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Mark Davyd, co owner of Tunbridge Wells Forum, criticises government's lack of support for grass roots music venues after chaotic scenes at Euro 2020 screening


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The live music industry is feeling left in the dark after thousands came together to celebrate England's progression to the Euro 2020 quarter finals.

Despite tough restrictions which continue to stop most small venues across Kent from hosting live music, hundreds of football fans across the county were seen dancing, cheering and singing yesterday as they celebrated England's win over Germany in the Euro 2020 knockout match.

Mark Davyd calls for small venues to open after yesterday's football events

A screening at Margate's Dreamland even erupted in carnage, as attendees flipped tables over, set flares off and stormed the stage.

Now Mark Davyd, CEO of charity Music Venue Trust and co-owner of the Tunbridge Wells Forum, is frustrated with the seeming hypocrisy of allowing one sort of event and not another.

He told KentOnline: "First of all it's great England have won the game and we're really pleased with how they're doing in the tournament like everybody else, and we're pleased to see communities coming together to celebrate that. It's a big national event and we have no problem with that.

"However, the reasons why live music venues are not allowed to be open is because singing, dancing, being close to each other, hugging, chatting, snogging somebody else, meeting strangers and mass gatherings are apparently all dangerous activities that must be limited.

Fans on stage at Dreamland after the England v Germany game
Fans on stage at Dreamland after the England v Germany game

"But they're already happening, and the number of people that were gathered together in Tunbridge Wells last night or Ramsgate or Dover to watch football on a screen and then to sing 'it's coming home' are vastly in excess of the number of people that fit into theses small venues.

"So I'm afraid it doesn't bear any kind of scrutiny that one thing is now permissible and frankly not being policed or licensed in any way whatsoever, because people accept that this needs to happen, whereas another activity - live music in small venues - is being heavily policed, heavily restricted and frankly not really able to take place."

Although a handful of socially-distanced small gigs have been able to take place in the past few weeks, the size of most grassroots venues restricts the ability to socially distance crowds.

A venue like the Ramsgate Music Hall has a maximum capacity of 120, but with a one-metre-plus measure installed there would likely be space for fewer than 20 people.

A crowd sat socially distanced and wearing masks during a gig at the Tunbridge Wells Assembly Theatre earlier this month
A crowd sat socially distanced and wearing masks during a gig at the Tunbridge Wells Assembly Theatre earlier this month

Gigs that have been able to take place, such as post punk band Shame at the Tunbridge Wells Assembly Theatre, have been subject to robust social distancing and rules that require the crowd to wear face coverings for the duration of the performance.

Mr Davyd said policing one event but not another is a nonsensical position for the government to take: "People are pointing at the matches and saying 'well these are taking place outside ' - indoor venues throughout the country last night were showing football on screens, there was mass singing, mass chanting, mass hugging, everybody celebrating.

"Great, but that doesn't make sense. The concept that we can't run a 100 capacity folk gig with people sitting down and enjoying banjo, violin, accordion, while people are gathering together in groups of thousands, frankly, to celebrate a football match makes no sense."

The music venue charity CEO is now calling on the Department of Culture, Media and Sport to allow small venues to be able to reopen as soon as possible, as he believes they are no riskier than allowing a pub or outdoor event from screening future Euro games.

He said: "We need them to remember that they're supposed to represent culture, and if these types of activities are already taking place then nothing at all is being achieved by the continued closure of the Ramsgate Music Hall, or Elsewhere in Margate, or the Tunbridge Wells Forum, or the Booking Hall in Dover, or any of the other fantastic venues we're lucky to enjoy in Kent.

"All it's doing is damaging people's jobs, lives, businesses and livelihoods, and it's not doing anything to contain the virus."

A government spokesperson said: "Our support for the music industry throughout the pandemic has been unwavering with over £200 million allocated to over 800 organisations via our unprecedented Culture Recovery Fund, with more financial support on the way after a £300 million boost at budget.

"Guidance will be published ahead of reopening fully on July 19th and we are carrying out additional pilot events to gather further evidence and allow us to trial Covid certification, so that the sector can operate as safely as possible."

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