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Letters: Blame Downing Street, not our council, for Covid confusion

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SIR – As the organiser of the annual Lymington Seafood Festival, I would like to respond to and clarify the current government guidance relating to ‘live performance’ and whether it is correct to allow events to proceed (Letters, 21st August).

The first point to note is that the government issues ‘guidance’, not ‘laws’, to councils and businesses in relation to Covid-19. And since March, updates as to how businesses should operate have continued to change in order to reflect the wider public health situation.

Any confusion stems from central government and its policies that often lack coherence. In terms of ‘live performance’ the current ‘guidance’ is that only bands or artists deemed ‘professional’ are allowed to perform.

Their professional status relates to whether the band or artist would have regularly received income from performance and they account for monies legally.

But how to define ‘regular income’? Monthly gig? Twice a year? This cloudy guidance caused the confusion and disappointment for the brass band (A&T, 14th August), where my understanding is they practiced social distancing – which should be at three metres if using brass or wind instruments – whilst performing.

It is not the fault of Lymington and Pennington Town Council, but Downing Street.

To ensure the Lymington Seafood Festival complies with the guidance, we have limited band numbers allowed on stage, and members will perform on a separate podium to ensure they remain at two metres apart – the guidelines for non-brass or wind players.

Each band or artist will have to bring their own microphones. We will have an ‘in and out’ area within the music stage so bands do not mix, regular cleaning of all technical equipment, and a four-metre space from the front of the stage to the audience.

As regards the comment about whether the Lymington Seafood Festival should go ahead, this has been a decision taken by New Forest District Council, Hampshire County Council, Hampshire fire and Hampshire police.

Over the past 40-plus days we have worked with each department’s safety and advisory group. These cover public health, environmental, noise and public safety with due diligence.

Our event delivery measures include managing capacity via a ticketing system which also provides a means of ‘track and trace’; reducing the number of stands to provide further site capacity; purchasing large-scale sanitiser units; hiring additional marshals; and creating signage displaying safety messages.

We will have a professional on-site cleaning team and, in addition, each stallholder will be temperature-tested on arrival.

We are not the only event taking place across August and September in a professionally managed capacity – and I wish them all well.

Richard Nowell, Lymington

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