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Music Venue Trust calls on UK government to provide urgent financial support after live music reopening delayed four weeks

Music crowd
(Image credit: Christie Goodwin/Redferns via Getty Images)

The Music Venue Trust (MVT) has called on the UK government to provide urgent funding to support venues and employees affected by the four-week extension to Covid-19 restrictions.

The industry had been working towards reopening on 21 June, when all restrictions were scheduled to be lifted, before the government responded to a surge in Covid cases by pushing the date for full reopening back to 19 July. 

The MVT, which is a charitable body supporting UK grassroots music venues, called for immediate action, arguing that the delay would cost the sector £36 million, with the cancellation of 4000 shows affecting "tens of thousands" of people employed in the live music sector.

It said the government must provide detailed information on how the £300 million available through round three of the Cultural Recovery Fund will be distributed, criticising the government for delays and bureaucracy with previous rounds of funding. Furthermore, the MVT said the government was treating live music as a special case, leaving restrictions in place while live sports returns. 

“Mass gatherings of people, both indoors and outdoors, are already taking place,“ said an MVT statement. “Singing, dancing, close contact, mask free events took place right across England yesterday. The government’s position that such activities present a unique and special danger if a live band are playing is neither believable nor supported by the science.“

The MVT also called on the government to release the data from test events that took place as part of the Events Research Programme. The initiative was established to assess the risk of people attending a variety of different events, monitoring how testing and other non-pharmaceutical measures such as social distancing would allow such events to operate without considerable risk of spreading the virus. The Events Research Programme starting running pilot events across in April and May.

Singing, dancing, close contact, mask free events took place right across England yesterday. The government’s position that such activities present a unique and special danger if a live band are playing is neither believable nor supported by the science

Music Venue Trust

“The government should immediately release that data and demonstrate how these test events indicated that live music is a unique contributing factor to the spread of the virus which cannot be managed in any other way than to effectively ban it,“ said the MVT. “If, as we believe, the data does not provide that causality link, the government must explain on what basis it is making decisions on restrictions of live music.“

On 25 May, the culture secretary Oliver Dowden told the Evening Standard that the pilot events, which included the Brit Awards and FA Cup final, had been a success, with 58,000 people taking part and only 15 reported cases of Covid-19. This, however, was on 25 May, shortly before the more infectious Delta variant become the dominant strain in the UK.

When announcing the four-week extension to restrictions on Monday 14 June, the prime minister Boris Johnson said that the extra time would allow the vaccination programme to have offered two doses to two-thirds of the adult population. 

You can read the full statement from the Music Venue Trust here.