- 17 Jul 20
Subject to the success of pilots, indoor performances with live audiences are set to return in the UK in just over two weeks.
Boris Johnson's announcement this morning, July 17, that live performances with a socially-distanced audience are to return on August 1 will be widely welcomed by arts workers across the UK. However, Dr Matt Grimes, a Senior Lecturer in Music Industries at Birmingham City University, notes that "the devil is in the detail", and "help may be too late for some venues".
Speaking at a press conference this morning, July 17, the Prime Minister unveiled his roadmap for easing the lockdown over the coming weeks and months – replacing the national lockdown with more targeted lockdowns at local levels.
As part of this plan, Johnson announced that indoor performances with live audiences would return on August 1 – subject to the success of pilots.
While Dr Grimes "welcomes this positive step forward", he has also warned that "the pilot schemes that are under discussion to determine the efficacy of the government’s plans, may have come about too late for saving many live music venues."
“Only in the last 48 hours we have directly seen the direct impact that Covid-19 has had on the live music sector," he continues, "with the permanent closure of two of Manchester’s leading grass root venues, Gorilla and The Deaf Institute, and VMS, the company behind two of Hull’s live music destinations, The Welly and Polar Bear, entering administration.
“This in some respects may serve as a portent of the fate of a number of other live music venues around the country, unless progressive and supportive steps are taken immediately. As yet we are still waiting to find out how many music businesses and small independent venues have benefitted from the support package of £1.57 billion announced in early July, and the impact of the delay in allowing nightclubs to reopen will certainly lead to further closures, job losses and damage to the UK’s electronic music offering.”
Arts workers in Ireland have expressed similar fears. Ahead of the July Stimulus Package, the National Campaign for the Arts in Ireland is calling on the Government to extend the Pandemic Unemployment Payment for the arts and live sector; to extend the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme for the arts and live events sector; and to reduce the arts sector's VAT rate.
Upcoming socially-distanced gigs at the KINO in Cork offer some glimpse of hope for the future. Junior Brother and The Mary Wallopers currently scheduled to headline the venue before the month is out, with a significantly reduced capacity and cabaret-style seating at tables.
Well-organised concerts undoubtedly serve as a safer alternative to the house parties that have been seen across the country in recent weeks. Appearing on Today with Sarah McInerney on RTÉ Radio 1 this morning, Dr Cillian De Gascun, director of the National Virus Reference Laboratory, spoke about one particular house party with a karaoke session, which seems to have caused a cluster of infections. Dr De Gascun said he wasn’t so much worried about the microphone being passed around, as about the singing – which he described as a “nightmare” when it comes to spreading the virus.