Venues in England can now host gigs again – but how?

The government announced indoor venues can host concerts as soon as next month. But why, considering the current state of the country, would fans want to go?

by Douglas Greenwood
20 July 2020, 10:37am

The Rhythm Method playing i-D's stage at 2017's The Great Escape. Photography Rosie Matheson

Each new development in the Rona saga that is our lives feels bittersweet. Death tolls are dropping (wonderful!), we can finally see our friends again (iconic!), but there’s this lingering feeling that what was once “normal” will now become a relic of the past. Still, we’re trudging on trying to get there as quickly as possible, forgetting that hundreds of people are still dying of coronavirus every day.

And in an attempt to return to “normal” and kickstart the culture sector, having overlooked any kind of financial support for it until about a fortnight ago, the UK government have announced that indoor concerts and theatre shows can start again as soon as August in England. Yep! Just a few months into a wildly infectious disease that spreads best indoors and in large crowds and that has already killed tens of thousands of people, the British government are suggesting that now is the time to sit in those same conditions and soak up the ambience of a live performance again -- as if the very idea of such a set-up doesn’t fill us all with dread.

But this initial step can’t help but feel like a move from the government to drive small venues into more debt following their closure back in March. Just how far the culture sector stimulus cheque of £1.57 billion will stretch is yet to be seen, and much like when bars and restaurants started laying off staff en masse after the government only ‘recommended’ we stay away from them, it’s likely such an impact will be felt on the entertainment and culture industries too. After all, who wants to go back into a confined space to sing at the top of our lungs, or have performers do the same?

The rules implemented state that social distancing within audiences is imperative, which perhaps rules out most standing room only venues. This means bars with gig spaces will be almost impossible to function (imagine standing two metres apart from the closest person to you at a concert?), while theatres may be able to do so at a significantly reduced capacity, leading to a loss in revenue at best, or a totally unsustainable business model at worst.

So while the news that you can now experience live music and theatre may be a blessing to some, it’s best not to get too excited. With most major artists not kicking off their live tours until 2021 at the earliest, it’s unlikely -- unless you’re looking to book what’s bound to be an expensive ticket to the London Philharmonic Orchestra -- that you’ll be able to enjoy live music in the same way for some time yet.

live music