So, the government has said live music can return with no restrictions on 19 July?

6 July 2021, 14:02

Live music to return with no restrictions on 19 July
Live music to return with no restrictions on 19 July. Picture: Getty

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

Yes – face masks will now be voluntary, and social distancing rules will be dropped at music concerts and theatre shows. But industry figures are urging that insurance and clear guidance are needed.

Concert halls, theatres and opera houses in England will soon open up to full capacity audiences, as most remaining COVID-19 restrictions are set to be lifted.

From 19 July, face masks will be voluntary, social distancing rules will be no more, and the requirement to scan a QR code when entering a venue will be abolished.

Since Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed the details yesterday (5 July), leading music industry figures have been welcoming the news, after over a year of restrictions and losses for the sector.

However, many are also urging that insurance, and clear guidance for concert hall safety, remain the “key obstacle[s] to planning with confidence”.

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‘We are missing one piece of the puzzle – insurance’

The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra’s (RPO) managing director, James Williams, said that while the announcement sends a message of hope, “the government has failed to provide the performing arts with a sustainable operational roadmap that will ensure the economic viability of performances and the safety of venues, artists and audiences”.

Williams added: “There is an important task to be done rebuilding public confidence and providing the necessary reassurance that returning to the concert hall and the enjoyment of live performances can be done safely.”

Phil Bowdery, chairman of Concert Promoters Association, which has promoted the live music industry’s needs during the Covid shutdown, said: “I am delighted that the government has made the right choice today, letting the much-loved live music sector get back to doing what it does best.

“While we absolutely cannot wait to safely welcome back our fans, we are missing one piece of the puzzle – insurance. We need a government backed scheme to provide the security needed to start investing in events over the coming months, shoring up our industry and stimulating the wider economy as we build back following the pandemic.”

Jamie Njoku-Goodwin, chief executive of UK Music, echoed calls for an insurance scheme.

He tweeted: “Suggestions of restrictions being reintroduced in autumn/winter mean organisers won’t have confidence to plan events beyond summer. So it’s vital we get a gvt-backed insurance scheme to enable organisers to plan ahead without risk of financial ruin if restrictions reimposed.

“The insurance scheme Government introduced for the film and TV industry has been hugely successful and has saved countless jobs and businesses – we now need the same for the live events sector, otherwise we risk losing some festivals and music events forever.”

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‘The transition must be sustainable’

Andrew Lloyd Webber said he is “thrilled” he can now open his venues at full capacity. He added that he is running a ‘Freedom Day’ performance of Cinderella on 19 July, as well as a charity gala showing the day after, with proceeds going to St John Ambulance and the NHS.

In June, Andrew Lloyd Webber launched legal action to force the government to publish the results of its Covid pilot events, which would inform future safety measures and restrictions for the performing arts sector.

RPO’s Williams has also urged ministers to share the data, to help rebuild public confidence. “This requires from government a robust roadmap that sets out a transition from socially distanced concerts to full-capacity events based on clear criteria, risk management protocols and meaningful, shared data from the Events Research Programme,” he said.

“Economically, venues and ensembles need full-capacity concerts, but the transition must be operationally and economically sustainable; the return to another lockdown in the autumn would be catastrophic for the sector.”

Mark Davyd, CEO of Music Venue Trust, added: “This announcement is hugely important and provides the opportunity to revive live music. It does not, however, change the central mission or the importance of the word ‘safely’.

“We are re-energising our efforts to work with our fantastic network of grassroots music venues to ensure that what each of them delivers to the public meets the highest standards of covid security and safety within the new guidelines.”