Music Venue Trust respond to government with alternative “five-step road map” to see live performances return to UK

The five-point plan was unveiled by the culture secretary yesterday

The Music Venue Trust has unveiled their own five step road map plan to help the arts sector rebuild following the coronavirus pandemic, after the government published their own advice this morning.

Billed as a “phased return” to business, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said he wanted to “raise the curtain on live performances” as soon as possible.

During stage one of the government plan, rehearsal and training for performances would be allowed to begin again with social distancing guidelines in place. Stage two would allow performances for broadcast and recording purposes with social distancing. Neither of these stages would allow audiences in attendance.

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Stage 3-5 will see a staggered return to live performances with audiences in attendance, first beginning outdoors, then indoors with distancing. The stages eventually progress with more space and room for performance until stage five, when performances are allowed to return at capacity.

However, the MVT has now criticised the plans as unfeasible and provided their own tips, which you can see below.

  • Step 1: Create the sector support financial package that is immediately required so that any sort of grassroots music venue sector survives to require any more steps at all
  • Step 2: Check if you have completed step 1. If not, keep checking until you have
  • Step 3: Get out of the way of one of the most dynamic and innovative creative industries in the world and let them get on with it
  • Step 4: Continue to receive massive social cultural and economic benefits for decades to come because you got Step 1 right
  • Step 5: Realise this doesn’t need 5 steps, it only needs step 1

A socially distanced gig in Sweden. Credit: Gianluca La Bruna

The MVT said of their plans: “We have consistently told government that what the culture sector needs is the support to enable them to do what they do best. We don’t need guidance on how to organise creative activity and connect with audiences, this is what our venues do professionally. We need the money to survive the crisis and plan our own route back to full use.”

Earlier this week, the government was warned that an immediate cash injection of £50 million is needed to prevent a wave of permanent closures, with over 500 UK music venues signing an open letter calling for funding to “hibernate” them until October.

The stark outlook came from the Music Venue Trust, which launched its #saveourvenues campaign in April. The campaign has raised £2million and saved cultural 140 spaces so far, but the MVT warns that the government must provide the injection to prevent lasting damage to the live sector.

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Despite the unveiling of the five-stage re-opening plan, no mention has been given yet to the financial assistance venues need to stay afloat this summer.

“If they stay closed for three months, [venues] are going to lose £46million,” MVT CEO Davyd explained of their recent studies and surveys. “If they open with measures, they’ll lose about £85million. It doesn’t get much better if they go down to one metre social distancing, as they’ll still lose £52million.”

He continued: “As it stands, 93 percent of these venues are likely to close forever by October 1. It would cripple the music industry of this country for decades and I’ve no idea how we would recover from it. The cost of opening 560 new grassroots venues would be close to a billion pounds. It will never be done, so we’ve got to protect what we’ve already got. It would be incredibly cheap.

“I know £46million sounds like a lot, but it’s the equivalent of the 20 months of public money it costs to run the Royal Opera House, and 43 percent of a single day of the celebrations that the government is planning for The Festival Of Britain. For protecting 750 grassroots music venues for three months, £46million sounds like a bargain. It’s less money than they spend on VAT tickets in a year.”

The MVT’s alternative road map (Picture: MVT)

Davyd’s calls come after the UK government was criticised for “unworkable” advice on reopening the live sector – which included a gap of six metres between fans and musicians.

Announcing the measures today, Dowden said music, theatres and culture in the UK were “the soul of our nation and a lynchpin of our world-beating creative industries.”

He continued: “We know the challenges – theatres must be full to make money, and performers need to be safe on stage as they sing, dance and play instruments.

“But I am determined to ensure the performing arts do not stay closed longer than is absolutely necessary to protect public health.”

“I know the public wants its theatres open, our brilliant performers want to go back to work, and we will do all we can to get them fully back up and running. Our roadmap provides a clear pathway back.”

Earlier this week, Liberal Democrat leadership hopeful Layla Moran also called on Boris Johnson to establish a cultural protection fund to secure the future of music venues threatened by the economic impact of coronavirus.

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