Coming months will be ‘vital to existence’ of Europe’s arts and culture industry, says industry alliance

Warning comes in letter to European Commission from organisations representing culture sector, including organisers of large-scale live events.

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

30 Apr 2021

The European commission has been warned that the coming months will be “vital for the very existence” of many artists and cultural businesses across Europe.

The warning comes in a letter to the EU executive from organisations representing the culture sector, including organisers of large scale live events.

The arts and culture industry has been badly hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, with many events, shows and performances being forced to cancel indefinitely.

An alliance of groups says that plans to gradually allow such events to take place again are “a major and long-awaited initiative for our sectors.” The aim, it goes on, is “to begin this crucial process as soon as possible.”

The live events industry has essentially been shuttered since March 2020. The cost has been great, resulting in financial loss, economic hardship, and difficult business decisions in an attempt to stay afloat.

The letter was sent to EU commissioners Mariya Gabriel, responsible for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, and Thierry Breton, who is in charge of the Internal Market file.

It is signed by the Association for Electronic Music, Arena Resilience Alliance, the European Grouping of Societies of Authors and Composers, the European Network for Live Music Associations, Live Performance Europe and the European Festival Association.

“Reopening will take longer, cost more, and be less sustainable if Member States do not work together. This naturally requires coordination at EU level. The political commitment shown in the Communication was a major and long-awaited initiative for our sectors”

It points to the Commission Communication on “a common path to safe and sustained re-opening” saying it now wants “a coordinated, swift and safe reopening of live events.”

The letter, seen by this site, says, “Reopening will take longer, cost more, and be less sustainable if Member States do not work together. This naturally requires coordination at EU level. The political commitment shown in the Communication was a major and long-awaited initiative for our sectors.”

It goes on, “There is not much time to make a meaningful change for the coming months, which are vital for the very existence of many artists and cultural businesses in the EU.

“The signatories of this letter have worked closely with national and local governments, and national and EU health authorities. We have organised test events, developed scientific evidence and standards presenting how to create safe events for audiences.”

The alliance says there have been “good and important developments” in some member states and specific regions.

For example, the UK this weekend plans to stage its first major outdoor live musical event in many months in Liverpool.

Music fans in the city will get the chance to enjoy a near-normal gig as part of a UK government pilot event. A crowd of 5,000 will see headline act Blossoms without having to social-distance or wear face coverings.

“There is not much time to make a meaningful change for the coming months, which are vital for the very existence of many artists and cultural businesses in the EU"

But they will only get into the 2 May event by having a negative COVID test.

Elsewhere, a concert in Barcelona recently showed that mid-sized cultural events could be held safely despite the pandemic, organisers said.

Some 5,000 people attended but before the event, they were screened and tested for Coronavirus using antigen tests. The crowd was also instructed to wear FFP2 masks, with the organisers limiting bathroom capacity. Only six people reported testing positive 15 days later.

Despite some loosening of restrictions in many parts of Europe, the letter adds though, “However, the level of political commitment varies from one country to another.”

The letter highlights the “Commission’s role in making this a political priority, promoting best practices and persuading member states to develop a perspective for a safe and sustained reopening.”

“This is therefore absolutely crucial for our sector, for the entire European economy and for the health, safety and trust of its citizens.”

The organisations call for a “practical approach that focuses on the coordination of best practices, direction of health authorities and clear political pressure.”

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