Isle Of Wight Festival boss launches plan for live crew and music venues to help mass roll-out of coronavirus vaccine

"Live Aid happened in three weeks. Everything is possible if you’ve got the will to win"

Isle Of Wight Festival boss John Giddings has told NME about his plan for live crew workers and music venues to come together for a mass roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Giddings, who also works as a promoter and music agent, made his suggestion on Twitter last night (January 5), urging the UK Government to make the most of the skills of the thousands of event and live crew unable to work at present, as well as the countless music venues unable to open their doors due to coronavirus restrictions.

“Dear Boris Johnson,” he wrote. “We are the music business – we have thousands of skilled people capable of running events and empty theatres/clubs/arena. Give us the vaccines and we will work 24 hours a day to sort it?”

Speaking to NME today (January 6), Giddings explained how he thought that the idea was a no-brainer and that he had grown tired of inaction.

“I was lying in bed last night thinking: ‘Fuck all of this for a game of soldiers – why don’t I do something as opposed to waiting for people to tell me what to do?’ I sent out a tweet saying that I’ve got thousands of people who know what they’re doing and hundreds of empty venues and it’s created a snowstorm,” he told NME.

With festival season 2020 completely wiped out by the virus, yesterday saw a government select committee being told that this summer’s festivals could be cancelled as soon as this month without government support and assurances regarding insurance, funding, the vaccine and mass-testing.

Giddings said that he was “very confident” that festival cancellations would be avoidable with more proactive cooperation.

“We’re all sitting here moving tours left, right and centre, employing people for a year without any income, and everything I’m reading gives me less and less confidence in this vaccine being rolled out in time to make things happen,” he told NME. “It’s a very selfish thing – I want to make the Isle Of Wight Festival happen. The only way it will happen is if we get enough people vaccinated and we’re capable of doing a test very quickly.”

Isle of Wight Festival 2019
Isle of Wight Festival 2019

He continued: “In December, you could test a Dover truck driver and get a result in 20 minutes. Please tell me that in six months’ time it must be able to be quicker. If it’s not, we should all give up and go home. The scientists have done a brilliant job, but we need to utilise. I can’t stand this bureaucracy, we need to roll it out and make it happen.”

Echoing that the events industry had the necessary skills to help with the roll-out of the vaccine, the festival boss said that the government casting a wider net for help was essential to defeating the “invisible enemy” of coronavirus.

“We’re in the music business: we don’t work nine to five, it’s 25 hours a day,” he argued. “All these people know what they’re doing, they’ve worked with large crowds in venues hundreds of times before. With all due respect to the British Army, they don’t know the inside track on The O2 or Hammersmith Apollo. I don’t want to vaccinate people, I just want to set it up for people to be vaccinated easily over a 24-hour period. Why can’t we do that?”

He added: “Live Aid happened in three weeks. Everything is possible if you’ve got the will to win. It’s about doing a job, doing it properly and quickly, and in the live music business we need to make things happen within a short period of time. We can’t make excuses. The people I employ know how to do this. I’m just fighting to help this happen.”

Asked if he’d be taking his plan to any higher powers in government, Giddings replied: “I’ve already had a call. I can’t go into details. Getting a call and something happening are two different things, but I’ve had interest already. We are at war with an invisible enemy. Why doesn’t anyone take it more seriously?”

Responding the Giddings’ idea, a government spokesperson said: “We are hugely grateful for all offers of support and assistance as we continue to expand our vaccination programme – the biggest vaccination programme in this country’s history.
“This is a huge national effort and the NHS is putting into practice the decades of experience it has spent delivering large scale vaccination programmes, and it has already vaccinated over 1.3million people nationwide.”
A number of venues and industry figures have since taken to Twitter to share their support, including London’s G-A-Y club, who have experience in working with the NHS.

UK Music shared a new report, Let the Music Play: Save Our Summer 2021, yesterday outlining their recommendations for how to restart the UK’s live music industry once it is safe to do so with government support.

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