Amid reports that chancellor Rishi Sunak is willing to accept a delay of up to four weeks to the final stage of England’s reopening roadmap, events industry figures have pledged to take action should the Government extend restrictions beyond 21 June.
The Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) said it is aggressively pushing back on any changes to the roadmap, “with a clear narrative around action being taken by businesses across multiple sectors in challenging the Government on any changes to this timeline”.
LW Theatres owner Andrew Lloyd Webber, who has pioneered Covid-safe events at his venues including the London Palladium (cap, 2276), said he is ready to defy the Government if restrictions are not lifted on 21 June and will reopen his theatres without social distancing. He said he is prepared to be arrested for it.
“We are going to open, come hell or high water,” said Webber in an interview in The Telegraph.
In response, DCMS Committee chair Julian Knight, who chaired its Future of UK Music Festivals inquiry, said that while he would not support anyone breaking the law he understood the frustration of the live events industry: “With the 21 June reopening on a knife edge the Government needs to be absolutely upfront about the results of its pilot events and how they feed into decision-making”
NTIA CEO Michael Kill (pictured) said the industry has spent millions of pounds in preparation for the 21 June reopening and 95% of businesses have already made financial commitments and logistical preparations to reopen.
According to the NTIA 54% of businesses have ordered stock, 73% have called in staff, 60% have sold tickets, 64% have booked entertainment and 80% of businesses have financed marketing and promotional materials.
Kill said, “Night time economy businesses have waited patiently for there opportunity to open for over 15 months, many have not survived, some are on a cliff edge, hundreds of thousands of jobs have been lost, a huge pool of talent has been swept away and left to suffer extreme financial hardship.
“We should not underestimate the importance of the 21 June to these businesses, employees, entertainers and freelancers, a day when they are given back there freedom to trade, livelihoods, careers, social well being and the day that the Government gives culture back to the UK”
“These businesses and individuals have adapted, overcome and survived for an exceptional length of time with the bare bones of support, and have arrived at this opportunity to find that it could be taken from them, let’s not torture them by leaving them hanging on until Monday.”
“It is clear from a recent flash poll of members that businesses are vulnerable, with 9 in 10 businesses feeling this will have a critical impact on their survival.”
Among the promoters already preparing to stage festivals shortly after 21 June is Black Deer festival co-founder Gill Tee. The event was rescheduled for 18-20 June this year with a line-up including Van Morrison. Within days of the prime minister’s 22 February announcement of the reponing timeline, the Black Deer team had rescheduled again for June 25-27, with plans for a full 20,000-capacity event.