Making Music, the UK’s membership organisation for leisure-time music groups, was expecting confirmation that Step 2 in the England roadmap would allow outdoor music rehearsals with more than six people from 12 April, but this is not the case.
We are disappointed to hear from DCMS (Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) that other organised participative group activity, including amateur group sports, are permitted as well as fairly large events for the public (e.g. village fetes), whereas no choir, band or orchestra can meet outdoors, except in socially permitted groups of six or two households.
Last year, an unwarranted distinction between professional and non-professional music-making led to an outcry, motivated in great part by issues of isolation and mental health which can be substantially improved by making music in a group.
Now, in addition, we understand that other community groups and participative activity that are very similar in organisation and risk to a music group can go ahead outdoors – but music groups are prohibited from meeting.
Barbara Eifler, Making Music Chief Executive, said:
“I am puzzled by this unwarranted distinction between amateur football, gardening or photography clubs and community music activity. Last autumn, when meeting was permitted, Making Music members demonstrated their ability to risk assess their sessions, implement required mitigations and rehearse safely. Why not let them meet now and experience the healing effect of group singing and playing?”
There is concern that Step 3 in the England roadmap, scheduled for 17 May, may be postponed as new variants spread and therefore music groups would face another long wait, damaging to individuals and to the groups themselves which have been struggling with loss of income and participants.
Barbara Eifler continues:
“Choirs, orchestras and bands have been doing an amazing job keeping their players and singers connected, making music in whatever way they could for over a year now, but research conducted among our member groups shows, at best, two thirds of their participants have engaged online, leading to the exclusion of at least an estimated quarter of a million people across the nation who would usually engage actively in music.”
Making Music has now written an open letter to Oliver Dowden, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, to ask that leisure-time music groups be allowed to organise outdoor rehearsals with immediate effect.
There are some indicative dates for return to activity for groups in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Making Music’s managers in those nations continue to urge their respective governments to provide clarity, allow rehearsals with appropriate mitigations and recognise the beneficial – and low-risk – nature of the activities carried out by community music groups.
A news item on this subject is also available on the Making Music website.