”
Lucy Noble, chair of the National Arenas Association, says: “The pilot shows at the Brits and Liverpool were touted as the key to getting back to full-capacity live performance, which is why it’s extremely frustrating that the government refuses to publish the full report and allow the sector to open up through the carefully planned precautions which are currently waiting in the wings.
“We implore the government to follow their own scientific data that proves live events are safe with the right mitigations. Now is the time for them to protect the live events sector for generations to come.”
Any delay to the 21 June reopening date would have significant and immediate repercussions for grassroots music venues, with 248 venues facing an immediate threat of eviction if the government does not fully compensate their financial losses from delayed reopening, says Mark Davyd, CEO of Music Venue Trust.
“In the event of any delay to reopening, government action to restore confidence to the sector will need to be swift, decisive and comprehensive,” says Davyd. “Any decision to delay places the sector in the most perilous and uncertain situation since April 2020. All that has been done by government, the public, artist and communities to save our venues risks being undone.”
“We cannot keep waiting indefinitely without knowing when step four will take place”
The UK’s much-anticipated summer festival season would also see significant casualties, with 65% of all Association of Independent Festivals members saying they will be forced to cancel if faced with a five-week delay – and 21% already gone.
Jim King, CEO of European festivals for AEG Presents, comments: “A delay into July without a clear road map to get back to step four [full lockdown lifting] puts an impossible strain on all festivals, including AEG’s All Points East festival, along with our suppliers across the industry.
“We cannot keep waiting indefinitely without knowing when step four will take place, and this uncertainty will undoubtedly result, by default, in more cancellations. We are desperate for the UK festival season to begin again, but an undated reopening makes long term planning and investment unfeasible.”
UK industry anxiously awaits government announcement
The UK’s live entertainment community is holding its breath for the government’s long-awaited 14 June Covid briefing, after speculation started to emerge over a proposed delay in allowing venues and festivals to reopen without restrictions.
With 21 June stated as the day when the government wants all restrictions in England to end, the spread of the so-called Indian variant of Covid-19 (also known as the Delta variant) in certain cities and communities is reportedly prompting scientists and government advisors to push for a delay from anywhere between two to four weeks.
The threat of such a postponement is being met with frustration and anger in parts of the live events industry, with luminaries such as Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber threatening legal action, while other businesses great and small worry if their return-to-work policies for staff have been activated too prematurely.
For others, any delay could prove far more damaging.
“It could be the final nail in the coffin for many grass roots venues,” exclaims Music Venue Trust (MVT) CEO Mark Davyd. “If they are prevented from reopening their doors, building landlords may cancel their lease and we will end up losing these venues for good.”
That’s a sentiment echoed by Phil Bowdery, chairman of the Concert Promoters Association. “It’s critical that the government proceeds with its plans to end restrictions on 21 June. By its own admission through the Events Research Programme (ERP), large-scale events are inherently safe so long as the right precautions – in the form of testing – are in place.”
Speaking to the Daily Mail newspaper, composer Lloyd Webber, who owns seven West End theatres, is questioning the legality of the government retaining social distancing rules beyond 21 June, especially when the ERP’s test shows have proved that there is no greater risk of infection at concerts and other live events.
“If the schools, pubs and restaurants are allowed to remain open, but live music venues are prevented from reopening, it makes no sense whatsoever”
“If the government’s own science has told them that buildings are safe, I’m advised that at that point things could get quite difficult,” says Lloyd Webber. “This is the very last thing that anybody wants to do, but there would [be] a legal case at that point because it’s their science – not ours.”
MVT founder Davyd is equally bemused. “Government has laid down the criteria over whether live music and other performances could return to normal. We’ve met that criteria and now it seems like they are still thinking about keeping live music venues closed when there’s absolutely zero evidence to show that they change the transmission of the virus.
“If the schools, pubs and restaurants are allowed to remain open, but live music venues are prevented from reopening, it makes no sense whatsoever,” adds Davyd. “Keeping the Cheese & Grain [850-cap.] venue closed in Frome – where there is no Covid infection – is not going to help the infection rate up in Blackburn.”
The Night Time Industries Association has also said it will “challenge” the government if there is a delay to 21 June. “The decision to delay will leave us no other option but to challenge the Government aggressively, standing alongside many other industries who have been locked down or restricted from opening,” says CEO Michael Kill.
Rumours over a U-turn on the 21 June roadmap deadline began circulating last week when the Independent Sage group of scientists warned that the rise of the Delta variant in the UK could soar if England’s lockdown ends as planned.
