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Mumford & Sons star calls for Government road map for music industry

Ben Lovett has signed an open letter warning that the business is at imminent risk of ‘mass insolvencies’.

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Mumford and Sons (Ian West/PA)

Mumford and Sons (Ian West/PA)

Mumford and Sons (Ian West/PA)

Mumford & Sons star Ben Lovett has warned that Government support for live music may run out before the sector is ready to return after the coronavirus lockdown.

The musician, who runs the Omeara and Lafayette venues in London, has joined 1,500 artists to sign an open letter calling for support for the UKs “world-leading” live music industry.

Lovett is chief executive of the Venue Group as well as a founding member of Brit Award-winning folk band Mumford & Sons.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he said: “I operate two venues in London, we have 210 staff, and we have managed to retain all of them through this period.

“I think the problem is that we are facing the future and what does coming back look like? And at the moment there are not clear guidelines for what the timeline is for that.

“Unfortunately, I think the current Government support will run out before we are ready to come back.

“Certain sectors have been given a lot more definition of when they can come back.

“Across the hospitality sector there has been a great organised effort and collaboration with the Government to at least try and bring back some of our much-loved restaurants, pubs and bars.”

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Ed Sheeran (Ian West/PA)

Ed Sheeran (Ian West/PA)

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Ed Sheeran (Ian West/PA)

Speaking about Ed Sheeran and Sir Paul McCartney, who have also signed the letter, he said: “We do talk about these artists. These are the artists who we see often take up column inches, but the reality is that the effect is being felt across the swathes of musicians up and down the country who we may not know yet.

“The people that were Mumford & Sons playing in the corner of a pub in north London, during that time that is so critical for people to come and experience their music, that formative period of their careers, that is absolutely on hold right now.

“The problem is that when we see these images of large gatherings on the beach we do wonder whether there is that much of a difference.

“We are here to to make sure people are safe, speaking with my venue hat on, but we won’t be able to sustain until it is clear when we can come back.”

The open letter, addressed to Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden, says that with concerts and festivals unlikely to return until 2021 at the earliest, the industry is at imminent risk of “mass insolvencies”.

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Oliver Dowden (Pippa Fowles/10 Downing Street/Crown Copyright/PA)

Oliver Dowden (Pippa Fowles/10 Downing Street/Crown Copyright/PA)

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Oliver Dowden (Pippa Fowles/10 Downing Street/Crown Copyright/PA)

The star-studded list of signees also includes Dua Lipa, Skepta, Rita Ora, Coldplay, Eric Clapton, Annie Lennox, Sam Smith, Sir Rod Stewart, Liam Gallagher, Florence + The Machine, George Ezra, Depeche Mode, Iron Maiden, Lewis Capaldi, Little Mix and many more.

The joint letter says: “UK live music has been one of the UK’s biggest social, cultural and economic successes of the past decade.

“But, with no end to social distancing in sight or financial support from Government yet agreed, the future for concerts and festivals and the hundreds of thousands of people who work in them looks bleak.

“Until these businesses can operate again, which is likely to be 2021 at the earliest, Government support will be crucial to prevent mass insolvencies and the end of this world-leading industry.”

Following the publication of the letter on Thursday, artists, venues, festivals and production companies posted films and photos of their last live gigs or events, using the hashtag #LetTheMusicPlay.

Fans are also encouraged to post about the last gig they attended in a show of support.

The letter calls on Mr Dowden to deliver a three-point strategy for restarting the live music sector: a clear, conditional timeline for reopening venues without social distancing, a comprehensive business and employment support package, and VAT exemption on ticket sales.

A Government spokeswoman said: “We are already providing unprecedented financial assistance which many music organisations and artists have taken advantage of, such as loans and the job retention scheme, and we continue to look at additional support we can provide the industry.

“We recognise that this pandemic has created major challenges for the sector and are working closely with them to develop comprehensive guidance for performances and events to return as soon as possible.”

Mr Dowden tweeted: “I understand the deep anxiety of those working in music and the desire to see fixed dates for reopening. I am pushing hard for these dates and to give you a clear roadmap back.

“These involve very difficult decisions about the future of social distancing, which we know has saved lives.”

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