Suppliers to the live events industry are calling on the government to recognise the specific challenges faced by the sector during the Covid-19 crisis, and have published a 10-point plan urging it to help.
The plan warns that compulsory social distancing will make it impossible for the entire live events industry to resume in a financially viable way; it proposes that any two-metre guidance should be advisory and carried out alongside face covering and hygiene measures.
In an open letter, leading lighting and AV supplier White Light warned that the supply chain to the live events industry – including theatre, music, festivals and corporate events – is at risk of being forgotten in conversations around supporting UK businesses to survive the pandemic.
The letter, penned by White Light managing director Bryan Raven, states there is a need to recognise the businesses facilitating the supply chain of closed sectors such as live events, with manufacturers, distributors, rental and production companies being hit in addition to venues.
Despite this, suppliers do not qualify for business rates relief under the current system, while the industry’s large number of freelancers are also falling through the gaps, Raven says.
"Both the producers of live events but also the suppliers to live events need help. It is critical to consider the entire ecology of the live events supply chain when designing business support mechanisms," Raven says.
The letter makes the case for specialist financial support for Covid-19 costs, such as additional health and safety work and PPE, and asks for an extended tax deadline and recognition in the furlough scheme that live events will be among the last to restart.
"With the exception of the furlough scheme (for which we are incredibly grateful) all the support we at White Light (and other supply companies) have been offered is in the form of deferments or loans, in other words delayed payments or additional debt – we have received no waivers or grants. If the UK live events industry is to survive and return to be global leaders then it will need its suppliers," it argues.
Suppliers join many others in calling for specific financial support for the creative industries more broadly to help rebuild the live events sector after the pandemic, with suggestions including tax reliefs, insurance assistance and waiving VAT from ticketing income.
Read the letter in full below.
An open letter asking for support for the Supply Chain to the Live Events industry:
The live events industry which includes music, theatre, corporate events, festivals and live broadcasts was amongst the first to be closed down by the Covid-19 pandemic and will be the last to return to normality. This is global issue and I would ask you to take the time to watch this video from the Live Events Coalition in the US which graphically represents the issue for the whole world.
Both the producers of live events but also the suppliers to live events need help. It is critical to consider the entire ecology of the live events supply chain when designing business support mechanisms.
In collaboration with a number of industry colleagues I have outlined a 10-point plan for help we need from the UK government.
1. Live events are pretty much impossible until the 2m social distancing rule is either unnecessary or relaxed - 2m distance needs to be advisory in conjunction with face covering and hygiene (in combination with testing) not compulsory. Until the 2m distancing requirement is reduced or, eventually, removed, many live events will not be financially viable.
2. Need to recognise the supply chain to industries/sectors that are still closed – and therefore offer support especially in those sectors that use theatres and live music venues which will be closed until the requirement for social distancing has ended (at the moment supply chain companies often don’t qualify for any of the business rates support due to being too large and not being listed as an entertainment venue) The closure impacts not only on the venue but also on the diverse supply-chain, that includes UK manufacturers, distributors, rental and production companies, as well as a large network of freelancers. The whole eco-system is required for the live events sector to function and be commercially viable.
3. Offer support for Covid-19 related costs such as additional H & S precautions, PPE, increased costs of working.
4. Withdrawal of the JRS/Furlough scheme needs to be phased per sector – you can’t treat the live events industry the same as say, construction or manufacturing industries in terms of timescale. Full support is required until the work recommences.
5. Support for the freelance community – over 70% of the creative sector are self-employed and there are too many “gaps” in the current support for self-employed workers. Again, support by sector needs to be considered when reducing or removing support measures.
6. Support is needed for our customers (theatre producers, music promoters, event organisers, broadcasters, venues, etc.) to produce more ‘content’ (that we can then supply) – they need tax relief on their set up costs, (e.g. increase Theatre Tax Relief to 50%) they need assistance with insurance (e.g. offer cancellation insurance if productions have to cancel as a result of a second wave of COVID-19). We need to ensure that any help to producers, etc. encourages them to produce more shows. Another suggestion is to remove VAT from ticket revenue.
7. Extend “time to pay” for VAT, PAYE, etc. until twelve months after the activity for that particular business returns, not March 31st 2021.
8. Pressure on commercial landlords to offer rental holidays for affected businesses (not just waivers) as well as getting banks to offer sensible commercial mortgage holidays.
9. Increase Corporation Tax so that those companies who are able to make a profit can contribute to the support of the other industries/sectors that are hit the hardest by the Covid-19 crisis.
10. In the absence of a tenth point there is the obvious request: Come up with a vaccine so that the world can return normal.
With the exception of the furlough scheme (for which we are incredibly grateful for) all the support we at White Light (and other supply companies) have been offered is in the form of deferments or loans i.e. delayed payments or additional debt – we have received no waivers or grants. If the UK live events industry is to survive and return to be global leaders then it will need its suppliers.
Please share, copy, adapt and enhance on these requests and pass on to anyone who you think might be able to support the supply chain to one of the most important industries in the UK.
Managing director, White Light Ltd