Entertainment sector warns of ‘huge void’ in support after lockdown announcement

By Alex Green, PA Entertainment Reporter
·4-min read

Entertainment groups have warned of a “huge void in financial support” after the Government announced the closure of venues as part of a month-long lockdown.

Pubs, bars, restaurants and non-essential retail will close across England from Thursday, Boris Johnson announced during a briefing.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden subsequently confirmed that TV and film production would be able to continue during the lockdown period.

Mr Dowden said further details of how the lockdown would affect the arts and sports sectors would be announced in the coming days.

Writing on Twitter, he said: “As the Prime Minister has just confirmed we will be taking additional restrictions from Thursday. We understand the anxiety & impact these will have, and will ensure they last not a day longer than necessary.

“The changes mean people should WFH where possible. But where this is not possible, travel to a place of work will be permitted – e.g. this includes (but not exhaustive) elite sport played behind closed doors, film & tv production, telecoms workers.

“We understand people will have a lot of questions and @DCMS officials & ministers will be working through these and detailed implications with sectors over the coming days.”

First Government requested live show pilot
A socially distanced audience at the Clapham Grand in London (Corinne Cumming/PA)

The Government is currently distributing a £1.57 billion funding package to the arts, as well as further measures.

Mr Johnson also announced furlough payments at 80% will be extended for the duration of the restrictions.

However, Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association, said the announcement left the sector facing “financial armageddon”.

He said: “The announcement from the Prime Minister today will leave night time economy businesses facing a ‘financial armageddon’. It is the most horrific of Halloweens.

“It’s frightening to think that given the gravity of the situation, we are still being given limited communication, consultation or time to respond, or plan around these decisions.

“The entire night time economy consisting of thousands of businesses and hundreds of thousands of workers are suffering.

“Their plight is being made even worse by the huge void in financial support for the sector.

“Many of our businesses have experienced extreme financial hardship, been presented with unmanageable operational measures and have in some cases been forced into complete closure since March.”

Mark Davyd, chief executive of the Music Venue Trust, called on the Government to offer the live events industry further financial support.

He said: “National lockdowns have been announced in France, Germany and the UK.

“In France, the government has announced it will cover 100% of wages for people impacted by the required lockdown. In Germany, the government will cover 75% of lost turnover.

“Across the country, grassroots music venues have been told to close from Thursday, but we have no similar commitment from the UK Government.

“We look forward to urgent details from ministers on the financial package that will protect businesses and livelihoods in this vital, world leading British industry.”

Wigmore Hall reopens
Wigmore Hall in London (Matt Crossick/PA)

John Gilhooly, director the Wigmore Hall classical music venue in London, said he hoped music making would be able to continue during the lockdown, even without audiences.

He said: “While we await full guidance from the Government, we will operate under the assumption that musicians will be able to continue to perform in broadcast concerts with no audience in the hall from Thursday. We very much hope music making can continue. We look forward to the return of audiences when circumstances allow.”

Ahead of the Prime Minister announcing the new lockdown, the manager of a south London venue which staged one of the Government’s pilot indoor concerts said: “Everyone’s safety, and preventing further spread of the virus, and the continued long-term damage to our industry, is the most important thing right now.”

Ally Wolf, manager of The Clapham Grand, said: “As we have done throughout Covid-19, the Clapham Grand will be following all the latest Government guidelines. We will be closing during the allocated period, and when allowed we will reopen carrying out physical-distanced events with all the required guidelines.”

Singer Frank Turner performed at the venue as part of a pilot concert held in July. In September, Turner returned to the stage to perform in front of a socially-distanced audience.