The UK government has shared more details of its forthcoming trials of non-socially distanced events
At this point in the pandemic, nobody is living – we’re just existing and counting down the days until June 21, when all coronavirus restrictions are set to be lifted in the UK. But, for a lucky few, a taste of real life could come sooner than the summer, as the government has detailed its plan to trial a number of non-socially distanced events over the next couple of months.
A dozen events are set to take place in late April and May, which will allow crowds to return to sports venues, theatres, and – finally – nightclubs. The news was first announced in February, but Oliver Dowden, the head of the Department of Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport (DCMS), shared more information with The Sunday Times this weekend (March 14).
Although there’s no specific details on the clubbing trial as of yet, other planned events include the world snooker championships on May 3, the Brit Awards on May 11, and the FA Cup final on May 15. Attendees will do coronavirus tests before they attend, will have their movements monitored at the venue, and will be tested again after the event.
“I’m driven by the conviction that if we don’t get bums on seats this summer, there is a real risk that some of these areas of our economy could go bust,” said Dowden. “It’s bums on seats or bust.” TBC how this would work with nightclubs, which – to Dowden’s surprise – are not seated events.
The results of the trials will inform government guidance about how venues should operate when they reopen at the end of June. So far, trials of mass events appear to have yielded positive results. Primavera Sound hosted one of Europe’s first non-socially distanced gigs in December, resulting in no infection rate among the 1,000 attendees.
In November, the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) warned that nightclubs in the UK face extinction due to COVID and a lack of government support. Speaking to Dazed, NTIA’s CEO Michael Kill said: “Without support, businesses will be lost. The once-strong sector of over 1,400 venues pre-covid will shrink by an estimated 50/60 per cent, which will lead to a shortage of venues and events which are fundamental to the growth and support of the electronic music industry.”
The government unveiled a £1.57 billion culture recovery fund in July last year, which was meant to protect national and independent arts venues. However, in October, when the recipients of the fund were announced, a number of major nightclubs were excluded, including London’s Printworks and Oval Space. This week, it emerged that just half of the money allocated to the arts and heritage sectors had actually been distributed, despite being increased by £300 million earlier this month.
Despite this, Dowden spoke to The Sunday Times about the importance of reigniting the UK’s cultural sector, telling the newspaper: “The creative industries aren’t some kind of add-on and ‘nice to have’. They are important to our sense of wellbeing and our national life. They are also huge generators of wealth and income. We are a creative industries superpower.”
Look back at Dazed’s exploration of the future of partying in a post-pandemic world here.