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Pilot concert ‘did not succeed’ in creating industry blueprint

The venue manager at London’s Clapham Grand said its first socially distanced concert yesterday (Tuesday) “did not succeed” in providing a viable plan for the return of live events.

Folk rock artist Frank Turner played to a crowd of 200 people who were seated at tables at the 1,250-capacity venue, which usually hosts standing gigs.

Venue manager Ally Wolf said the pilot event was not financially viable for venues as it did not bring in enough money to cover costs.

“It can’t be the future for live music. It can’t be the future for venues,” he told the BBC.

Wolf noted that while Turner’s performance was “great” and he was pleased to see the return of an audience, he said he was not getting “caught up in the jubilation of finally being able to put on a show”.

Wolf said the financial model the Clapham Grand used for the gig would be particularly damaging financially to small venues, adding it is “not a financial model that the industry can remotely rely upon to be sustainable”.

The pilot event encouraged fans to arrive at staggered intervals and they had their temperatures checked as they entered. A one-way system was also put in place around the venue and drinks were ordered from the audience’s tables.

The event was one of several pilots organised by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) that aims to inform final guidance for venues in the run up to August 1 when the UK moves to stage four of the government’s five-stage roadmap for the return of professional performing arts.

Earlier this month, the plan was criticised by some in the industry as not being financially viable. Many in the sector said that until stage five begins, when performances are allowed indoors and outdoors with “fuller audiences”, theatres and music venues would not be able to survive financially.

This week, the UK government announced that the first tranche of funding from its £1.57bn (€1.72bn/$2.02bn) cultural recovery package will be used to save around 150 grassroots music venues from insolvency. The £2.25m of emergency funding will be used to support venues said to be at imminent risk of collapse and it is expected to benefit up to 150 sites across the country.

Image: Henry W. Laurisch / CC BY-SA 4.0 / Edited for size