“As things stand, it is very difficult to justify progressing with the last stage of the roadmap, scheduled for 21 June, a point that should be made now, to modify current false hopes,” said Independent Sage.
“Public Health England figures released on June 3 suggest that the Delta variant has spread widely across the UK and is continuing to spread, that it has higher infectivity than the previous circulating variant, and that it is more likely to cause disease and hospitalisation.”
“There would be a legal case at that point because it’s their science, not ours”
Government advisors will also be analysing data that shows the Delta variant is rare in people who have been vaccinated, while hospitalisations throughout the UK are currently flat, rather than rising as the infection spreads.
However, adding more uncertainty over the deadline, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said, “It’s too early to say what the decision will be about step four of the road map, which is scheduled to be no earlier than June 21.
“Of course, I look at those data every day, we publish them every day, the case numbers matter but what really matters is how that translates into the number of people going to hospital, the number of people sadly dying. The vaccine breaks that link, the question is how much the link has yet been broken because the majority of people who ended up in hospital are not fully vaccinated.”
Meanwhile, those living in the Greater Manchester and Lancashire areas – where Covid is spreading fast – were today placed under new travel rules to combat spiralling Delta variant cases.
Residents are being advised to minimise travel in and out of the areas, while the army is being brought into the region to replicate the widespread vaccination drive that it helped to roll out in the neighbouring city of Bolton, under similar circumstances, in May.
IQ understands that the UK government is planning to make its final decision on the 21 June reopening as late as Sunday 13 June, or even the day of the announcement, Monday 14 June, meaning that the data gathered over the remainder of this week will be crucial.
In recent days the indication is that the average number of daily cases is now slowly rising in the UK. Figures for yesterday (8 June) reveal 6,048 new confirmed cases, but just 13 deaths of people who had tested positive for Covid-19 in the past 28 days.
“Government now needs to kickstart the ‘new normal’ economy rather than continuing to dither”
Nevertheless, a number of towns, cities and communities are experiencing sharp rises in case numbers due to the Delta variant, which is known to spread quicker than other variants, leading the Sage scientists and other experts to predict that the country may be on the verge of a third wave of infections.
But should the government bow to pressure, the timing of such a disappointing announcement will be scrutinised, given that on Sunday (13 June), 22,000 football fans will be in Wembley Stadium for England versus Croatia in the European Championships.
At press time, it was announced that the game would be the first sporting event at which so-called vaccine ‘passports’ will be used in the UK, with attendees required to show proof of full vaccination, with both doses having been received at least 14 days before the match. Those not fully vaccinated must show proof of a negative lateral flow test taken within the previous 48 hours.
The timing of the game is not lost upon Davyd. “We’ve basically asked the government that whatever position they take it should be a logical one,” he says. “Not allowing venues and festivals to reopen is not going to change the transmission rate.
“As far as I see it, they have two options: they can reopen everything; or they can announce that some things they have already allowed are increasing the infection rate and they should be closed down. But keeping other businesses from reopening – when they have not played any role in the infection rate rising – just doesn’t make any sense at all.”
Equally as frustrated, CPA chief Bowdery underlines the plight of hundreds of thousands of people and business that rely on live events for their income. “Government now needs to kickstart the ‘new normal’ economy rather than continuing to dither, helping to secure the future of the live music sector, which currently hangs in the balance,” adds Bowdery.
Music venues in the Netherlands to reopen
Music venues in the Netherlands are permitted to reopen from 5 June, when the country enters step three of the government’s reopening plan.
The cabinet announced on Friday (28 May) that cultural venues such as concert halls are allowed to reopen in step 3, subject to certain conditions including booking in advance, health checks and designated seating.
From 5 June, small concert halls can welcome a maximum of 50 visitors, as long as the venue can cater to the 1.5-metre social distancing rule.
Concert halls with at least 1,000 seats can welcome a maximum of 250 socially distanced visitors per room. This applies to all large indoor and outdoor venues including arenas, open-air theatres and concert halls.
Concert halls that opt to use coronavirus entry passes will be permitted to host as many people as they can accommodate provided they’re seated and socially distanced.
Concert halls with at least 1,000 seats can welcome a maximum of 250 socially distanced visitors per room
The relatively stringent measures come in spite of findings from three months’ worth of pilot events which show that the risk of Covid-19 infection, when following certain hygiene and testing protocols, is about the same as being at home.
