Has the events industry forgotten that it can host events before June 21? Jason Lunn, venue director at East of England Arena and Events Centre (EEAEC), urges everyone to remember that events are firmly on the menu…

In late February, the Prime Minister announced a four-step plan, gradually rolling back COVID restrictions and, subject to conditions, ending with a complete lifting of restrictions on June 21, 2021. Within the event industry, I have noticed that June 21 is being widely trumpeted as the “go date” for events.

But, reading comments and posts online and even looking at the press, you might be under the impression that there won’t be any events until then, and that venues are laying silent and still until late June. That simply could not be further from the truth.

It’s true that there won’t be any large-scale events filling the vast exhibition halls of London before June 21, but the four-step plan allows for a gradual return to events much earlier than that. The danger is that by widely advertising June 21 as the big “go date”, the event industry will draw attention and credibility away from the events scheduled to run long before June. And that matters, especially to regional economies.

After May 17, assuming the Government’s timetable continues to hold, we expect to be holding events indoors and out, under COVID-safe regulations and with capped visitor numbers. We’re planning to welcome more than 10,000 people, over two days, for the Peterborough Festival of Antiques on May 21. By the time the June 21 “go date” comes around, we will have been running events for more than two months.

If there is a wider perception that the Government has mandated June 21 as the day events can restart, confidence in these earlier events could be damaged – and whilst the financial effects of confidence drops are difficult to quantify, it’s impossible to argue that they have a positive effect. After a year of lockdowns, jumping straight back into a full timetable of events is fraught with difficulties. Our efforts to build back audience confidence and re-establish our supply chains have already begun.
So let’s shout about the phased return to events that is happening right now, especially in “the regions”. Our regional economies benefit from smaller regional events just as the country does on a national scale, so it’s vitally important not to give the impression that events are off the menu until June. They’re not.