The live music and theatre industries have today, 24 June, launched legal action against the Government to force the publication of the Events Research Programme (ERP) data.

Among those leading the legal action are live music industry body LIVE and a range of theatre businesses, including Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group, Cameron Mackintosh, Michael Harrison and Sonia Friedman.

The legal proceedings against the Government have been taken with the intention of forcing it to hand over the report of Phase 1 of the Events Research Programme (ERP).

The music industry and theatre businesses have repeatedly called on the Government to outline the scientific basis for its decision to maintain restrictions on events.

Despite portions of the ERP economic impact assessment being leaked to the media this week, the Government refused calls from many MPs in a debate on 22 June to release the report in full.

The live entertainment sector has spent the last few months participating in, and paying for, full capacity pilot events as part of the ERP – including The BRIT Awards at The O2 arena, an outdoor festival event in Liverpool for 5,000 people, a snooker tournament at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield and the Download festival for 10,000 people last weekend.

These events have been a huge success, according to the Government itself in various press reports, showing that with proper precautions in place, live events at full capacity can go ahead safely.

But the Government chose to keep the live entertainment industry under severe restrictions from 21 June, while allowing parts of the economy that have not been subject to similar scientific studies, including hospitality, public transport and retail, to operate. The Government has also refused to publish the results from the first phase of the Events Research Programme, despite saying that it would do so on numerous occasions.

As well as declining to publish the ERP results, the Government is yet to provide any form of insurance scheme for the sector or to make it clear what kind of ongoing mitigations may be required in the future – effectively making it impossible to plan for any live entertainment business.

Industry research indicates that the potential four-week delay to reopening will lead to around 5,000 live music gigs being cancelled, as well as numerous theatre productions across the country, costing hundreds of millions of pounds in lost income.

Live entertainment and theatre generate £11.25bn in Gross Value Added each year and the sectors support just under one million jobs between them.

In the legal action, lodged today, the parties assert that the Government has “flagrantly breached the ‘duty of candour’ which requires it to be transparent when faced with a legal challenge and that none of the reasons given for withholding the ERP material, they seek withstand scrutiny”. They have asked the Court to consider their application at an urgent hearing as soon as possible.

LIVE said that as well as forming the basis for a reopening decision for 19 July, the ERP findings would also provide a path to ensuring that live entertainment does not need to be the first to close should there be a Covid resurgence over the winter. It said Covid certification, plus simple mitigation measures in venues, mean that events can be run safely.

Those behind the legal action issued a list of other key requirements they are pushing Government to take action on in order for the theatre and live music sectors to be able to plan for a reopening from 19 July:

  1. Insurance – the live entertainment industry has been pleading with the Government for more than 9 months to help address the market failure in the provision of commercial Covid cancellation cover. The Government was willing to do this for the film and TV industry but will not step in in the same way for music, theatre and events. Without it, the risk of running activity is too high for many to be able to go forward.
  2. Quarantine – the tiny number of productions that are running at reduced capacity, or are in rehearsals, are dropping daily as they are forced to close after a single positive test, even when everyone else in a cast tests negative. The Government has said that it is considering moving to a ‘daily testing’ regime, such as that undertaken recently by Michael Gove, but live entertainment needs it now.
  3. Guidance – the live entertainment industry has been told that there will be new Stage 4 live events guidance. But people are cancelling events due to take place post 19 July because they do not know what the on-going restrictions or requirements are going to be. Guidance should be made available now.

Stuart Galbraith, music promoter and co-Founder of LIVE said, “The live music industry has been very willing to work with Government for the last year to show that our industry can operate safely. But it is intolerable that after running pilot shows for the Government’s Events Research Programme, at our own cost, we have been blocked from seeing the results, leaving the whole sector in limbo with the real chance that the entire summer could collapse for the second year running.

“Even now, the live music sector has no idea what the rest of the summer brings, and we are left with a complete inability to plan ahead due to the Government’s continued unwillingness to provide some form of insurance to enable events to move forward.”