Brian Ferguson: Optimism over live events returning is increasing, but an end date for social distancing is needed
Sitting on my desk is a black diary so small it could comfortably fit inside a large box of matches.
An accidental online purchase late last year, its modest size and unopened condition over the winter and into the spring felt like a constant and depressing reminder that live events were a thing of the pre-lockdown past.
Just over a month ago, the prospect of going to any kind of festival, concert, play or comedy show over the summer was a distant dream.
So there was something of a surprise when Scotland’s long-awaited route map, published in mid-April, actually included May 17 as the date for the resumption of both indoor and outdoor live events – the same reboot date given south of the border.
Combined with next week’s reopening date for museums, galleries, hotels and restaurants, the news that live events could return by mid-May was enough to spark a flurry of announcements, to the extent that I’m now trying to acquire a new diary.
Optimism that Scotland may actually be leaving its Covid nightmare behind has only increased in recent weeks, particularly with the early easing of restrictions on travel and socialising outdoors, which so many of us took advantage of over the weekend.
Suddenly, social arrangements are being made and holiday plans firmed up.
Yet there is still uncertainty and quite a bit of confusion over when normality may be able to return for artists, performers, venues and festivals.
In England, all are eyes are on June 21 – the provisional date Prime Minister Boris Johnson set back in February for the end of social distancing.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has been much more cautious, but signalled last week she was “optimistic” nightclubs would be able to reopen in the summer, which pretty much amounts to the same thing, as enforcing social distancing would clearly be a non-starter for operators.
Scotland’s route map does not extend any further than the end of June, by which time events for 400 people indoors and 2,000 outdoors should be allowed.
However the entire events industry is still awaiting crucial guidance on what – and when – social distancing restrictions are planned to be in place when audiences return over the summer. They are likely to make all the difference to whether plans being put in place are viable or not.