Last week, I reached exhaustion point after speaking to various government departments for over nine months with seemingly little traction. I feel extremely frustrated at how far the PHE ‘goalposts’ have moved in the last quarter. Seemingly, it has achieved its objective – scaring the government into postponing Phase 4.
I have been speaking to various representatives at PHE since August last year, and from the outset, the two key metrics determining lockdowns were: mortality and bed capacity impacting the burden on the NHS.
How do we reach a tolerable metric?
We vaccinate the more vulnerable and offer vaccinations to the over 50s before unlocking society and the economy. That task was completed in April this year and every day since the goalposts have steadily been moving towards PHE wanting vaccination in totality.
Back in March, I asked a PHE officer whether an increase in cases presenting would affect the transition to further stages of the roadmap, as I would have expected to see some tolerance factored into their modelling for such an increase due to greater movement in society. Her response was minuted and she stated that, as long as the caseload did not translate into the two key metrics becoming unmanageable, then cases per se were not the primary metric.
To date, I have not seen any modelling data that supports a reason not to unlock. I appreciate this may seem a selfish view due to the devastating impact the pandemic has had upon my sector. However, it is affecting a much wider area than people might perceive; from artists through to the supply chain, all of which have been placed on halt.
There is scientific evidence that demonstrates the positive impact social experiences have on mental health, even if these are just simple escapism. We are the tonic that allows people that small escape and relief from the everyday challenges we all face.
This week, I met a group of industry peers, and also had a conversation with one of the leads from the ERP programme who said that the findings will not be published until after the PM’s announcement. I find this astonishing. Surely the purpose of the ERP was to stress test events in different environments to ascertain how safe they were, and to monitor transmission rates within these environments? The headlines are: 58,000 attendees and only 15 positive PCR tests. I would suggest this proves that using testing as the primary engineering control indicates events are safe. This report delves far deeper into the ERP and would help inform the PM’s decision and counter some of the scaremongering by the scientific community.
Yet, these findings are not yet to be published!
The UK has been very fortunate in that it had the resources to secure such large quantities of the various vaccines . However, many other, poorer countries are in the middle of a devastating third wave and are far less fortunate. Africa has vaccinated 2% of the whole continent. So, it needs to be accepted that this virus is endemic and is going to be in circulation globally for the next few years. Therefore, as soon as travel corridors are opened, which must happen, further variants will, of course, be imported. The flu virus, which has multiple mutations each winter, has been rendered manageable by offering flu jabs to the more vulnerable every year. I appreciate the severity of this new pandemic is greater than flu, although I still struggling to have access to the comparable data, despite several requests.
We are effectively in a worse position than we were last summer. With less inventory in the market, suppliers, understandably, have been demanding deposits to secure materials and thus, we/our clients have had to pay deposits for events that we all know cannot currently be underwritten. If those events cannot go ahead the system WILL collapse and we will see many liquidations and redundancies, as well as losing some of the most talented event professionals in the world. Although 2020 was equally horrendous, cost exposure was relatively low as events were cancelled much further ahead.
The industry is on a knife-edge yet again. We are still not open, and uncertainty is again rife.
There have been limited festivals for nearly two years now. I tip my hat to so many of my peers who have survived this long, but another season of no events or shows will be utterly devastating. I do not want financial support, but I do want to get back to doing what I, and my whole team, love doing – producing some of the most renowned, independent festivals in the UK.
After such a rant – and I have been ranting for the greater part of the week – it was so refreshing and encouraging to receive, out of the blue last night, the email below from a peer in the industry, and it makes me love the industry family even more!
I really hope we all survive and that everyone is OK. Please do reach out if I can help in any way.
I spoke with XXXX earlier this evening and she said that you are having a really tough time of it with the current situation. I just wanted to say;
1) Look after yourself
2) Thank you for doing all that you have and continue to do for our industry, and fighting the fight on our collective behalf.