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Culture Secretary ‘very optimistic’ for full return of live music, as Download Festival added to events research program

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By Chris Cooke and Andy Malt | Posted on Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Optimism is growing that shows and events at full capacity will be possible again in England from June 21 following comments from UK Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden. Although a government spokesperson stressed that data is still being collected and a final decision has yet to be made.

Dowden was speaking to the Evening Standard about the UK Government’s Events Research programme, which monitors a range of events with ever-increasing capabilities to assess how to safely reopen the entertainment and live sport sectors as COVID rules are tightened. relaxed.

Insiders had previously said that positive results were coming out of this research. Various measures had been identified to reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus during shows at full capacity, so that people were no more at risk of contracting COVID at such an event than they were if they went to a restaurant or a mall.

In the new interview, Dowden revealed that 58,000 people have now attended events under the research program and only fifteen positive COVID cases have been identified among those attendees after the event.

This month’s BRIT Awards included the shows taking place on the programme, where an audience of 4,000 people watched the proceedings live without social distancing or face masks when seated. No COVID cases were reported among this audience afterward.

Only two cases were reported among the 5,000 people who attended a mini-festival in Liverpool, while among the 6,000 people who attended two Circus club parties, also in Liverpool, only nine cases were identified.

The positive outcome of the research, Dowden said, means he is now ‘very hopeful’ that after June 21 stadiums across England will be full again, while theaters and halls will be able to put on shows sold out at full capacity.

Even if it is not yet assured. A spokesman for the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport told reporters that further data still needed to be collected and reviewed, after which a full report would be given to Prime Minister ‘Boris’ Johnson who will take the final decision on June 21.

Following Dowden’s interview, it was announced that the Download Festival – whose 2021 edition was canceled in March – will now take place as part of the event finder program. However, it will have to reduce its capacity from over 100,000 to just 10,000 ticket holders. Apparently, this is the camping festival test that Live Nation’s Festival Republic boss Melvin Benn revealed the company was about to announce earlier this month.

The festival will take place at Donington Park from June 18-20 (one week after its original dates), with tickets going on sale June 3.

“Researchers from Public Health England will oversee the study,” the organizers said in a statement. “They will collect data on the risk of transmission, the suspension of social distancing and face coverings for several consecutive days. This data will help ensure that events taking place later this summer can proceed safely.”

“There are certain criteria that scientific bodies need you to meet for their research (being over sixteen is an example),” they continue. “Anyone wishing to attend will first need to read and agree to a consent document to ensure they understand the research process and meet these criteria before they can purchase a ticket.”

Last month, the UK Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee urged the government to add more live events to the events research agenda. This, he said, would ensure that more events could take place this summer, if the government planned to stick to its decision not to provide state-backed cancellation insurance.

The lack of such assurance in the commercial market has led many festivals to cancel plans to go ahead this summer, even though the upcoming relaxation of COVID rules means they could have taken place. However, with no cancellation insurance available, many promoters cannot afford to risk COVID restrictions being extended at the last minute. Performances under the Event Research Program are government insured.

However, as Download’s resurrection shows, a downside to this plan is that government testing events are all limited in size. If events are to shrink to around a tenth of their size, it will also mean a major overhaul of their staging and the acts they will have to perform.

No lineup has yet been announced for the upload test event, but it seems unlikely that original headliners Kiss, Biffy Clyro and System Of A Down will perform. Learn more about the festival here.

LEARN MORE ABOUT: COVID-19 | Download Festival | nation live