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June 27, 2021

A recent history of the UK government and the live events industry…

Have I basically got this right?It’s been a few months since I last wrote a blog post, the reason for this is twofold. Firstly I’ve started developing a new section of our website called “Learning Hub” and secondly I’ve been very focussed on our new Agent Freelancer Platform which is going very well. Between us we’ve drawn well over a thousand contracts since January!

I realised early on that this blog was very much a reaction to adversity, but since we became funded by the Culture Recovery Fund, we were able to identify a pathway through the pandemic and our business became less stressful. Once we knew where we were going and what we had to do to get there, we became much more constructive. We were able to make plans and cost them.

A large chunk of our revenue comes from the performances we contract for summer events. We have become known as a go-to agency for festival programmers. Of course we book many shows into venues but festivals are really important to us. So the summer season is really important to us too.

So when Boris moved the return of live music back from April to June 21st it was a bit of a blow, but also it was good news because the plan to vaccinate made real sense. We knew it could change, but we also knew the UK was ahead of the game with the vaccine rollout – so there was real optimism that the 4 steps would be adhered to. Festivals were able to book artists again and we could get on doing what we are good at doing.

I’m not sure I entirely understand what happened to make this plan go wrong – but this is how I see it…

The Delta Variant

The virus started mutating – variants evolved here and in different countries, Kent, South Africa, South America and India were all in the news. People kept moving around and in and out of the UK… this went on for too long. The India variant now called the Delta variant took hold in the UK and spread quickly. Boris pushed back Step 4 of the road map to July 21st.

Have I basically got this right?

Now here’s a question, what did other countries do at his point? Why is Delta not prevalent in much of Europe or the States yet? Did they take measures we didn’t?

Jump back to April…

The ERP

The government started the Events Research Programme (ERP) to work out how to manage events once we got to Step 4. Various pilot events were allowed where people had to take tests before and after they attended. Only people who tested negative were allowed to attend. The results from the ERP would inform guidance, so the events in Step 4 knew what they had to do to carry out safe events.

We got neither.

So now not only events in the extended period June 21 – July 19 had to cancel, but also events actually in the new Step 4 began to cancel because they didn’t have the guidance they needed in time to start the costly process of building their event.

Andrew Lloyd Webber and others took the government to court to release the research form the ERP. Miraculously out came the results immediately – but still no official guidance. ERP Guidance.

At least as far as I can tell, the results were basically; If you test people before and only let negative folk in, then Live Out Door events are safe.

Have I basically got this right?

Upshot for us at Midnight Mango and the artists we represent – Our summer is going to generate much less revenue than it should and this is down to the government really cocking up on dealing with Delta variant and not providing our industry with the guidance they need to put on events in Step 4.

We will work it out, but it will take longer to get there… and since it’s the summer that has been compromised, it will take significantly longer… For some artists and organisations though, they simply won’t get there… and that was avoidable.

What do you think? Could the government have handled it better? What should they have done?

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