Event professionals from across the industry have raised major concerns in response to the announcement that there will be a four-week lockdown across England from Thursday, 5 November.
Productions Services Association (PSA) general manager Andy Lenthall said recent months had seen green shoots of recovery start to appear, with Covid-safe events being staged and work being created for PSA members. He said that while the industry will use the lockdown to continue to explore ways of staging Covid-safe outdoor and indoor shows, government-backed cancellation insurance is essential if the industry is going to bounce back.
“It’s clear the events industry can create safe events,” said Lenthall. “Everybody in this industry knows we are good at being resilient, we are innovative and we have technologies that enable events to be staged safely. We can have all the protocols in the world but nothing happens without being able to be insured against what’s just happened –government saying you absolutely cannot stage events legally.”
“Nobody is going to take the financial risk of planning a major event without insurance, especially the larger greenfield events where money starts to be committed in January.”
Ally Wolf, manager of the 1,250-capacity London venue the Clapham Grand, which has staged a series of Covid-safe shows, called on promoters and acts with December shows to avoid making any “rash” decisions.
He said, “Venues can’t open without shows and an empty diary in December is heart breaking. Anyone with affected shows in November, please don’t cancel, move dates into December or 2021.
“Customers want to come out to see shows, and we can deliver them safely, but they need to see that confidence reflected across the whole industry straight away.”
“Customers want to come out to see shows, and we can deliver them safely, but they need to see that confidence reflected across the whole industry straight away. If we waiver on it so will they.”
The Night-Time Industries Association (NTIA) CEO Michael Kill said that since the lockdown was announced on 31 October the organisation had seen an unprecedented increase in illegal events up and down the country.
“There is a growing concern across the sector that frustration is boiling over and the recent news has been met with anger, many blaming the government for mis management of the situation”, said Kill. “Young people are searching for alternatives to late-night venues, as they struggle to cope with continuing restrictions on their lives due to the pandemic, which is impacting their mental health and social wellbeing
“Thousands of businesses across the night-time economy and events sector remain closed, unable to open and present safe spaces for people to express themselves, while unsafe illegal events continue.”
Steve Heap, general secretary of the Association of Festival Organisers (AFO), said prime minister Boris Johnson’s lockdown announcement didn’t come as a surprise but it means further government support is needed: “The extension of furlough will save a few jobs for a little longer but what do we do on 3 December?
“There is no doubt the outdoor event sector has taken a real bashing through a completely cancelled summer. Now those that have plans for Divali, Bonfire Night and Christmas fairs are back into cancellations again. AFO totally understands the need to get the virus under control and supports the lockdown decision but it has to come with a support package that recognises the self-employed and the small businesses.”
Susan Tanner, CEO of the National Outdoor Events Association (NOEA), added: “The general view of both NOEA and our members is that while the second lock down is not positive news for consumer or business confidence, it could bring some of the benefits that we as an industry have been campaigning for since the first lock down; one financial and one time. The extension of furlough will be welcomed by our members, but it must be administered in a way where it supports the right deserving businesses in events, as has not been the case in the past.
“Too many event businesses, particularly in the supply chain, have been missed out and denied this right. Secondly, we hope that the actions taken by both the government and the UK public will secure a return to normal events in March 2021, when the industry intends to be up and running, as it has promised. Any measures that mean a quicker return to events we are supportive of.”