Following the Prime Minister’s announcement in the House of Commons today, February 22nd, that major live events cannot return until May 17th and that it will be at least June 21st for shows to resume at full capacity, the events industry has urged the government to support affected businesses and individuals during downtime.
“While it is good to be clear after nearly a year of confusion, as predicted, our £ 4.5 billion industry is at the back of the line to reopen,” said Greg Parmley, CEO of the recently established LIVE organization – a federation of more than a dozen associations in the live music industry, including the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF), the Association of Festival Organizers, the Association of Concert Organizers, the National Arenas Association and the Production Services Association.
“We urgently need to require the government to extend the 5% VAT rate on ticket sales and employment incentives, which will reach those who are disabled due to the restrictions,” continued Parmley. “In order to reopen, the sector needs a government-sponsored insurance system so that shows can take place when it is safe to do so. With venues closed across the UK, expanding business rate relief would be both fair and necessary.”
Paul Reed, CEO of the AIF (pictured), welcomed the Prime Minister’s roadmap and said the organization was optimistic that many of its member festivals could take place in some way later this year but called for more clarity on possible Covid-19 mitigation requirements.
He said: “There are still some urgent points of clarity that need to be made regarding the precise requirements that festival organizers must meet, particularly with regard to testing and Covid certification. We look forward to working closely with the government on the event research program and reiterate that by the end of March we are rapidly approaching the decision threshold for the vast majority of festivals. If by this point the full picture is not in, it will be too late for many to hold events later in the year.
“We also appreciate that this is a best-case scenario and that the government reserves the right to delay the relaxation of lockdown restrictions if data dictates. Festival organizers only want to return if it is safe to do so. However, when the easing of restrictions loses momentum and events are suddenly canceled, it is important that our sector receives swift and targeted government support to compensate for this. In addition, government intervention in insurance and VAT remains critical. “
Dave Keighley, chairman of the Production Services Association, said that while the organization fully understands the government’s risk-averse approach to reopening, it should be aware that the live events industry is characterized by a risk-assessed approach, with the safety of the Participants and staff always have priority: “The real risk Avoiding this requires effective financial support that reaches the entire ecosystem of the events. This is a real support until our sector can return to sustainable levels of activity. This is the only way to ensure that this valuable economic factor is able to play its essential role in the recovery of our country. “
Mark Davyd, CEO of Music Venue Trust, also welcomed the news but said he disapproves of the roadmap highlighting live performance events as a specific risk: “As of March 2020, we have notified the government that this is the case Based on when they interpret the data, it makes sense for the government to treat this specific status with sector-specific financial assistance to mitigate the damage being done to businesses and lives, careers and families across the live music industry.
“With today’s announcements, the budget for next week needs to specify how the government will provide this sectoral support.”
A PDF of the government’s roadmap outside the lockdown can be found here.