Indoor Performances Back on the Cards in England?

The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson today announced that indoor performances with socially distanced audiences can take place in England from the beginning of August.

According to Mr Johnson, the Government is working with the sector on pilots of performances.

However, the Music Venue Trust, has published the following statement:

UK Government has announced that from 1 August live music events will be permissible in Grassroots Music Venues if they observe social distancing, and that pilot projects will take place prior to this date to test the conditions for such performances.

The government has been in talks with various organisations, including Music Venue Trust, within the live music sector with regards to pilot events being held. However, we have not received confirmation that any of these events have been authorised to take place in Grassroots Music Venues as yet so would question whether August 1st is a realistic date for those pilot events to have taken place and to have informed the final guidance for venues.

It should be noted that we have already provided evidence to the government that staging live events with any level of social distancing measures would not be financially viable for the majority of Grassroots Music Venues. If such socially distanced events are to be part of the progress towards normality within the sector from 1 August, significant subsidies will be required if this measure is to have any noticeable impact upon the number of shows actually taking place. We would also note that events at Grassroots Music Venue level typically take between 6 weeks and 6 months to arrange, and that a notice period of two weeks is another enormous challenge to the objective of bringing back live music safely.

Music Venue Trust

And in a similar vein, Jon Morgam, director of the Theatres Trust is reported as saying:

…for most theatres it will not be economically viable to reopen with 30-40% audience required under social distancing.

Theatres need to progress to being allowed to open fully with the appropriate safety measures. Without this most theatres cannot reopen viably and we need the go-ahead for Christmas shows, on which the survival of many theatres depends, in the next few weeks at the very latest.

Whilst choreographer Sir Matthew Bourne has tweeted:

The relaxing of the rules on outdoor performances has seen a trickle of live gigs taking place in pub gardens (you can find our list here) but there is a world of difference between a solo performer in a beer garden and an orchestra in a theatre pit in a darkened auditorium.

As ever we will monitor the industry’s reaction to this latest announcement. Sadly it is too late for some venues with yesterday’s announcement that The Deaf Institute and Gorilla in Manchester are to close for good. Meanwhile in Hull, The Welly and The Polar Bear, two of the town’s key music venues have gone into administration.