Lifting the lockdown – Where is the action to support live music and theatres?

A Statement from the Save London Music Campaign regarding the partial lifting of lockdown.

Last week, in anticipation of todays announcement, the Save London Music Campaign asked for assistance for live music, theatres and other arts venues. Specifically the campaign asked for the following measures.

We are specifically asking for the following support.
1. Emergency grants to be made available for all venues who are threatened with closure. These should be based on the ongoing expenses that venues face, such as non furloughed staff, rent, rates (where applicable), utilities costs, insurance and additional costs associated with limited reopening (ie assistance with costs of sanitisers, etc). We would like to see bounceback loans covered by grants, so the industry is not weighed down with debt.
2. A government guarantee to make good the income lost from limited reopenings (ie the government buying seats to remain empty), and other innovative ways to help the industry, such as sponsorship of performances.
3. A review of parking restrictions etc around venues at show times. Specifically in London, the congestion charge extension will be very bad for musicians, concert goers and support staff. All such staff should be able to apply for an exemption.
4. Infrastructure grants for venues to improve accessibility. Whilst many venues may not be able to reopen, it is a great opportunity to do necessary improvement works. This will mean that when the economy is fully reopened, the UK will have an even more attractive offering. The campaign wrote to the Prime Minister asking for these to be considered. The campaign recognises that there are real physical constraints on opening venues, where people would be crammed together in close proximity. Given the huge sums spent on the furlough scheme, small business grants, etc, the sums would be trivial and would ensure that the UK emerged from the crisis with an intact live entertainment industry.

For instance, theatres in the West End do not only support the livelihoods of staff and actors immediately associated with the venue. Restaurants, pubs, shops and many other businesses take advantage of the trade brought to the area. If you lose the theatres, then the whole sector will be depressed. Surely it makes far more sense to keep the venues open, the staff in work and out of unemployment?

There are few businesses which define an area in the way live music and theatres do. Areas such as Soho and Camden have become world famous for their arts scene. On a more local level, live music keeps pubs and other venues going. We understand why there is a lockdown and why such venues will be among the last to open up, but we can’t understand why the Government has not put together a plan to save this highly important sector of the economy.

The bottom line is that no one travels to Soho or Camden for the weather. They come to London and our venues because they can see world beating entertainment. Take that away and when lockdown eventually fully lifts, there will be no reason for anyone to visit just to look at empty, boarded up buildings. That is why we need action now.

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