“Freedom Day”: Why social distancing will remain at all our concerts
CMB Artistic Director Julia Morneweg explains why the dropping of government Covid-19 mandates on 19 July won’t change the way we run our concerts, and why making our audience feel safe is more important than increasing audience capacity.
When we re-started indoor concerts last autumn, the test every venue and every event had to meet was very simple: “Are we comfortable inviting our elderly parents and vulnerable friends?”. It was with our most at-risk audience members in mind that we set out to create health and safety protocols that would ensure attending one of our concerts would be as low-risk an outing as one could possibly enjoy in the middle of a pandemic. All our booking became contactless, venues were thoroughly cleaned before each concert and our fantastic front-of-house staff would escort each ‘bubble’ to their seats on arrival and out of the venue after the concert. We were thrilled when, at our first London concert since the start of the pandemic on 09 October 2020, we were able to welcome numerous long-time CMB followers for whom this concert was their first social outing in six months.
So when the government announced a week ago that on 19 July all legal restrictions on mask-wearing and social distancing would go, my first thought went to those for whom this day will mean anything BUT a return to freedom. I texted a few friends who, for various reasons, are either immunocompromised or otherwise clinically extremely vulnerable and asked them, how they would feel about attending events such as concerts going forward if they weren’t guaranteed to be socially-distanced. The answer was unanimous: “I am afraid I will have to stay away”.
Knowing full well that the largest proportion of chamber music lovers does not consist of 20-year-olds who consider themselves invincible, I wanted to find out more about people’s attitudes to the prospect of restrictions being dropped and concerts returning to ‘normal’. So I took to Twitter to ask people whether knowing that a concert venue has no social distancing or mask requirements in place would make them more or less likely to attend an event. A staggering 72% of the 188 poll participants responded with ‘less likely’!
Do I sympathise with their concerns? Absolutely. And that’s why, for the foreseeable future, our safety protocols will stay exactly as they are: with sensible limits on capacity and seating in bubbles that are a safe distance apart from one another. As an organisation ChamberMusicBox prides itself on being open, inclusive and on making world-class chamber music playing as accessible as it can possible be. And that means ensuring that all our concerts continue to be the safest and most enjoyable events they can be for everyone, whatever their clinical status. Because FEELING safe is every bit as important as being safe.
We look forward to seeing you soon!