A range of live events opened over the weekend as part of the ‘Events Research Programme’ to see how future events and performances could reopen and run safely.
The two big sporting events that kicked things off included the FA Cup Semi Final at Wembley Stadium and World Snooker Championship at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield.
These events were socially distanced and ticket holders were required to take a lateral flow test at a local centre before entry, with results available within 30 minutes. They could only enter if they had a negative test. They were also required to take a second test at the end of the event.
Nine trial events organised by Liverpool City Council will also take place in Liverpool later this month, and will include an outdoor cinema, a business conference and a club night.
The council have said: “The pilots will explore how different approaches to social distancing, ventilation and test-on-entry protocols could ease opening and maximise participation, including the use of lateral flow tests.”
Other forthcoming trial events include:
- Mass participation run, Hatfield House, Hatfield (24-25 April)
- Carabao Cup Final, Wembley Stadium (25 April)
- FA Cup Final, Wembley Stadium (15 May)
The Government has said: “All events will be subject to national and local approvals. Further events may be announced in due course.”
It has been said that the FA Cup Final is to have around 21,000 fans in the Stadium and will close the programme.
The government will continue to review the results of these large pilot events and recommend how other events and venues around the country can reopen safely.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has said: "We're one step closer to a summer of live events now our science-led programme is under way. Testing different settings and looking at different mitigations is key to getting crowds back safely.”
However, not everyone is as excited about the trials. A comedy club in Liverpool didn’t open over the weekend as planned. There was great deal of backlash from people who disagreed with the pilots, and the club claimed it had received 4,000 hate messages.
In my mind, without these trials we have no way of determining the future of the theatre and arts industry. We will have no idea if it is possible for venues to open safely and if events can go ahead. It is certainly worth the time and effort to carry these out to be able to get the economy back up and running.
There has been a great detail of discussion in the media around the future Covid Status Certification or ‘Vaccine Passport’, which has already proved to be quite controversial.
If you aren’t aware, the ‘Passport’ is likely to be similar to the NHS app which allows ticket holders to prove their vaccine status to venues i.e., they have had their jab, they have had a negative lateral test recently or they have had Covid and are naturally immune.
I understand that there are some moral and ethical questions around this for example - what data is being shared via the app? Are we being snooped on? Is it discriminatory to those who are unable to have the vaccine for health reasons or those who are opposed to having it? What about those without mobile phones who are unable to use the app?
The Equality and Human Rights Commission have stated their concerns of discrimination and a possible 'two-tier society' if and when ‘Passports’ are introduced, in this BBC article.
There are still many questions to be asked and for the government to answer, but I do believe the positives outweigh the negatives here. Like me, I think other people are feeling more confident about the future of live events.
According to data found in The Culture Restart Audience and Visitor Tracker - an ongoing survey, which tracks how audience sentiment is changing over time - it shows that audience’s confidence in returning to theatre and cultural venues has improved. In January only 15% of the participants said they were ready to book a show within three months, whereas now over 37% are likely to book.
Around 66% of participants were ok with the idea of a ‘Vaccine Passport’, an 13% have said it would be vital if they were to return. The majority have said they would be happy to return with the correct safety measures and social distancing in place.
The Tracker is run by the Insights Alliance (a partnership of consultants Baker Richards, Indigo Ltd and One Further) with the aim of helping the cultural sector gather essential insight needed to restart our industry.
It is likely that when theatres can open from 17th May the ‘Passport’ will not have been introduced. It is not yet known; however, what safety procedures will be in place, apart from social distancing. Who makes the decision on what measures are needed? Will this be different for each theatre?
Other questions to ask are, is it the theatre’s responsibility to monitor all ticket holders test results? Is it down to them to not let people in who have positive results in? How will this work? How will it affect staffing levels? I assume it will be time consuming having to add this element into the normal FOH procedure, and it will be costly if they must bring more people on board to ensure the process runs smoothly.
There are still a lot of unknowns, however, I do believe that the ‘Passport’ and the additional measures - the lateral flow test etc - will encourage more people to start going out again and enjoying the things that we have missed dearly. This is what the industry needs and also what society needs. It is a contentious topic, but I think it is a debate that needs to be had so we can have a fair and safe process in place, which enables us to start living again and helping our industry come back to life.