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Music venues might have to take your temperature at gigs

Roundhouse chief exec questions how social distancing can work for gigs and concerts

12 June, 2020 — By Dan Carrier

Anna Calvi appearing at the Roundhouse [Photo: Raph_PH]

CONCERT-goers face a range of measures, including compulsory temperature checks before entry and staggered queuing times to get the bar, if Camden Town’s music venues reopen before a coronavirus vaccine is available.

This is the view of Marcus Davey, the chief executive of the iconic Roundhouse in Chalk Farm as famous venues fear the long wait to get performers back on stage in front of their fans.

Mr Davey said: “We are actively engaged in trying to find a way to being able to host socially distanced performances, but I can’t see it working. To give people enough space in the Roundhouse, with two metres social distancing, you would have to go from having a capacity of 3,000 to 200.”

Mr Davey has run the performing arts space and education charity for more than 20 years and was awarded a CBE last year for his services to the arts.

While schools, shops, and other industries are easing out of the coronavirus lockdown, live music venues are not working with a similar timetable. Mr Davey is forecasting the wait could be as long as six months.

“We are investigating options around maintaining good health among audiences. This will range from non-contact temperature screening at the doors for all, enhanced cleaning regimes, staggered entry queues and how we manage pressure points at bars,” he said. “If social distancing can be discontinued before a vaccine is available, we will be ready for the Roundhouse to be up and running.”



The Roundhouse uses income from events in the listed Victorian railway shed to provide training in the arts to more than 10,000 young people a year.

The venue’s music and arts programmes have been moved online via a new project called Round Your House, aiming to provide support to Roundhouse students, but a dramatic fall in income has hit budgets and 70 per cent of staff have been furloughed. The shutdown of studios, classrooms and workshops has so far affected more than 2,000 young people who would otherwise be regularly on site.

Marcus Davey is chief executive at the Roundhouse

Mr Davey said: “It has been a very fine balancing act. We can carry on doing some educational programme but the gigs, private events and bar income help us to raise the funding and without them it is very difficult.”

The New Journal reported last month how some venue owners feared Camden Town’s reputation as a place to see live music, from up and coming bands to worldwide stars, was at risk. Henry Conlon, the landlord at the Dublin Castle in Parkway, called for the government to draw up a package of support, warning that the industry had not been given the same level of support that other areas had seen.\

The Jazz Cafe and the Fiddler’s Elbow are also among scores of venues who have asked regulars for financial help to get through the crisis.

On a Zoom call to the New Journal on Friday, Councillor Georgia Gould, the leader of Camden Council, said: “Culture and arts is the lifeblood of Camden and live music is a large part of that. It gives Camden its soul, and these organisations are deeply struggling. A lot of them haven’t been helped by the schemes that have happened so far.”

She added local organisations and the council were working on a “manifesto” to take to government in a bid to secure extra support.

“When the furlough ends they can’t open and so I strongly believe there needs to be sector support to allow them to keep going.” Camden would set up a “discretionary fund”, she added, but it would not be enough to secure all cultural venues futures.

“We are continuing to have conversations and hear ideas about what we could do to help locally,” she said.

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