Boris says: Let Britain sing and play

Boris says: Let Britain sing and play


norman lebrecht

June 23, 2020

From the prime minister’s statement to the House of Commons in the past hour:

My RHFs the Business and Culture Secretaries will establish taskforces with public health experts and these sectors to help them become Covid-secure and re-open as soon as possible.

We will also work with the arts industry on specific guidance to enable choirs, orchestras and theatres to resume live performances as soon as possible.

Let’s go!



  • Miko says:

    1000 new infections a day traced (ONS estimates 3-5000).

    God help us. We’ve outsourced risk to Tim Martin and the Wetherspoons shareholders.

  • Jean-Poil says:

    … and die.

  • Gustavo says:

    Boris Dancing to Eurology

  • Ian J. Munro says:

    Normally this would be something to celebrate. I must congratulate the various musicians who have worked tirelessly to petition the government about the arts sector being allowed to return to work. However, this development fills me with dread. The government, in my humble opinion, has been cavalier in its attempts to lift the lock down and get the country moving again. The numbers of Covid Cases is still a worry. To me this feels as if the Government has again succumbed to peer pressure and announced this like they did allowing museums and pubs to reopen without proper risk assessments in place or much other viable health and safety advice. I say this as the Director of 3 choirs. I am really worried about rehearsals and activities resuming now while the virus is still a threat and there being little credible evidence to suggest if singing is as risky as some think it is and what dangers wind instruments possess as well. For instance, how far can aerosols travel out of a wind instrument etc. Yes it would be great for culture to return but at this stage, unfortunately I think this is one bridge too far. The other worry is of course, even though there is a willing for concerts, theatre etc to begin again, do we have a willing audience at the moment who would want to risk infection to come and support our valuable work? I’m sorry to be so negative, but at the moment there is much scientific research to be done before we can feel confident that we can be safe, or as safe as we possibly can be, making music once again.

    • As one who has worked hard to get clarification from Government about the safety of singing and playing in this covid-19 driven world and with an annual Bachfest in the autumn usually in public I share your apprehension. The medics will tell us this virus is far from over. The Government is relaxing lockdown in a way the public will think the virus has gone. It hasn’t. We don’t have Germany’s testing system either, although we were promised a ‘world class system’ here by 1 June. Do we REALLY want a 2nd wave in the winter?

      • John Borstlap says:

        As an article on the website of the World Economic Forum has already explained in April: the virus is spread through the air in closed-off spaces via micro droplets which remain floating in the air:

        Bigger droplets fall to the ground within a couple of feet from the infected person, against which mouth masks should be effective protection. But micro droplets may go through the masks, so ventilation is the solution. If halls have corona proof ventilation (fresh air taken-in and not old air pumped around), and audiences wear face masks, and performers are regularly tested, distancing is no longer necessary and concert life can pick-up again.

        It is regrettable that such information is not as yet widely understood – like the Japanese simulation which is shown on the WEFORUM – because the quicker such things are worked-out, the less the immense damage to the performing arts.

        • Antonia Potter says:

          The NATS webinar on “Singing In an Age of Coronavirus”, available on YouTube, discusses scie tific research taking place within a room in which frequent changes of air were undertaken in the space, but still, SARS-CoV-2 lingered. I believe the room air was completely replaced something on the order of 8 times per hour.

          • John Borstlap says:

            Which goes against other research projects. It seems that it is about the quantity of micro droplets being inhaled over a longer period which makes people ill. Ventilation is supposed to reduce the number of micro droplets, and maybe a small rest number is no longer relevant. The problems will remain a challenge.

      • Maria says:

        And we have had multiple suicides, people dying of loneliness, relationship breakdown, kids abused, all before they’d ever get or die of the virus. Whichever way it goes, there is always going to be an enormous risk. The only sure way to avoid the virus is to stay at home as the virus is going nowhere People have a choice if you can afford to. But the unemployment and not being able to.
        pay one’s bills or put food on the table for their family is frightening, making eo9le extremely ill and in some killing people as life isn’t with living. Really tough balance and
        tough decisions.

