Following the prime minister’s announcement in the House of Commons today, 22 February, that major live events will not be able to return until 17 May, and it will be at least 21 June before full capacity shows can resume, the events industry has called on the Government to support impacted businesses and individuals during the downtime.
“While it is good to get some clarity following almost a year of confusion, as predicted our £4.5 billion industry is at the back of the queue to reopen,” said Greg Parmley, CEO of the recently launched LIVE organisation – a federation of more than a dozen live music industry associations including the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF), Association of Festival Organisers, Concert Promoters Association, National Arenas Association and Production Services Association.
“We need the Government to commit urgently to an extension of the 5% VAT rate on ticket sales and employment support that reaches all those unable to work due to the restrictions,” continued Parmley. “To reopen, the sector needs a Government-backed insurance scheme to allow shows to go ahead when it’s safe to do so, and with venues shuttered across the UK, an extension of business rates relief would be both fair and necessary.”
National Outdoor Events Association president Tom Clements said the 21 June date was not soon enough for many of the organisation’s members: “June is a key month for the events industry, and those organising events before then will have to wait another year for much needed income. Equally, there is still a lack of clarity around social distancing, mask wearing and the results of the Event Research Programme, which will have an affect on the industry’s confidence in planning meetings.
“We’re also sceptical about the lack of notice if any of these dates are to shift, ours is not an industry that can shift quickly and this will mean many events will be more cautious in their planning. This means at best, we could be operating at 50% of our usual capacities.”
UK Music CEO Jamie Njoku-Goodwin said it was great that ministers had listened to the events industry and set out a clear route to reopening festivals and venues but it remains vital the industry receives continued economic support.
He said, “The prospect of there being no legal impediments to live music events means issues like insurance are now even more pressing. They now present one of the final barriers to getting events going this summer.
“The industry has worked tirelessly with the Government to explore testing, better ventilation and many other innovative solutions to help lift the pause button, which has crippled our industry for the past year.
“We will now continue to work with the Government on pilot schemes to ensure a safe, consistent and successful approach to getting live music back in our communities as soon as possible.”
“While the astounding success of the vaccine rollout means the end of the health emergency is in sight, the economic toll of this pandemic will be with us for a long time to come – making dynamic growth industries like the UK music industry more important than ever.
“The music industry can play a key role in the post-pandemic economic and social recovery, and live music events could be the shot in the arm that Britain needs as we look to bounce back from this pandemic.”
AIF CEO Paul Reed (pictured) welcomed the prime minister’s roadmap out of lockdown and said the organisation is optimistic that many of its member festivals may be able to go ahead in some capacity later on this year, but he called for increased clarity around possible Covid-19 mitigation requirements.
He said, “There are still some urgent points of clarity that need to be made around the exact requirements that festival organisers will need to meet, in particular around testing and covid certification. We look forward to engaging closely with Government on the Events Research Programme and again stress that we are rapidly approaching the decision cut-off point for the vast majority of festivals at the end of March. If a complete picture is not given by this time, it will be too late for many to stage events later in the year.
“We also appreciate that this is a best case scenario and that the Government reserves the right to delay the easing of lockdown restrictions if the data dictates. Festival organisers only want to return when it is safe to do so but, if the easing of restrictions does lose momentum and events are suddenly cancelled as a result, it is vital that our sector receives swift and targeted Government support to compensate. In addition, Government intervention on insurance and VAT remain critical.”
Production Services Association chair Dave Keighley said that while the organisation fully understands the Government’s risk averse approach to reopening, it should be aware that the live events industry excels in a risk assessed approach, with the safety of attendees and workers always prioritised: “The real risk that suppliers to events face is collapse, to avoid this will require effective financial support that reaches the whole events ecosystem, real support until our sector is allowed to return to viable levels of activity. This is the only way to ensure this valuable economic contributor is in a position to play its essential part in our country’s recovery.”
Events Industry Forum secretary Jim Winship said the roadmap was welcome news and it enables the outdoor event industry the opportunity to start planning with some confidence, however he reiterated the call for continued support: “Unfortunately, we have lost a number of businesses through the pandemic and others are on the verge of going under unless they get some support over the next three months.
“We hope that the chancellor will address this in the forthcoming budget and also agree to the Government underwriting pandemic insurance which the commercial insurance sector is refusing to do.”
Music Venue Trust CEO Mark Davyd also welcomed the news but said he objected to the roadmap singling out live performance events as being a specific risk: “Since March 2020, we have made the case to the government that if this is the case, based on their interpretation of the data, then it is logical that the government will choose to address that specific status with sector specific financial support to mitigate the damage being done to businesses and people’s lives, careers and families right across the live music industry.
“In light of today’s announcements, the budget next week must clearly lay out exactly how the government is going to provide that sector specific support.”
A PDF of the Government’s roadmap out of lockdown is available here.