British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Friday that indoor concerts will not return to England as early as anticipated. Indoor events, including movies and museum openings, were scheduled to return beginning on August 1st.
This delay comes barely two weeks after Johnson announced that socially distanced, indoor events could resume on August 1st. That decision has now apparently been overturned by the U.K.’s Chief Medical Officer, Chris Witty, who warned that England has “reached the limits of opening up society.”
In a press conference on Downing Street on Friday, Johnson stated that the return of indoor events will be pushed back at least two weeks. This comes in addition to the extension of face mask requirements past the previously-announced August 8th. Therefore, whenever indoor leisure businesses do reopen, attendees will be required to wear face masks, and police will supposedly enforce the requirement more stringently.
“So what that means, potentially, is if we wish to do more things in the future, we may have to do less of some other things,” Witty said. “And these will be difficult trade-offs, some of which will be decisions of government and some of which are for all of us, as citizens, to do.”
Britain’s leading venue-advocacy organization, the Music Venue Trust (MVT), issued a statement in response stating disappointment, but not surprise. A test concert earlier this week featuring Frank Turner at London’s The Clapham Grand was deemed “not a success” financially by the venue’s manager. Rather than lobbying to reopen as quickly as possible which, given the extensive social distancing measures introduced by the government would not be economically viable, the MVT is instead pushing for further government assistance to independent venues.
“Since May 2020, Music Venue Trust has repeatedly informed the government that live music events in grassroots music venues would be extraordinarily difficult to stage, not economically viable, and at risk of being cancelled at short notice during the current pandemic,” the organization said in a statement.
In fact, the MVT has lobbied that indoor venues not reopen until at least October 1st, or such a time when they can get more than 20 percent capacity in the door.
“A number of venues across the country have attempted to stage such events based on advice from the government, incurring substantial costs to make their venues safe,” the MVT said. “That expenditure now adds to the growing mountain of debts accrued by those venues working within the government guidelines.”
Last month, the U.K. government approved a £1.57 billion rescue package for the arts. The first £2.25 million is earmarked for independent music venues, which will benefit up to 150 businesses with loans of up to £80,000 distributed over the next few months.