    • V.Lind says:

      I totally agree. But it is good to know it is on the agenda at least. Maybe Dowden has more heft than I gave him credit for.

  • Lex says:

    Except that I’m assuming this is the same set of working groups that were announced on the 20th May:

    They include the ‘entertainment and events’ working group which lumps together cinemas (soon to be open) with performing groups and venues of all disciplines and sizes: the group is twice as big as any of the others feeding into the cultural renewal taskforce, and, I fear, unwieldy and likely to be a ‘blunt instrument’ as a result.

    While I’m all for progress and practicable guidance on reopening, I don’t have a huge amount of confidence that this government really understands the sheer breadth of work that takes place in the arts sector and therefore how hard it will be to arrive at a ‘one size fits all’ reopening…

    • Singerjohn says:

      So far as I can see, the Entertainment and events working group has at least two gaps – and there may be more. Firstly, though orchestras have some representation there is no representative of choral music: the Association of British Choral Directors might be a place to start? Secondly, all the members of the group appear to represent professional organisations. That’s crucial, of course, but what about some representation for amateurs in the performing arts?

  • Dave says:

    So Johnson decrees it and it will happen? “Specific guidance” from this s**tgibbon and his cronies is not what we need – we need research by scientists, and I do not mean those having their strings pulled by Bozo (whose own “brush with death” surely had a very long handle) and his controller Cummings. Anyone who trusts them – on the basis of their track record and example – is a fool.

  • Tony Britten says:

    This seems like an incredibly cynical and populist ploy. Boris Cummings -Johnson is very aware of the recent YouGov poll which states that 76% of the population thinks he is doing a very bad job with Covid 19. He is appealing to the voters who, frankly are probably already breaking lockdown rules and relying on millions of people like me who have no intention of relaxing self isolation for the very simple reason that I think the government is incompetent. So lots of sensible people do the work for him and hopefully keep the second spike at bay.

    As for our own business, today’s announcement seems to imply that theatres and concert halls can open, but no live entertainment is allowed. Am I missing something here?

  • Amos says:

    One would have thought that a near-death experience would have informed the PM better. That said facts are rarely an impediment today for politicians trying to win the day’s news cycle. Clearly an Oxford-educated politician is no better able to deal with COVID-19 than a politician whose father bought him 2 years at the University of Pennsylvania.

  • Derek says:

    Concert Halls and Theatres will not be able to host live performances.

    The government says it will work with the Arts Industry on guidance to enable orchestras, choirs and theatres to resume live events as soon as possible.

    • Derek says:

      Following on from Tony Britten’s last point, it was implied that – “Concert halls and theatres will not be ALLOWED to host live performances” until –

      guidelines and practices are agreed – i.e. the government will work with the Arts Industry on guidance to enable orchestras, choirs and theatres to resume live events as soon as possible.

      However, Cinemas or movie theatres have been given the go ahead.

  • buxtehude says:

    “Let’s go!”

    Let’s not go.

    American doctors, more than a few of them, don’t care what happens to people who can’t pay, let them die howling in the gutter, it’s all the same to them no matter what they might say if cornered.

    With livelihoods imperiled in the performing arts this same attitude now emerges, whether it hides behind cries for freedom, the grinning optimism pressed by economists or within the Jabberwocky of the just-plain-unedited world.

    This PM of yours, as Brits should be well aware by now, is in fact nothing but a self-propelling swollen hemorrhoid with a platinum thatch stuck to the free end, incapable of producing any beneficial effect whatsoever, unless it’s a u-turn.

    Don’t be misled by the avuncular chuckle, the misdirection to time-wasting task forces and term papers. Keep your eye on Cummings, known to American readers of comic strips as Uncle Duke. He is going to do for you all.

    • V.Lind says:

      Ta! Hadn’t thought about Uncle Duke for years, but once encountered, never forgotten. Yes, Cummings would seem to be the logical Duke-du-jour.

    • Maria says:

      Damn sight better than your Trump you voted in! Boris is far more cleverer and caring than you give him credit for.