This post has been updated throughout. Last update: 18:10 GMT, Friday, March 27th.
The London scene has been hit by cancellations, postponements and closures caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic, AKA COVID-19, with the UK government now ordering lockdowns and offering financial relief.
The state is now offering the self-employed 80 percent of their earnings, up to £2,500 a month (£50,000 in annual earnings) for three months backdated from March. On Thursday, March 26th, Chancellor Rishi Sunak says the government estimates providing this relief package to 3.8 million people, although they will have to wait until June to begin to receive payments. This matches the relief provided to salaried workers, announced last Friday, March 20th, who will have up to 80 percent of wages (up to £2,500 per month) covered if they are not able to work.
This follows orders by prime minister Boris Johnson, who has since tested positive for COVID-19, for the nation to go into lockdown beginning Tuesday, March 24th, with strict rules and exceptions for leaving the house.
The lockdown is an expansion of PM Johnson’s previous call for nightclubs, bars, pubs, restaurants, cinemas, theatres, gyms and similar public, social spaces to close, from Friday, the 20th. His direction was less clear just four days prior on Monday, the 16th, when he “advised” the public to “avoid” “non-essential contact” and spaces like clubs, bars, pubs and restaurants.
Several clubs, promoters and spaces announced event cancellations and postponements, as well as indefinite closures throughout the week of the 16th, Farringdon institution fabric and Canada Water Printworks superclub among them. Printworks’ statement takes aim at PM Boris Johnson’s then-unclear direction. “Until now, we have been following the UK government’s advice in relation to the current COVID-19 outbreak,” the postponement notice reads. “However, although the latest advice (as of Monday, March 16th) only ‘advises’ against mass gatherings, it is with much regret that we have decided to close our venue for the remainder of the season and postpone the remaining shows.”
The UK government’s slow movement to declare an official ban or lockdown drew much criticism. No legal mandate to force closures and ban hinders businesses’ ability to claim insurance, as Guardian critic Jay Rayner pointed out. (This petition calls on the government to offer economic assistance to the events industry.)
London’s Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) also “heavily” criticised the government’s delay in declaration. “This is devastating for Night Time Economy & Events sector, leaving many businesses, staff and supply chain in the depths of uncertainty with no support mechanism,” the NTIA said. “The PM has unbelievably advised the public to turn their back on the NTE & Events sector without an official closure or adequate financial support for businesses and staff.” (Read the full statement here.)
The acting CEO of industry body UK Music, Tom Kiehl, called on the government for more clarity and assistance. “The government must spell out whether there will be a formal ban, when that might come into effect, which venues and events will be impacted and how long the measures will remain in place,” Kiehl said. “The virus is having a catastrophic impact on the UK music industry and will threaten many jobs and businesses across our right across our sector… Unless music businesses and venues get help fast to get them though this desperately difficult period, the sad reality is the vital businesses and much loved venues will go to the wall.”
In fabric’s temporary closure announcement Monday, the club’s team wrote, “While we’re saddened by the whole situation, we believe that this is the right thing to do at this moment in time… Like many other industries, the entire electronic music ecosystem is facing a hugely challenging period as a result of this crisis.” Tottenham club The Cause‘s shuttering note also urged punters to take the ecosystem into consideration. “The industry is taking a big hit at the moment, please be gentle and thoughtful over this. Postponement, rather than refunds is the only logical option for many promoters in order to survive this. Your £15 ticket refund will likely not affect you, but in mass numbers refunds will kill our scene.” Printworks did the same: “Our industry is in jeopardy and the support of our guests is important for the future of all, including venues, artists, promoters, labels, suppliers and freelancers’ whose livelihoods rely on the support of our sector, many of which are going to be deeply affected.”
The second edition of krankbrother‘s experimental RE-TEXTURED festival, planned for April 2nd through 5th at various venues across the city, has been postponed until 2021. “This is a devastating decision… However, there is nothing more important to us than the health, safety and physical well-being of our attendees and employees,” the Monday announcement reads.
Brixton’s Phonox, Shoreditch’s XOYO, Kings Cross’s Egg London, Peckham’s Tola and Rye Wax, Elephant & Castle’s Ministry Of Sound and postponingCorsica Studios, and Camden’s The Jazz Cafe also join the growing list of shuttered spaces, as well as promoters LWE, Soho record shop Phonica, . Cultural centres The Institute Of Contemporary Arts (ICA), BFI Southbank and Southbank Centre shared cancellation notices this week, too.
The current UK death toll is 759.
Learn about the latest on how the coronavirus is affecting the electronic music scene around the world here. We’ve also compiled resources for affected artists and ideas for fans to support them here.
Read our feature discussing COVID-19’s growing impacts on the dance music industry.
We’ll continue to update this story as we learn more.
See the latest COVID-19 statistics on this interactive map created by Johns Hopkins University.