WORDS Dave Bailey
…as a quote from Alice in Wonderland asks. So when is it safe to perform again, what are the constraints from the gov.uk website, and is it interpretation, common sense or law? The grinning Cheshire Cat of the music industry seems to be slowly fading in and out.
With the U-turn (due to increased infection rate) on the 1st of August, when music venues were due to open, many venue owners held their breath, wondering if they would ever return to live music indoors. Just this week, with groups of 6 being the new normal, the hallowed turf for musicians “The Cavern Club”, having posted losses of £30k a week, was reopening for internal tours. This is a worrying trend for owners of local premises that are classified as music venues, but even scarier for pubs and clubs which are not in that category.
Definitions and criteria on the gov.uk site do not seem to help either. You would assume a music venue with a stage, regular paid performers, and admission charges or ticket sales to be in the listing. However, does a local hotel with a function room where parties and music events are performed by paid entertainers meet the requirements?
According to gov.uk, those venues currently allowed to open for indoor performances are live music performance venues, described as ‘land or buildings wholly or mainly used for the performance of live music for the purpose of entertaining an audience. This can include grassroots music venues where the performance of live music is the primary use.’ It goes on to say ‘Land or buildings where the primary use is not the performance of live music (e.g. a restaurant or public house) should not be considered a live music performance venue.’
There were to be several trial theatre and venue events, with reduced numbers attending, but the financial implications for some have made the trials unsustainable. However some events are going ahead, mostly outdoors and in large venues where distancing and COVID-19 secure precautions and mitigation are in place. The problem with the constraints to make venues COVID-19 secure is that there is no right or wrong rule book, as every venue is unique. For example, a pub with a small bar area and a function room at the back, with regular open mic sessions and the odd band, may not be able to host live music indoors, but provided they are licensed by the local authority could host outdoor events, as long as the guidelines are met.
This is just the start of the minefield. Many venues have also paid out annual fees for performing rights licenses but have no income from audiences that are coming to watch a live act (this fee also covers juke boxes).
So from the 21st September outdoor events, may still be allowed, with tables of six, as long as they meet the mitigating regulations/requirements: correct social distancing; audience tracking; the separating of bubbles; one-way traffic; bubble sizes and shared households, etc. The taking of names and contact details, and the use of sanitizers, are obligatory, and drinks are to be ordered from the table or house/venue system and delivered.
The additional paperwork for risk assessment and documented mitigation is still conflicting, and the fines for not complying ramped up. As an event organiser, even trying to follow the steps from regulation to guidance, and trying to understand what is law makes my head hurt. All the information has been gleaned from the gov.uk website, but it changes almost daily… https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-outbreak-faqs-what-you-can-and-cant-do
Keep virtual performing, and we may see or hear you when ‘Error 404: file 2020 … not found’ is resolved.
Local open mic listings will be updated as soon as permitted and can be found at www.outa-stock.co.uk/OM.htm