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Arts groups welcome ‘certainty’ of UK roadmap towards venues reopening

Arts groups have welcomed the UK Government’s roadmap out of lockdown, but cautioned that support is still needed for businesses and individuals who face months more of restrictions.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday gave full details of the changes that will be made in the coming months, with up to 10,000 people allowed at outdoor seated events in England from May 17 and full-capacity indoor and outdoor venues returning from June 21.

UK Music chief executive Jamie Njoku-Goodwin said the four-month roadmap gives confidence to artists and the wider live events ecosystem in England after a year of cancelled performances.

“UK Music has consistently called for clarity and certainty from the Government, so it’s great that ministers have listened and set out a clear route to reopen the live music industry,” he said.

“It is fantastic news for the 200,000 people working in the music industry and millions of music fans that we are just a few months away from live music bursting back onto stages.

“Our world-leading live music scene – ranging from stadium and concert-hall filling acts to emerging solo performers in the local pub – will help lift people’s spirits and deliver a huge cultural and economic boost as we emerge from this pandemic.”

Njoku-Goodwin said support was necessary to bridge the gap for those who still face months of not being able to perform or stage events. He added that the industry is keen to assist in testing and pilot events that could ensure the successful return of full venues at the target date in June.

He said: “We will now continue to work with the Government on pilot schemes to ensure a safe, consistent and successful approach to getting live music back in our communities as soon as possible.”

LIVE, the umbrella group for live music trade associations, added more caution.

Greg Parmley, chief executive of LIVE, said: “We need the Government to commit urgently to an extension of the 5% VAT rate on ticket sales and employment support that reaches all those unable to work due to the restrictions.

To reopen, the sector needs a Government-backed insurance scheme to allow shows to go ahead when it’s safe to do so, and with venues shuttered across the UK, an extension of business rates relief would be both fair and necessary.” 

The UK’s theatre sector has also been enthused by the schedule, with up to 1,000 people allowed at indoor venues from May 17 followed by full-capacity arenas in June.

Theatres closed last March, with some briefly reopening to up to 1,000 attendees in December before closing again towards the end of that month.

Julian Bird, chief executive of Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre, said: “We welcome the Government’s roadmap announcement as the country takes the first steps towards easing lockdown – in particular the news that theatre and live arts can resume performances from step three, as early as May 17.

“The real route back for the sector, however, will be the step four announcements hopefully enabling full auditoriums from June 21. While our theatres remain closed, we urge the Chancellor to continue with the financial support packages needed for businesses and individuals.”

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