Live music is slowly making a comeback in the UK. As Brits look forward to the lifting of covid restrictions July 19, they will also be able to celebrate the occasion at a new music festival, kicking off at the exact time the restrictions are scheduled to be ditched.
The organizers have called their event the 00:01 Festival, in homage to the time when the last remaining covid-19 restrictions are scheduled to be lifted, July 19 -- a day eagerly awaited by the local population, where it has been dubbed "Freedom Day." And for good reason. The return to normality was initially planned for June 21, the first day of summer, but was postponed in light of a sudden rise in Delta variant covid cases.
To celebrate in style, the London-based startup, Egyptian Elbows will be hosting the inaugural 00:01 Festival simultaneously at two venues across London. Music lovers heading to the Oval Space will be able to celebrate the end of Boris Johnson's roadmap out of lockdown with sets from Flamingods, Crows, Talk Show, Betamax (aka The Comet Is Coming and Max Hallett of Soccer96) and guitarist L.E.D from Goat Girl. Meanwhile, revellers heading to the Pickle Factory can rock out to performances by Grove, Lynks, Peggy, Ed The Dog and Duress and Fake Turins.
"This is the first time in the history of, well everything (?) that live music in a venue has been taken away from us -- and as live music fans first and foremost we wanted to see the occasion back in properly with a BIG night and a load of killer bands that are going to smash it up," said Rob Broadbent and Max Wheeler of Egyptian Elbows in a news release.
Another "lost summer" for festivals?
While tickets for 00:01 Festival are available online, the organizers have warned would-be festival-goers that the dates of the event could change if Boris Johnson's government decides to change the date of lockdown easing again. It's a possibility that all music professionals in the United Kingdom fear, especially those in charge of organizing festivals.
One such professional is the singer-songwriter Peter Gabriel, who co-founded Womad. The 2021 edition of this international world music event -- scheduled to be held July 22 to 25 in Wiltshire -- is under threat due to the absence of insurance support covering uncertainties such as a new outbreak of the epidemic. "We've been faced with bankruptcy on two occasions previous and if we're trying to secure the future of the festival, which is very important to us, and our staff, we can't risk sinking it this year. It is a stressful time," he recently told The Guardian.
And Womad isn't the only British festival in this situation. According to the Association of Independent Festivals, more than half of all music events hosting more than 5,000 people have been cancelled due to the pandemic. "This is a milestone that nobody wanted to reach but, unfortunately, it has seemed inevitable for some time now thanks to the Government's inaction and refusal to give organizers any kind of safety net that would allow them to continue to invest in their businesses and the supply chain with confidence," said the Association of Independent Festivals CEO, Paul Reed.
For months now, festival organizers have been calling on the UK government to provide them with a specific insurance plan in the event that their 2021 festival is cancelled due to the pandemic. While Downing Street has not yet committed to granting their request, a spokesperson told The Guardian that the government is "working flat out to support festivals and live events." Meantime, the specter of another "lost summer" continues to loom large over the industry.