The pilot events were conducted by Fieldlab Evenementen, an initiative of the Dutch government and several trade bodies, which concluded that shows may return safely at 100% capacity, even under the Netherlands’ ‘concern’ (zorgelijk) coronavirus risk level.
It looks like that won’t be a possibility for the Netherlands until late summer at the earliest, according to the government’s roadmap.
The fourth step of the reopening plan is planned for 30 June, when events can take place without a designated seating plan – provided social distancing is observed and entry passes are used. Events must also take account of local rules and requirements, such as permits. The government will decide on 22 June whether to implement step 4 as planned.
The final step, step 5, will see the government lift restrictions and remove the entry pass system. However, there’s no specified date for step 5 as the government says it will be determined by the number of infections and hospital admissions.
Flemish gov optimistic about Pukkelpop, Tomorrowland
The Flemish government says large events such as Pukkelpop and Tomorrowland should be able to go ahead in late summer, under certain conditions.
The reassurance for Belgian festival organisers comes after the government unveiled its summer ‘Freedom Plan’ yesterday (9 May), which ventures that all adults would have had the chance to be vaccinated by mid-August.
Flemish minister of health Frank Vandenbroucke says the implementation of the Green Pass – the European corona passport which shows vaccination status and test results – will be key to restarting large events.
Other conditions include on-site Covid-19 testing and limiting access to events to Europeans: “We will not invite the whole world. Within Europe, too, we have to be careful who we admit,” says Vandenbroucke.
The Flemish minister of health says the implementation of the Green Pass will be key to restarting large events
According to the Freedom Plan, large events can restart in July under certain conditions. Events can take place with 5,000 outdoors or 3,000 indoors provided attendees adhere to social distancing and mask-wearing.
In August, the maximum number of people allowed at outdoor events is increased to 10,000, and 4,500 indoors.
Pukkelpop (cap. 60,000) and Tomorrowland (70,000) are set to take place in late August and early September respectively and are the last major Belgian festivals still planning to go ahead after Rock Werchter and Graspop cancelled their 2021 events.
The cancellations came despite the Flemish government’s €60 million pot to help the region’s organisers kickstart preparations for this summer’s festival season.
No answers for festivals in Denmark’s reopening plan
Festival organisers in Denmark are still in the dark about whether their events will be able to take place this summer after the government published a reopening plan which fails to provide concrete answers about large events.
While the phased reopening plan marks 6 May as the day that live music should be able to return to indoor venues, there’s no such detail for festival organisers.
In the plan, the government has simply said it will set up a ‘fast-working expert group’ which will co-operate with the relevant authorities to deliver suggestions on how major gatherings and events can be held, by mid-April.
The organisers of major festivals in Denmark, Roskilde Festival and Smukfest, told DR that, while the government has not explicitly given festivals a green light in the reopening plan, they will assume their events can still go ahead until told otherwise.
“Although it does not say anything about the possibility of large events, we can not see it as anything other than an expression that there is still a belief that it is possible to hold a festival this summer,” says Roskilde Festival’s CEO, Signe Lopdrup. “If not, I assume we would have been told it would not be possible. So we will continue the planning with renewed intensity – otherwise, time simply runs away from us.”
Smukfest spokesman, Søren Eskildsen, also told DR: “We are disappointed that we are not mentioned in the reopening agreement, but that means that we can not do anything other than what we have been asked. And that is to continue our planning work.”
“We will continue the planning with renewed intensity – otherwise, time simply runs away from us”
Eskildsen has called for festivals to be involved in the so-called ‘fast-working expert group’ – which he says should’ve happened months ago.
Conversely, the Danish government has already assembled a ‘restart team’, including Roskilde Group as well as Denmark’s live music association, Dansk Live, which recently submitted a catalogue of recommendations on the reopening of the cultural and sports sectors. The catalogue was submitted to the ministry of culture for approval.
The government also announced a DKK 500 million (€67.2m) safety net, intended to allow organisers to plan for the summer, but Eskildsen says festivals need to know ‘the exact conditions for how we can continue our planning responsibly’.
According to the Smukfest rep, festivals are expecting a final decision on this year’s festival season around two weeks from now but Dansk Live’s Esben Marcher believes that it will come too late for many organisers.
“The first festivals are at the end of May, and it takes five to seven weeks to build a festival on a full scale. And hopefully one should not end up getting ready for a festival, which will then be cancelled. It’s all, all too late, unfortunately. We just have to say that,” says Marcher.
“I still believe that there can easily be festivals. It can just end up in a situation where the festivals are so challenged in planning time and staffing of volunteers that it becomes very difficult to make it a success.”