Frank Turner to play UK’s first pilot event for the return of live music

He'll play The Clapham Grand tonight (July 28) for the government-requested show

Frank Turner is to play the UK’s first show to be requested by the government as a pilot for the return of live music.

The punk singer-songwriter will play The Clapham Grand tonight (July 28), with the South London venue operating at less than 20% capacity.

Performing to a crowd of 180 fans, Turner’s show will be used to provide a clear understanding on how indoor UK venues can return to their full functioning capacity in the near future.

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Ally Wolf, manager of The Clapham Grand, said: “Preparing for the first Government pilot for live music is a step in the right direction for the industry but not without its challenges.

“It’s important to say that this pilot is by no means representative of the wider live music venue industry as we are a Variety Hall that provides not only music events, but comedy, bingo, cinema and more.

“We are operating this evening on less than 20% capacity; from 1250 to 200. This paired with vastly increased operational costs to fit with Covid Compliance, without a reduction in any of our fixed overheads, means that we are opening to a loss of revenue, which isn’t sustainable for the future.

“We have a unique opportunity – one that we realise isn’t available to the majority of other music venues – our layout and capacity potentially enables us to reformat our seating and events. We also need to increase our capacity via refurbishing the disused upper circle which would increase seated capacity by 150 people.

“We also need to execute the plans we had drawn up for a roof garden to create the vital outside space the venue needs, but more than anything improve our accessibility for all our customers.

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“This isn’t just about surviving our enforced Covid closure, or about reopening for one show, one week or even a month. This is about future proofing one of the world oldest entertainment venues, to make sure in it’s 120th year The Clapham Grand is made secure for audiences to enjoy shows for centuries to come.”

Turner added: “Ever since lockdown put a stop to live performances, like most people I’ve been waiting for that glorious day when we’d get back to a ‘normal’ gig again. Today is not that day – we’re facing a serious and unprecedented global pandemic.

“But both I and my friends at the Clapham Grand are keen to work with the government to work out how we get closer to that moment, so, at their request, we’re putting together a pilot show to see how live music can move forward. This will be an unusual, experimental and unique evening, and there will be many regulations to follow, but it feels like it’s a small step in the right direction for me and my industry.”

The show comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson signalled the return of some “socially distanced” live music events this August in a new press conference.

Under the proposed plans, from August 1, socially distanced audiences are able to return for indoor performances in theatres, music halls and other venues.

From October, Johnson said “audiences in stadia”, conferences and other events would also be able to restart, subject to successful pilots around the UK.

The announcement comes after it was confirmed last week that the first portion of the government’s £1.57 billion fund to protect the UK’s arts and cultural industries will be used to save grassroots music venues from closing their doors.

In a statement, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden confirmed that £2.25 million of emergency funding will be used to secure the futures of up to 150 venues across the country.

The support package will be administered by Arts Council England (ACE) and will specifically target venues identified by the Music Venue Trust to be at severe risk of closure.

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