Live performance needs a clear roadmap for returning in 2021

The arts, entertainment & recreation is the worst affected sector by coronavirus (ONS) and the situation for venues with live performance has been particularly concerning in December 2020. The design and implementation of the tier system has had a damaging impact on music venues and theatres, disrupting what should be one of their busiest times of the year. For example, placing London and other areas in Tier 2 in early December, only to increase it to Tier 3 at short notice just two weeks later impacted performances that had already invested in safety measures in order to open. Elsewhere, moving areas out of Tier 3 just one week before Christmas did not give venues enough time to reopen.

Going forward, the government now needs to look ahead to the return of live performance in 2021 and begin implementing necessary measures, including the creation of a government-backed insurance scheme. This is due to providers and underwriters excluding coronavirus cover which would protect against cancellation due to lockdown or legal action from an audience or cast member who falls ill. Without insurance, it is extremely difficult for venues to return to live performances despite, even when permitted.

Therefore, the live events industry has been calling for a government-backed insurance scheme, mirroring the insurance provision offered to the film and TV industry in the Film and TV Production Restart Scheme. This has been allocated £500 million out of the £1.57 billion fund for the entire arts sector, in order to help cover the losses by productions halted or delayed and allows productions to plan with confidence. Similarly, a government-backed €2.5 billion indemnity package has recently been adopted in Germany.

The Incorporated Society of Musicians’ Chief Executive, Deborah Annetts, said:

'The government should support the performance ecosystem in order to unlock public spending, create jobs and lift the national mood. Without theatres and music venues, fewer visitors stay in hotels, visit bars or restaurants and more choose to shop online. We urgently need a package of measures to build confidence, including a government-backed insurance scheme for theatre and live music events in line with the existing scheme for film and TV production. This must begin now so that the industry has enough time to prepare and implement the necessary measures to fully resume safely next year. Many musicians have been unable to work since March and are dependent on government support schemes, so creating a clear roadmap now for the return of live performance in 2021 is essential for preventing an exodus of world-leading talent.'