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During today’s, 8 September, Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee evidence session on ‘Reopening at Capacity’ the panel was told that the live events sector is experiencing a catastrophic time and a re-start date for full capacity venue shows and festivals was urgently needed.

Among the speakers were LW Theatres owner Lord Lloyd Webber and CEO Rebecca Kane Burton, former VP & General Manager of The O2 arena (pictured). The latter emphasised the impact the Government’s Covid-19 measures are having on the performing arts sectors.

She said, “It has been catastrophic for the theatre and live sector – over a million people are employed by this sector and it makes us uniquely vulnerable as a country because performing arts are not only one of our biggest assets, it is one of our strongest exports and one of the things that brings in tourism.

“If we don’t find a means of opening venues again then a million people will still be without work, it has been a very long time and many of them have had no support. It is a catastrophic time and we need to find a way out of it.”

Lloyd Webber said that he had not had a satisfactory answer from Government as to why it is considered safe to sit in an aeroplane, without social distancing, but social distancing is required in theatres: “It reminds me of the recent case of a man who came out of rehab only to find that he was not able to go to an Alcoholics Anonymous group meeting but was able to go to the pub.”

“It reminds me of the recent case of a man who came out of rehab only to find that he was not able to go to an Alcoholics Anonymous group meeting but was able to go to the pub.”

Kane Burton said the July 23 pilot show by Beverley Knight at the London Palladium (cap, 2276) had cost LW Theatres £100,000 to stage, with Knight forgoing her fee, and that it clearly demonstrated social distancing in theatres, with a 30% audience capacity, is not financially viable.”

She said much has been learned from the pilot and conversations with DCMS had begun about introducing a kite mark for Covid-secure music venues: “Fogging is incredibly effective but you need to do it every 28 days and the most efficient fogging you can carry out costs £7,000 a month. That cost will be too high for many venues. Our belief is there should be a baseline of four or five measures, agreed with Government, that every venue operator can undertake to gain a Covid-secure kite mark. If that can be developed it will give audiences confidence that baseline measures have been taken and events are safe to attend.”

Festival Republic managing director Melvin Benn made the case for his ‘Full Capacity’ plan, an incentive-based scheme centred around admission to festivals being granted only after ticket holders have been tested negative for Covid-19. He said the advances in testing in recent months mean it would be possible to test all 200,000 attendees of Glastonbury prior to the event.

Benn said he had been bounced between the DCMS and the Department of Health after proposing his scheme, and suggested it was necessary to create a working group to plan how the festival and live event sector can reopen at full capacity.

“We have had incredible engagement with the DCMS throughout lockdown but it was based around opening venues with social distancing, that is a waste of time as it is not an option without full capacity.

 “We need a working group between DCMS, Public Health England, the Department of Health, The Treasury and representatives from the live event industry to plan reopening at full capacity.”

 “We need a working group between DCMS, Public Health England, the Department of Health, The Treasury and representatives from the live event industry to plan reopening at full capacity.”

Watch Benn give evidence here.