Live music industry demands government reopening after pilot event results released

The live music industry is demanding that the UK government reopens live events following the results of a number of recent pilot events.

Earlier today (June 25), it was revealed that just 28 people who attended pilot events researching the impact of large-scale gatherings during the coronavirus pandemic tested positive for the virus.

The new data was released by scientists working for the UK government’s Events Research Programme (ERP), which was commissioned in February to help determine the roadmap out of lockdown restrictions. It comes following initial results first shared last month.

ERP scientists described the findings as “reassuring” but warned the results should be taken with “extreme caution” due to only 15 per cent of participants taking PCR tests after the events.

They said the low uptake of PCR testing before and after the nine different pilot tests in the April-May first phase, which ranged from the FA Cup Final to the BRIT Awards and the World Snooker Championships, meant it was “challenging to determine” the way in which the disease was transmitted. However, scientists pressed on the fact that no substantial outbreaks” were connected to the events.

Responding to the results, Greg Parmley, CEO of LIVE, said: “We are pleased that the government has finally published some of the ERP research but it is incredibly disappointing that it took the live music and the theatre industry launching legal action yesterday to force them to do so.

“We will of course read the report with interest but we are pleased that there were no COVID outbreaks associated with any of the pilots detected, either by testing or by a general increase in community incidence. It is also pleasing to see that the air quality of the indoor events was, in almost all cases, the same or better than being in an office for a short working day.”

Download Pilot
Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes perform during the Download Pilot Festival at Donington Park on June 18, 2021 in Donington, England. Download Pilot is a 10,000 capacity festival part of a UK government test event to examine how COVID-19 transmission takes place in crowds. CREDIT: Katja Ogrin/Getty Images.

Parmley continued: “It is completely unfair that our industry finds itself stuck in seemingly-interminable rounds of research before we can open when no such research is being done for other places, such as restaurants, shops or public transport. With sensible mitigations, including simple Covid-certification, there is no reason why we should not be able to reopen on 19 July.”

Sharing the same sentiment with regards to the country’s July 19 reopening date, which is when all coronavirus restrictions are scheduled to be lifted in England after being pushed back earlier this month, Mark Davyd of the Music Venue Trust said: “As widely leaked, the results of the ERP test events demonstrate that the average live music event, even with thousands of attendees, presented no assessable significant additional risk of infection above that which can be found spending six hours at an average office.

“The tiny number of cases, and almost insignificant number of possible transmissions, was in line with what everyone expected to see at a well managed, professional event. We have 950 grassroots music venues with small capacities ready to run well managed events. Everyone wants to reopen those venues safely. The government mantra is data not dates. The data says we can do this safely on 19 July.”

AIF CEO Paul Reed said that although he welcomed the government finally publishing its findings, the results didn’t tell him anything he didn’t already know.

“Although wide ranging, in many respects the report tells us what we already know: Most significantly, that there were no substantial outbreaks at these events, with 28 cases across nine events and 58,000 attendees,” he said. in a statement. “Additionally, outdoor spaces are generally lower risk than indoor, mitigation measures can reduce and manage risk and audiences will comply with pre-event testing and other measures to attend an event.”

Liverpool - live music
Jayda G performing at the COVID-19 pilot clubbing event in Liverpool. CREDIT: Getty Images.

Reed continued: “Following this positive outcome, what we need now is clear guidance from government on exactly what the expectations are for festivals around testing regimes and other protocols this summer. We are actively engaging with government on this. For festivals who are still planning, it is clearly not a conversation that can wait until 19th July.

“We welcome further festival pilot events as an opportunity for the ERP to scale up and develop the knowledge base around reopening safely but we also simply cannot get stuck in endless rounds of pilots. The objective must be to reopen festivals safely with the right mitigations in place at Step 4.”

Sacha Lord, the Night Time Economy Advisor for Greater Manchester, called for government-backed insurance schemes to be announced following today’s pilot results.

“On the back of today’s report, I again urge to Government to announce Event Indemnity Insurance, in line with many other countries,” Lord tweeted. “You’ve got artists and freelancers who’ve had no income since March 2020. A huge supply chain about to go bust. Time is of the essence. Act now.”

UK Music Chief Executive Jamie Njoku-Goodwin praised the music industry for “working flat out to make gigs, concerts and festivals safe and reduce the risk of Covid transmission at events”.

“It’s welcome that the government has responded to our calls to publish this vital data on the pilot events,” he said. “This is a critical step towards getting the live music industry up and running.

“The music industry has been working flat out to make gigs, concerts and festivals safe and reduce the risk of Covid transmission at events. The Events Research Programme data vindicates the massive efforts and innovations our sector has made to restart the live music industry.”

With the new data showing that events can take place safely, Njoku-Goodwin said the government “must” give the green light for events to go ahead without social distancing from July 19.

“With 60,000 fans expected at Wembley for the Euros, thousands at Wimbledon and a capacity crowd of 140,000 at the Silverstone Grand Prix, it is only right that major live music events are also able to proceed safely,” he said.

“We will continue talking to the government to get as many live events back on stage as possible from the expected July 19 reopening date to deliver a great British summer of music.”

The news follows industry figures criticising the government for failing to publish the full results of more recent COVID event pilots, such as Download Festival and Ascot, or providing festivals with insurance, which would help get live entertainment back on its feet safely.

Festivals including Truck and Kendall Calling announced the cancellation of their July events last week, following the delay to the government’s final exit out of lockdown restrictions, lack of published data and general lack of guidance. A new survey revealed that half of UK festivals have now been cancelled this year.