“A real worry in the industry is that we’re going to be scapegoated,” says Simon Denby of nomadic party Percolate, ahead of three sessions this weekend — Subb-an, Bobby Pleasure and Mariiin at Colour Factory, and Jaguar at Venue MOT Unit 18, both in London, alongside Ross From Friends at Patterns in Brighton. “I think the messaging needs to be much better around things like lateral flow tests. I’m double vaccinated, and still doing lateral flows several times a week. Normally every other day. And that’s what we are advising our teams to do also.
“It has certainly been very challenging, and frustrating with the lack of Government clarity. They have really put a lot of the pressure of decision making onto event operators and venue owners. Rather than having a standard that’s the same for everyone,” says Denby, before moving on to talk about the Government u-turn. “I think it’s a sensible way to do things. Especially as everyone has the option to be vaccinated now who is in our audience. So it’s a really big thing and a good idea for keeping venues open and safe, which has to be the priority right now. I think this whole ‘Freedom Week’ is a little bitter sweet, the way the Government has handled it, the rise in infections and the stress that is going on is really ramping up, but I’m feeling cautiously optimistic.”
David Conde, head of marketing and communications at FOLD, has also been extremely busy preparing for the club's marathon reopening in London. Over the weekend, FOLD Extended runs for 18 hours from Friday night, drum & bass institution Rupture then takes over Saturday, before UNFOLD finishes up on Sunday. The club released its coronavirus policy on Tuesday 20th July, requesting proof of negative lateral flow or PCR test, even with full vaccination. Masks are encouraged inside, with complimentary face coverings available, and a “COVID officer” keeping surfaces sanitised. Staff must also be tested, and keep their masks on.
“It’s not easy, it’s not clear, but throughout the whole pandemic we have learnt that nothing is clear. It’s a new pandemic. Nobody has faced this before so it’s complicated to understand,” says Conde of work right now. “We trust our community, as well, that they will take the right precautions, and once they are in the venue we are going to make sure all the little bits will be implemented smoothly.
“It’s in everyone’s hands to prove the Government wrong, and say ‘this is a club, it’s no different from going to Wembley with however many people, or going to the races with the fucking fox hunters'. It’s on the club, the dancers. Everyone needs to do a little bit, but we are confident,” he continues, moving to how the crew are feeling. “We are really excited more than anything. FOLD is not a business. We are a community here, and so reopening is not getting back to business. Opening our doors is bringing all our community together under one roof to share those moments once again.”
Although not under any one roof, Manchester’s Meat Free restarts this weekend with an outdoor day party at The Progress Centre. The techno collective are among the city’s most prominent teams, and had planned for a local lineup until other events began announcing imported headliners. Berlin stalwarts Freddy K and The Lady Machine are now down to play, alongside rapidly rising North West talent Yant, and residents. And travel has posed a logistical nightmare.
“The number one problem was waiting until the last minute to make sure travel can happen. We got past that, then the issue is one artist is half-vaccinated, the other fully,” says Alice Woods, AKA aalice, one quarter of the Meat Free crew. She explains, even with another promoter in London hosting both artists the night before — and therefore sharing financial burden — costs have risen dramatically due to late flight bookings, and extra accommodation needs, to meet UK entry requirements.
“The German double vaccine passport isn’t accepted at the UK border, or there’s no clarity about whether it is, so the artists are actually here in the UK quarantining already,” she continues, explaining this could impact future dates. “Now we are really looking at our line-ups for the rest of the year. We don’t know how long this will go on for in terms of PCRs. It’s not that we are against it, it’s just ridiculously expensive and even people from other countries cannot benefit from being double vaccinated here.”
To be continued...