04/08/2020: The Government guidance on reopening the performing arts has caused widespread disappointment amongst hobby musicians says Making Music CEO Barbara Eifler in an exclusive guest blog.
Before its publication on 9 July, bands and choirs were happily engaged in planning small group meetings outdoors and gradually risk assessing their way back to a ‘new normal’ – just as pubs, hairdressers and gyms have been doing.
However, the guidance now prohibits non-professional groups or groups with non-professional participants to sing or play wind and brass instruments together in any number.
The next day, dejection in our weekly Zoom meeting for members was palpable. The smallest window of hope had been dashed, with no prospect of an imminent review until the results of research into droplet and aerosol transmission of Covid-19 are available. My own band, which had kept its spirits up through weeks of the pandemic, was struggling.
Many leisure-time music groups – choirs, brass or wind bands, jazz ensembles, orchestras etc. – have been hit hard by the lockdown. They have bravely been moving activity online, but telling us about social loss and isolation, with the mental health looking ever more fragile.
Music-making is all very well in your living room (neighbours permitting), but making music together has been sorely missed.
There is no explanation – or justification, in our view – as to why non-professionals are being treated differently to professionals in this guidance.
Making Music, at the request of its 3,700+ member groups, has created tools for them to make their voice heard on this issue. Hobby musicians are as able to risk assess their activity as professionals are. And, their return to group activity is also crucial to the portfolio career of those tens of thousands of professionals engaged by the leisure-time music sector each year.
Safety is obviously paramount for everyone. Our campaign – or rather, our members’ campaign – is not suggesting bands or choirs should get back together if their risk assessment tells them it’s not safe or not for their group right now. However, it is about opening up that possibility for those who want to and can do so safely.
For some, there is more risk to people’s wellbeing if their group cannot meet, than if it does. Choir in a care home? Best wait for a vaccine. Choir With No Name? This homeless charity is literally a lifeline for some of the most vulnerable and marginalised in society – meeting again for them is more likely to mean life than death.
What can individuals do?
Making Music has put the case for equal treatment of professional and non-professional musical activity to the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and ministers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Individuals can write to their MP in England, or their MSP, MS or AM.
If you’d like to support out campaign, use the hashtags #BringBackMyChoir #BringBackMyBand on social media, or share our great video.
Barbara Eifler is the Chief Executive of Making Music and plays 3rd cornet in the Crystal Palace Progress Band as a hobby.Back to news