Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has confirmed that Step 4 of the Reopening Roadmap will be delayed by four weeks. Now, events will not be able to operate with full capacity until July 19 at the earliest.
Addressing the nation in a press conference this evening (June 14), Johnson said that concerns over the Delta variant meant that lockdown restrictions could not be lifted fully.
By July 19, it is hoped that two-thirds of the adult population will have received both doses of the vaccination.
Johnson confirmed that weddings can go ahead. He said: “Weddings can still go ahead with more than 30 guests provided social distancing remains in place and the same will apply to wakes. And we will continue the pilot events – such as Euro 2020 and some theatrical performances. We will monitor the position every day and if after two weeks we have concluded that the risk has diminished then we reserve the possibility of proceeding to Step 4 and full opening sooner.”
Currently, organisers in England can hold events under Step 3 guidance. Indoor events can take place in England with 1,000 people or 50 per cent of a venue’s capacity, whichever is lower. Outdoor venues can accommodate 4,000 or 50 per cent of a venue’s capacity, whichever is lower.
Research by LIVE, released earlier this week, shows that a four-week delay to the Government’s reopening roadmap would cost the live music sector more than £500 million, with the summer festival season at risk of total collapse.
The events industry has been quick to react to the news.
The Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) is calling for urgent intervention from Government for festivals following the announcement of a four-week delay to Step 4 of the reopening roadmap.
As things stand, more than a third of this year’s festivals have already been cancelled due to the pandemic and the uncertain environment created by the Government’s refusal to back an insurance scheme for the sector.
AIF analysis suggests that, with the four-week delay of Step 4 to July 19 in place, 93 per cent of remaining UK festivals more than 5,000-capacity could still potentially go ahead this summer – but not without insurance.
Paul Reed, CEO of AIF, said: “The AIF fully understands the rationale for delaying Step 4 of the lockdown roadmap. However, any measures that prevent festivals from operating fully have to be counterbalanced with effective support to ensure businesses can survive.
“For those festival organisers that still have a chance of staging events after July 19, that support is Government-backed insurance, which will give them the confidence to continue planning and commit the significant costs that entails. Ultimately, it is a political choice if Government does not support the sector with insurance at this stage, pushing festival businesses towards another cliff edge.
“We also must not forget those festivals that have already been forced to cancel or will do so as a result of the delay – they will need a swift and comprehensive financial package to help them survive until the 2022 sales cycle.
“AIF and its industry partners remain ready and willing to work with the Government on the details of a support package that will save British businesses.”
Steve Heap, general secretary of the Association of Festival Organisers, said: “Waiting a further four weeks will see off a considerable number of small and medium festivals. Whilst understanding the need for care and caution, I really do not see how major football, larger pubs, tennis and other sporting events are seen as safe when as of today a festival of only a few thousands is not. Musicians, technical staff, organisers and supply companies will now have to struggle through another month with little or no support and then be expected to pop back into full-time work as though nothing had happened. More jobs will be lost, skilled staff will have to find work elsewhere and our festival industry is going to take some years to recover.”
Andy Lenthall, general manager, Production Services Association, said: “The live events sector has worked tirelessly with Government to create guidance and run self-funded test events to ensure a safe return to full opening, there has been no data that shows a well organised event is more dangerous than going to a supermarket, a cricket match or singing in the enclosed concourse at Wembley Stadium. It is abundantly clear that current increases in cases are not connected with live events, yet this sector is being harmed further by the delayed return to activity.
“Our members, the suppliers to well organised, professional live events, have once again been left without any indication of how they will be supported whilst the sectors they serve are shuttered by Government.”
The National Outdoor Events Association (NOEA) has heavily criticised the Government for delaying its June 21 lockdown easing date, and the continued enforced closure of major parts of the UK’s outdoor events industry.
“To date, the Government has provided no evidence of the detrimental effects large-scale events have had on the spread of COVID, including its own test events which took place last month,” comments Tom Clements, president of NOEA. “However, despite this lack of evidence, the events industry will now have to wait a further four weeks, within its critical summer season, for some, effectively writing off the remainder of 2021’s events programme.”
Clements continued: “We’re heavily critical of this decision from the Government, which has now put another nail in the coffin of the UK events industry. Many of these businesses are now looking at two and a half years without income, with eye watering levels of Government backed debt; that is too much for any company. They could well close, leaving a dangerous gap in the long-term skill base, quality and integrity of our industry.
“This is a highly responsible industry, well-regulated and committed to audience safety first on every occasion. We should be in control of whether or not events happen, not a politicised Government. In effect, we’ve been left with no structure of support, no specific financial help for businesses, and are an industry being kicked into the cold despite a complete lack of evidence.”
Melvin Benn, managing director of Festival Republic, organiser of Latitude, has already made a statement regarding the Suffolk festival that is set to take place from July 22-25.
In it, he said: “We’ve been eagerly awaiting the Prime Minister’s statement as much as anyone, and, whilst the lifting of the final restrictions is delayed, we don’t think it means the end of our hopes for Latitude this year.
“We’re going to spend the next few days looking at the information and speaking to the relevant Government departments to work out what it means for the festival. Rest assured, as soon as we know for definite if we can or can’t go ahead, we will tell you. We expect that will be by the end of this week.
“Our first priority is always the safety of our festivalgoers, the staff and the artists. We’ll be working with local and national authorities and will ensure that if we aren’t able to go ahead by the end of this week, all ticketholders will be able to roll over their tickets to 2022 or be able to claim a refund.”
Black Deer Festival, which was set to take place at Eridge Park, Kent, from June 25-27, has confirmed that it will no longer take place this month. The festival’s organiser has opted to delay the festival to 2022.
The organiser of Noisily Festival has also issued a statement, having taken the decision to roll the event over to 2022.