Music

U.K. Orchestra Provokes Outrage by Dropping Nearly Half Its Performers To “Prioritise Increased Diversity”

The English Touring Opera has unceremoniously sacked 14 of its white members, some of whom had worked there for decades, after its recently-appointed Musical Director held auditions “prioritising diversity”. The move has proved sufficiently extreme to anger even the Musician’s Union, which has hitherto been an advocate for such policies. The Daily Mail reports:

The musicians, aged 40 to 66, have been told they will not be offered contracts with the company in Spring 2022 citing diversity guidance from the Arts Council England, the Sunday Times reported. 

The musicians, who officially work as freelancers, can be dropped from the opera season-on-season but many have played with the company for up to 20 years and consider it a permanent job. 

The Arts Council England has hit back at the ETO, which it funds to the tune of £1.78 million a year, saying it never encouraged the company to sack musicians.

“We did not instruct the English Touring Opera to send this letter,” the Council said. “We are now in conversation with ETO to ensure no funding criteria have been breached.”  

The unfortunate artists received the following from the orchestra’s director:

Those Who Have Had AstraZeneca Vaccine – or No Vaccine at All – Banned From Upcoming Bruce Springsteen Show

Broadway is reopening in New York, but you’ll need to have received a vaccine approved by the country’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in order to go to a show. Bruce Springsteen will shortly be opening in a one-man show on Broadway, but audience members will be forced to show proof of vaccination to attend – and the AstraZeneca vaccine won’t count! The Telegraph has the story.

The show, billed as “an intimate night with Bruce, his guitar, a piano, and his stories” will run five nights a week at the St James theatre.

“At the direction of New York State, Springsteen on Broadway and the St James Theatre will only be accepting proof of FDA-approved Covid vaccines,” the website says.

Anyone who has received another jab, or is unwilling or unable to have a vaccine will not be allowed to attend.

The news has been met with disappointment just hours north, across the Canadian border, where more than 1.7 million people have had the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Only those who have had a Moderna, Pfizer or Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be allowed to go to the theatre.

Worth reading in full.

The nyc.com website says young children will be exempt from the vaccine rule, but no one else.

The only exception to the above will be for children under the age of 16, who must be accompanied by a vaccinated adult and also must provide proof of at least one of the following:

~ negative antigen Covid test taken within six hours of the performance start time, or

~ negative PCR Covid test taken within 72 hours of the performance start time.

Live Music Venues Beset by Regulations – and Not Just Ones Imposed by the Government

Audiences at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club won’t be dancing cheek to cheek anytime soon, with the famous London venue having introduced a raft of “Covid protocols” (some already required by the Government, others not), including mask-wearing, facial thermometers and protective screens. Here’s a list of new rules from their website.

  • Face coverings must be worn when entering and leaving the venue or anytime you are not seated. Staff will wear face coverings.
  • Upon entering the club there will be an optional sanitiser station and a facial thermometer which you will be asked to use;
  • All guests must scan the Track and Trace QR Poster on arrival at the club.
  • We have removed entrance furniture to ease congestion in and out of the venue;
  • We have increased our cleaning system using medical grade sanitiser on all surfaces;
  • We politely ask customers not to bring excessive baggage that needs to be checked into the cloakroom to ease congestion upon entering and leaving the club;
  • Increased hand washing of staff and staff health declarations;
  • We have gone cashless. Your PDQ machine will be cleaned between each use;
  • We have reduced capacity to 50% to allow for spacing between guests;
  • We have adapted our air conditioning system to ensure there is 100% fresh air being circulated in the club;
  • We have installed some protective screens in certain areas.

As if this wasn’t enough, the Club points out that these are “just a few” of the measures which it has introduced to ensure the safety of its staff, musicians and audience members. Incredibly, it says that this can all be done while “maintaining the atmosphere of the club”. Yeah, right!

If all (or most) live entertainment venues return to action in this manner, their post-lockdown recoveries could well be short-lived.

UK Arts Rescue Fund Has Paid Out Just Over Half of Money Allocated

A Government fund established last year to support the arts and heritage sectors through lockdowns has only paid out little more than half of the money it has allocated, leaving venues across the country cash-strapped. The Guardian has the story.

The National Audit Office said the culture recovery fund had budgeted for £830 million in grants and loans funding so far, but only £495 million had been paid out.

MPs have responded angrily to the findings, urging the Government to hand over the cash while “there are still organisations left to support”.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) announced the £1.57 billion fund to help the cultural, arts and heritage institutions survive the pandemic last summer.

It has supported about 3,000 arts organisations in England so far, including venues such as the Royal Albert Hall and Southbank Centre in London, and M&S Bank Arena in Liverpool.

The fund was increased by £300 million in the budget earlier this month, with the Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden, saying: “It’s such a relief we can look ahead now so this funding is not just about survival but for planning and preparing for the reopening of theatres, galleries and gigs.”

But auditors have examined the allocation of the funds so far and found that of the £1 billion that has been made available, about £830 million in grants and loans has been awarded to different organisations but only £495 million of that has been paid out, auditors said.

The department has assumed, in the worst-case scenario, that social distancing would remain until the end of March this year, auditors pointed out, and that demand for theatre tickets and venue capacity would remain at 40% of pre-Covid levels.

But the current situation exceeds this worst-case scenario.

Last month, plans for a new 2,000-seat concert hall in London were scrapped due to the impact of lockdowns. Venues across the country have suffered greatly over the last year from the shutting down of the arts. Of course, the best approach from here would be to scrap the “rescue” fund altogether and just let the sector re-open.

Worth reading in full.