Tuesday 6 April 2021 6:00 am

Harvey Goldsmith: Events industry is bleeding and June 21 reopening plan is marred by confusion and chaos

Harvey Goldsmith CBE is a concert promoter and businessman

The Government’s roadmap tells us that on June 21st all Covid restrictions will disappear and the great British summer can begin. If only things were that simple.

Like everyone in the events industry, I have had a year with no income and no business. Having spent five decades as a promoter, putting on some of the biggest shows in the world, I would love to be able to stage live events this summer, but you cannot simply put on a big event from scratch, it takes months of planning.

To stage live events and be commercially viable, the Government needs to play its part by giving a clear plan with agreed protocols. Instead, we have seen confusion and chaos masquerading as policy, which means I am not prepared to commit to staging any of my shows before September.

The events industry is committed to staging events safely. A new consumer campaign, #wecreateexperiences, has the message, ‘Together, we can do this right’. A poll of more than 2,000 consumers, commissioned for the campaign found that 84 per cent would be prepared to comply with additional bio-security measures put in place by event organisers so we know they are prepared to do their bit.

We also know that the UK events industry is recognised for its world-leading health and safety expertise and that venues have invested heavily in technology. We have the data of everyone who attends a show; we can make it safer for people to attend a controlled live event than piling into a shopping centre.

But I am deeply concerned because the work needed on protocols to manage live audiences has not yet been done, although we have been pleading with the Government for months to get on with it. The DCMS has employed consultants to give advice, but it refuses to go to experts from the entertainment and music industry who are problem solvers by profession.

Three test events have been announced, an FA Cup semi-final, the World Snooker Championships and the FA Cup Final at Wembley – no music events – and we do not know what protocols are being used or tested so how can they be properly evaluated? This should have been sorted out weeks ago, but most results will not be presented until late May.

Insurance is the other issue. The insurance market walked away from its commitments and we have been lobbying for the government to provide an underwriting policy, but now we have been told there will be no discussions until June 21, or shortly before then. 

That means we will not get an answer before September and anyone organising a festival or show will be risking millions of pounds. As a promoter, it feels like I have been given a ray of hope – only to have it snatched away.

Rules and protocols for live events should have been in place weeks ago, with an agreed panel of testing companies; negotiations about an insurance scheme for the industry should be well advanced by now. You cannot plan events on a wing and a prayer, hoping everything will turn out alright; you need agreed procedures. 

It could cost me to up to £3m to put on a big show, then I might have to add on another £500,000 to market it properly and give myself time to sell tickets. I need confidence that things will not keep changing before I can commit to going ahead. I would love to be doing it sooner, but I am not prepared to take the risk.

The UK’s events industry is one of the unsung success stories of the UK economy, contributing £84bn. We are not asking for subsidies, just a clearly agreed plan that will allow us to create great experiences and bring joy back to people’s lives. 

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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