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Via Instagram/@circusmusic

Live music industry calls for UK reopening after ‘reassuring’ pilot results

Just 28 COVID cases have been detected from gatherings involving 58,000 people, but the low uptake of PCR testing means the data should be treated with ‘extreme caution’

The UK’s live music industry is demanding the reopening of in-person events, following the “reassuring results” of coronavirus pilot events that took place between April 17 and May 15. The calls come in the wake of news shared yesterday (June 25) that just 28 cases were detected after the gatherings, which involved a total of 58,000 people.

The new data comes via scientists behind the Events Research Programme (ERP), which aimed to test the spread of the virus at nine separate events, such as the 2021 Brit Awards, and sporting events such as the FA Cup final and World Snooker Championships.

Other gatherings involved in the trial include Liverpool’s maskless club night (which logged 10 cases amid around 7,000 attendees) and a 7,100-capacity outdoor festival in the city’s Sefton Park, where just two cases were recorded. All in all, “no major or uncontrolled outbreaks” were detected.

However, the ERP researchers have stressed that the results should be treated with “extreme caution”, because only 15 per cent of participants tested themselves as required after the events. The low uptake of PCR testing (which detects the virus very early on) makes it “challenging to determine” the true extent of COVID transmission.

Greg Parmley, CEO of the UK live music industry body Live, says that the organisation is pleased the government has published some of its ERP data, but criticises the fact that it took legal action from the live music and theatre industries to make the information public.

“We are pleased that there were no COVID outbreaks associated with any of the pilots detected, either by testing or by a general increase in community incidence,” he adds. “It is also pleasing to see that the air quality of the indoor events was, in almost all cases, the same or better than being in an office for a short working day.”

“It is completely unfair that our industry finds itself stuck in seemingly-interminable rounds of research before we can open, when no such research is being done for other places, such as restaurants, shops or public transport.”

“With sensible mitigations, including simple COVID-certification, there is no reason why we should not be able to reopen on 19 July.”

Paul Reed, CEO of the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF), adds: “Following this positive outcome, what we need now is clear guidance from government on exactly what the expectations are for festivals around testing regimes and other protocols this summer. We are actively engaging with government on this. For festivals who are still planning, it is clearly not a conversation that can wait until 19th July.”

Sacha Lord, the Night Time Economy Advisor for Greater Manchester, has also renewed urges for a government insurance scheme following the publication of the new data, writing in a tweet: “You’ve got artists and freelancers who’ve had no income since March 2020. A huge supply chain about to go bust. Time is of the essence. Act now.”

Last month, MPs joined festival organisers’ earlier calls for an indemnity scheme to provide a safety net for live events, and avoid another “lost summer” for music festivals (many of which have already had to cancel for the second year in a row).

Earlier this week, meanwhile, Dazed talked to some of the 10,000 people who attended Download Festival’s maskless, non-socially distanced pilot event that took place from June 18 to June 20. “It was initially surreal being around that many people, but soon COVID felt like a distant memory,” says one attendee, adding that the low transmission figures from previous events helped eradicate any nerves.

Read more from the attendees at the UK’s first post-lockdown festival here.