The UK government has promised that a further £300million in funding will be announced “soon” to help the live music and nightlife sector avoid “catastrophe” after the easing of coronavirus restrictions was delayed.
Last night (Monday June 14), Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the “Freedom Day” re-opening date of June 21 was to be delayed with just one week’s notice. The complete lifting of COVID-19 restrictions is now set for July 19, to allow for the government to amp up vaccinations of key adult groups and young people in order to be in a position to reopen safely while tackling new variants of the disease.
However, this leaves England’s grassroots music venues with the cancellation of over 4,000 gigs in the coming weeks and a combined loss of £36million – having a further catastrophic impact for staff, crew, artists and the club bosses unable to pay rent. Elsewhere, night club industry bosses are also warning of mass evictions without urgent funding and clarity.
Now in response to NME, the government have revealed plans to share the final £300million of the Cultural Recovery Fund – which previously provided music and arts businesses and bodies with £1.57billion of support.
“We understand a delay to full reopening is challenging for live events, and we will be helping our creative industries through it,” a DCMS spokesperson told NME. “We have made £2 billion available through the biggest arts funding package in history and the final funding round of £300million will be announced shortly. Clubs and venues have also benefited from restart grants worth £18,000 each, and there’s nearly £1 billion available in further discretionary grants local authorities still have to pay out.
“The furlough scheme and VAT cut is in place until September and eligible businesses will also continue to benefit from business rates relief of 75 per cent over the year.”
Many venues are still yet to receive their Arts Council funding from the last round. The NME has asked the government for a response on how they intend to tackle this.
With regards to concerns such as the urgent need for festival insurance, a government spokesperson told NME that they were aware of the concerns about indemnity cover for live events once they are safe to open and are exploring what further support may be required.
However, analysis from the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) suggests that, with the easing of restrictions pushed back to July 19, 93 per cent of remaining UK festivals over 5,000-capacity could still potentially go ahead this summer – but not without insurance. Most costs for a festival are incurred a month before the event, and the average cost of staging a festival is over £6million.
AIF CEO Paul Reed said: “For those festival organisers that still have a chance of staging events after July 19, that support is government-backed insurance, which will give them the confidence to continue planning and commit the significant costs that entails. Ultimately, it is a political choice if the government does not support the sector with insurance at this stage, pushing festival businesses towards another cliff edge.”
He continued: “We also must not forget those festivals that have already been forced to cancel or will do so as a result of the delay – they will need a swift and comprehensive financial package to help them survive until the 2022 sales cycle.
“AIF and its industry partners remain ready and willing to work with the government on the details of a support package that will save British businesses.”
This comes as Latitude Festival 2021 have said that they have “not lost hope” of going ahead, despite being scheduled for just a few days after the July 19 reopening date.
The Music Venue Trust meanwhile, has called upon the government to “immediately” announce how that funding will be distributed, “ensuring that it is done so swiftly and without the delays and bureaucracy that has beset previous rounds of this fund”.
“The decision to continue to limit cultural activities as a specific and extraordinary measure which, it is stated, will contain the spread of the Delta variant stands in stark contrast to how the government is approaching restrictions and containment overall,” an MVT spokesperson said.
They also noted their frustration at live music events still being withheld, despite successful pilot events such as the Liverpool Sefton Park gig headlined by Blossoms.
“Mass gatherings of people, both indoors and outdoors, are already taking place,” they continued. “Singing, dancing, close contact, mask free events took place right across England [over the weekend]. The government’s position that such activities present a unique and special danger if a live band are playing is neither believable nor supported by the science. If the risk is behavioural, the government should explain how the same behaviours in different events can be either restricted or not restricted based on a government decision, and how such a decision is supported by the science.
“We note that live music events were a unique focus of the government funded and led Events Research Programme. The evidence from the test events that took place during it have not been released. The government should immediately release that data and demonstrate how these test events indicated that live music is a unique contributing factor to the spread of the virus which cannot be managed in any other way than to effectively ban it. If, as we believe, the data does not provide that causality link, the government must explain on what basis it is making decisions on restrictions of live music.”
They added: “The continued restrictions to culture are a serious blow to the grassroots music venue sector, with potential damage to hundreds of businesses, thousands of staff and tens of thousands of workers. The government should immediately recognise the risk of serious harm being done to people’s lives, business, jobs and livelihoods and respond with swift, decisive action. The clock is ticking. Don’t fail now.”