We shouldn’t be having socially distanced gigs already in the UK

I’m going to start things off with a little disclaimer. Yes, I do understand that we’ve all been cooped up in our houses for months because of COVID-19. I get that you all want to get out and do things that are somewhat of a semblance of normal. I totally understand it. I feel that way too about a lot of things. I would love to go out and see my friends. I would love to be able to go and visit my older sister and my brother-in-law who currently live about 4 hours away from me in London. I would love to go away on holiday somewhere. But, I feel like I need to say something about this topic in particular, because I’m seeing it starting again and I’m not happy that it’s happening, really.

(Note: I also wrote this in like one go without too much thought so if it doesn’t absolutely make sense and feels like my argument is lurching from one almost totally unnconected thing to the other, that’s why. If I don’t write something about this it’ll end up festering in my head for days on end and make me feel horrible. That’s something I used to do all the time and I’m trying to break out of that habit as much as I can.)

Socially distanced gigs are happening already in the UK. I mean, the vast majority of them are big outdoor dos where people are on seperate viewing platforms with 2 metres/6 feet of distance between them and that is totally fine, so long as everything is managed properly. But I’ve just seen that some smaller venues are starting to do socially-distanced gigs and honestly, I’m not happy about it. I don’t think it’s very safe. Actually, that would be an understatement. I don’t think it’s safe to do gigs like this in small venues at all right now. It actually worries me a great deal. Maybe I’m being a bit too paranoid about it and I shouldn’t worry so much, but I am very worried. I’m worried for the safety of other people and for the safety of the people I know who work around live music, whether they’re touring musicians, photographers, roadies, drivers or on the merch stand.

Whilst we are well and truly done with the first horrific wave of coronavirus in the UK, infections have been going up. In some places the R number has risen up to 1.1, which is pretty damn alarming if you ask me; our government has been keen to stress that an R number of 1 or above is dangerous territory and anywhere with that level of infection rate needs to practice strict social distancing. Whilst most areas of the country (including Swansea, where I currently live) do have an R number below 1, some areas do not. This is where the issues with putting socially distanced gigs come in. By default, a lot of people will have to travel a decent distance to come to one of these gigs and that often includes the artists and their crew. What if a fan, an artist, a member of an artist’s crew or somebody else in a similar position is travelling in from a high-risk area? Or if the socially-distanced gig is held in an area that ends up being declared as a high-risk place that requires a local lockdown within a few days of the event taking place? As you can see, it becomes a bit of a minefield and it’s a minefield that, honestly, I don’t want to walk into.

I understand that the music industry is very much on its knees right now. I understand that the theatre industry is feeling the same way too. Without people coming and paying to watch performances, a lot of people aren’t earning any money. The problem is though that by asking people to come to a socially distanced show, you are asking them to take a risk. Even with social distancing guidelines very much in place, there is no guarantee that within the confines of an indoor venue the disease won’t spread. It all feels like a bit too much risk to me. That’s why I think that we shouldn’t be having these gigs yet, at least in the UK. Maybe in other countries like Germany it’s fine, but I really don’t trust anything to be OK here just yet.

I fully and absolutely understand that this viewpoint isn’t going to be popular. The problem is, I don’t feel safe going to a gig right now. I’m not going to feel safe at all until we have a vaccine for this awful disease. So, if I don’t turn up to your gig within the next few months, don’t take it personally. I just don’t think the country is ready to have these gigs yet.

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