The roll-out of Covid19 vaccines is gathering enormous pace in the UK, with unprecedented plans in place to ensure the vast majority of the UK adult population can receive their jab within the next few months with an aim towards normality by summer. With hundreds of hospitals, over 1000 GP practices, along with a multitude of mass vaccination centres manned by the British Army and thousands of volunteers, it’s clear the UK is leading the way when it comes to getting everyone vaccinated as soon as possible. Now, the events industry is also getting involved, with John Giddings, boss of the Isle Of White festival, suggesting that the UK festival industry could provide another line of defence and get the jabs done even quicker.
Taking to Twitter last week (Jan 5), Giddings wrote an open-tweet to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, suggesting that the UK festival industry is in a prime position to help. Not only do hundreds of live venues currently lie empty as a result of the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, but there are also thousands of people who work in the events industry, with many currently out of work as a result. The skills and logistics in running major events also have a multitude of cross-over with a mass vaccination campaign, and while intramuscular injection isn’t normally in the skill-set of people who work at a UK festival, training to administer such injections is surprisingly easy, not to mention the many other rolls involved such as marshalling, queue management, etc.
Dear @BorisJohnson – we are the music business – we have thousands of skilled people capable of running events & empty theatres/clubs/arenas – give us the vaccines & we will work 24 hours a day to sort it ?
— John Giddings (@JohnGiddings01) January 5, 2021
Speaking further to the NME about his idea, Giddings, using a wonderfully British turn-of-phrase, said:
“I was lying in bed last night thinking: ‘Fuck all of this for a game of soldiers—why don’t I do something as opposed to waiting for people to tell me what to do? I sent out a tweet saying that I’ve got thousands of people who know what they’re doing and hundreds of empty venues and it’s created a snowstorm.”
While the gesture is indeed fantastic, it seems unlikely to be taken up for now. The capacity of the NHS for injecting people currently stands at several million per week once every site currently planned is open, with the main bottleneck being supply of finished vaccines, which currently stands at around 2 million per week planned for the rest of January. While there has been some talk this may go even higher, supply as opposed to staffing, sites, or volunteers remains the issue facing the NHS.
Either way, it is clear that vaccinating a majority of people and ending the pandemic in the UK at least, is vital to the survival of the UK festival scene and events going ahead this summer. With hundreds of thousands of venues, clubs, bars, pubs, and restaurants currently shut, the UK’s entire “night-time economy” is facing the brink of disaster. Plans were announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunek on Jan 5 for a £4.6 billon relief package for the hospitality industry, with businesses able to claim up to £9000 per premises, however as ever there are fears among some that this may be too little, too late.