DF Concerts chief executive Geoff Ellis has criticised the Scottish Government’s “project fear” handling of the pandemic, while appealing for a date to reopen without social distancing.
The music promoter was speaking at a virtual event hosted by the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce talking about the events industry and its future following the coronavirus crisis.
Ellis said the Scottish events industry was “unfairly disadvantaged” compared with England, noting that live events going ahead south of the border have “sold out in record time”.
“That’s frightening to me, because all of you involved in events know that event sales are sluggish generally,” he said. “We’re living in project fear in Scotland at the moment.
“We’re not allowed to hope, we’re not allowed to dream, we can’t plan for any events without social distancing,” Ellis continued. “And Scotland needs that confidence, we need the four nations approach because businesses are suffering unnecessarily.”
He called for the Scottish Government to be more specific with reopening dates in order to give the events industry confidence, even if that comes with caveats attached. “That’s what we all need, because we’re losing audiences to England.”
Referring to nightclubs, Ellis commented: “In Scotland, not only do they not have hope of a date for re-opening, but they’re constantly referred to by [Scotland’s clinical director of healthcare strategy] Jason Leitch as dark, dingy basements – that’s not acceptable.”
“A public official should not be saying that, and should not be painting such a bleak picture of aspects of our events industry.”
Ellis argued that the language needed to be changed from “what if” to “what’s possible” to help renew hope within the hospitality and tourism industry.
He expects the UK Government to confirm the end to social distancing on 14 June, with the First Minister following a few weeks later. “Scotland has to follow, it would be untenable not to, particularly when there’s no restrictions on people travelling across the border.”
The TRNSMT festival organiser argued that the Scottish public would not accept not being able to attend concerts in Scotland, if 90,000 people could attend Reading and Leeds Festival with no social distancing in England.
Ellis explained city hotels were “up in arms” when he moved TRNSMT to September, due to the loss of business. But, he is “extremely confident” that the festival – headlined by The Courteeners, Liam Gallagher and the Chemical Brothers – will take place this year at Glasgow Green.
He expects that 2022-2023 will be the “busiest year on record for Scotland” as the crucial underwriting of insurance for events should have been completed by then.
Ellis added that he had hoped to launch another festival, which is a “bit of a refresh on previous festivals”, but “not on the scale of TRNSMT”, but it was pushed back to 2022.
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