Coronavirus: DJ Graeme Park says government's plans for reopening live music sector are 'shambles'

A leading British DJ has told Sky News the government's plans for reopening the live music sector have been a "shambles".

Graeme Park said he was extremely frustrated by the lack of any kind of road map or indication as to when they would be able to get back to anything resembling business as usual.

He was due to be playing a summer of festivals and gigs along with long-time musical collaborator Peter Hook, bassist from the bands Joy Division and New Order.

But instead the pair, along with thousands of other musicians, are facing months of cancellations and uncertainty.

Park said: "It's a shambles. This government is not giving us any information, nothing, not even any nuggets about live entertainment and live venues, and about when they may reopen.

"I've seen cabinet ministers being asked direct questions about live entertainment and they've completely skirted around it and said something else like cabinet ministers do. It's really frustrating. We're sat here speculating, it might be this, it might be that.

"Surely we have enough people to come together and come up with potential solutions so people can get back to clubbing, get back to seeing live bands, and we the performers, artists and creators can get on that stage or get behind those decks.

"Get back to what we do, and share the joy and share the love of music to our clubbing and live music community."

Hook told Sky News he wanted some honesty from politicians and an admittance that they didn't know "what was going on".

He said: "I'm sick of watching these ministers defending themselves in an impossible task. They are ill-informed and they don't know what they're talking about and you're just going 'can't you just say you don't know what's happening'.

"It's like baffling you with bull*** that just doesn't work. We know it doesn't work. I have no work for a year. It's the saddest thing in the world to think about and live with."

Hook admitted the future was looking quite bleak, adding: "The world will never be the same again I don't think. I'm in a business which is one of the worst affected, because it's going to be the last that comes back".

The pair were due to perform together with Hacienda Classical, the group which re-works club classics of the legendary Manchester Hacienda club with the backing of a massive orchestra, Manchester Camerata.

They've known each other for years, and sitting in the Castlefield Bowl in Manchester where they were supposed to be on stage together in July, their disbelief at the lack an official plan for the sector was palpable.

Park told Sky News he couldn't believe the music industry was being overlooked.

He said: "There is nothing, absolutely nothing. More than anything it's frustrating and in terms of financial help, other areas of the economy have been given lots of financial help.

"But the live and night-time economy is worth over £100bn to the UK economy…so I think a conversation has to be had."

Hook said he watched as over the first six weeks of the COVID-19 outbreak "every single festival I had, and I must have had about 150 gigs in all" were either postponed or cancelled all together, and he's obviously far from alone in his experience.

"Talking to friends of mine who you would consider to be successful musicians, DJs, some of them are waking up in the middle of the night in cold sweats wondering how they're going to pay they mortgages."

Promoter Daryl Robinson from SJM concerts, a major player in the live music sector who were organising the Hacienda Classical concert as part of the Sounds of the City series of gigs, told Sky News the industry needs some workable solutions.

He said: "When you're looking at shows that have already been on sale where we've already sold out, I mean how can we socially distance a sold-out show?

"And, when you look at rock or indie stuff where the whole joy of it is being in a packed crowd, jumping all in unison - that's going to be very difficult. I can't see how we're going to be able to be in that situation and have social distancing.

"But we are a creative industry - we find solutions to problems."

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Following Prime Minister Boris Johnson's announcement that lockdown restrictions in England would be eased, UK Music acting chief executive Tom Kiehl also urged the government to act swiftly to ensure the music industry was not treated like a "forgotten relative".

He warned if there wasn't well targeted support, venues would close for good, with thousands of job losses and "the loss of irreplaceable musical talent and technical skills".

He said: "There is a real risk that music will be left swinging in the wind unless the government moves quickly to agree a detailed plan with the sector to reopen.

"We cannot afford for music which is so culturally, socially and economically important to be treated like some kind of forgotten relative while so many other sectors are being given a blueprint for them to emerge from lockdown."