Bid to reboot staging of live events in Scotland revealed

A blueprint to help Scottish festivals and events get back up and running before the coronavirus pandemic over is to be drawn up – as it emerged that nearly £3 million is to be ringfenced to reboot the troubled sector.

Light shows like The Enchanted Forest may be supported through the new events fund.
Light shows like The Enchanted Forest may be supported through the new events fund.

Bespoke guidelines for a host of different indoor and outdoor cultural and sporting events are expected to be produced by the end of the year as part of a new recovery programme aimed at boosting the economy and reviving the tourism industry across the country.

The various “route maps” are expected to see the first events rolled out in each sector in areas of the country with the lowest infection rates. Indoor and outdoor events are permitted in level 0 and 1 of the Scottish Government’s new five-tier system.

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However the new ground rules are expected to pave the way for the return of events iconic concert venues like King Tut’s, Barrowland Ballroom and the Hydro in Glasgow, football matches at Hampden, rugby fixtures at Murrayfield, mountain biking events in the Borders and Highlands, and outdoor music festivals across the country next year.

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Public funding lifelines revealed for Scottish cultural venues and events

New advice for organisers planning to stage events and festivals between now and the end of 2021 sets out ambitions for the public to return to them “confidently and responsible,” as well as ensure they create “a Covid-safe environment.”

The new £2.75 million Events Recovery Fund, which the Scottish Government is backing, is aimed at helping organisers meet the extra costs involved in staging events as well as rebuilding confidence in both staging and attending them.

Funding will also be available to help stage “hybrid events” which will allow people to attend virtually or in person, or for digital-only events.

The mountain bike festival Tweedlove is one of the most high-profile events staged in the Borders. Picture: Ian Rutherford

The new blueprint is aimed at avoiding unnecessary delays in recovery efforts while test or pilot events are carried out. Instead, a gradual roll-out of events with different capacities is expected to be introduced to help venues, promoters, organisers and audiences adjust to new hygiene measures and social distancing restrictions.

Paul Bush, director of events at VisitScotland, said: "We’re establishing a new group that will look at a clear route map for the next six months, which will look at every genre of the events industry for the next six months, whether that is professional or amateur sport, indoor and outdoor cultural events, or business events to look at exactly what mitigating factors need to be put in place.

"We’re corralling everybody across government and the industry with the medical clinicians to try to get the events industry to return to some normality in 2021. There will be advice and guidance for each kind of event, from a concert to a conference, hopefully within the next six-eight weeks. There will hopefully be a much greater groundswell of views to move things forward.

"We went down the route of pilot events in rugby, football and golf, which were incredibly successful, but they’ve probably not been as coordinated as they should have been and we should have been looking at how to increase the capacity of each event. We’re going to try to get away from the idea of pilot or test events, as we think they are a bit of an impediment.

The Tartan Heart Festival, which is staged at the Belladrum Estate near Inverness, has grown to become one of Scotland's biggest outdoor music events. Picture: VisitScotland/Iona Spence

"It’s really about getting back to normality, which might be hard for people to understand at the moment. However we will return to normality at some point, but if we don’t plan for it in advance we won’t be ready.”

It is hoped the new funding support will ensure the return of everything from music, comedy, book and food festivals to Highland Games, clan gatherings, agricultural shows and gala days.

Government agency VisitScotland is also encouraging applications from the organisers of drive-in events, light shows and illuminated trails, maritime celebrations and fashion festivals.

Public celebrations marking Burns Night, St Andrew’s Night and Hogmanay are also expected to make a comeback under the recovery programme, which will allow event organisers to secure up to £35,000 for large-scale events.

The new Burns and Beyond festival has transformed several historic buildings in Edinburgh, including St Giles' Cathedral, at the start of the year. Picture: Unique Events

Mr Bush added: “We’ve not lost our aspiration and ambition for Scotland to have international events with an international profile.

"But we also need to have events which are going to be fit for purpose that can be delivered, particularly now that have a new tier structure in place in Scotland.

"One thing that we have learn over the last few months is that the heartbeat of the events industry is local communities.

"We feel we really need to go back to our roots and reinvigorate that community events .

“It’s also about providing that confidence among people to go back outside. At the moment, a lot of people are still fearful about going outside their homes.

"It’s quite a change for us, but it’s a really exciting and positive change, which has been really welcomed by local authorities.

“In terms of bigger events, which we normally support, it’s really about trying to get the industry back up and running again.

“This new recovery fund is about providing that stimulus to get the industry back up and running and help people with financial cushioning.

"There are green shoots of recovery out there. We’ve got people coming to us who want to run events in the next few weeks.

"If you had wound the clock back a week or so there would have been people saying that the event industry in Scotland is dead, but we now have the tier structure which provides the opportunity to do some events and we now have some financial support to actually help people do them.”

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