Today the live music industry body, LIVE and a range of theatre businesses including Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group, Cameron Mackintosh, Michael Harrison and Sonia Friedman, have commenced legal proceedings against the Government to force it to hand over the report of Phase 1 of the Events Research Programme (ERP).
The ERP is the Government’s research into Covid-19 mitigations in sport, entertainment and business conferences settings. The music industry and theatre businesses have repeatedly called on the Government to outline the scientific basis for its decision to maintain restrictions on events.
Despite portions of the ERP economic impact assessment being leaked to the media this week, the Government refused calls from many MPs in a debate on Tuesday 22 June to release the report in full.
The live entertainment sector has spent the last few months participating in, and paying for, full capacity pilot events as part of the ERP – including The BRIT Awards at The O2 arena, an outdoor festival event in Liverpool for 5,000 people, a snooker tournament at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield and the Download festival for 10,000 people last weekend.
These events have been considered to be a success, according to the government itself in various press reports, showing that with proper precautions in place, live events at full capacity can go ahead safely.
However the aforementioned theatre and live music industry bodies point out that the Government chose to keep the live entertainment industry under severe restrictions from 21 June, while allowing parts of the economy that have not been subject to similar scientific studies, including hospitality, public transport and retail, to operate.
They also point out that the Government has also refused to publish the results from the first phase of the Events Research Programme, despite saying that it would do so on numerous occasions.
As well as declining to publish the ERP results, the Government is yet to provide any form of insurance scheme for the sector or to make it clear what kind of ongoing mitigations may be required in the future – effectively making it impossible to plan for any live entertainment business.
Industry research indicates that the potential four-week delay to reopening will lead to around 5,000 live music gigs being cancelled, as well as numerous theatre productions across the country, costing hundreds of millions of pounds in lost income.
This devastating impact was well-known to the Government according to leaked ERP economic impact assessments. Live entertainment and theatre generate £11.25 billion in Gross Value Added each year and the sectors support just under one million jobs between them.
While the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund has been welcomed, but the aforementioned parties state that “very little has penetrated the commercial theatre sector in particular”.
The Government has now begun to announce a third round of pilots.
“It is clear that these pilots are little more than a way of allowing certain high-profile events to go ahead, primarily large-scale sporting events, while keeping the rest of the sector shut,” reads a statement on LIVE’s website.