When can we play together?

That is, of course the question that all those in the performing art, music, dance, theatre etc. want an answer to.

Sadly, there is now easy answer to this one, there has been little activity on the arts scene since March when all music venues and theatres were unceremoniously shut down to the pandemic. Now, I am not saying that this shouldn’t have happened, the danger to many vulnerable people was too great to do anything else, as was the threat of the NHS being overwhelmed. However, we must also acknowledge the difficulties that this has caused, people have been thrown out of their jobs and a huge number of musical events have been cancelled. Bandstand jobs, indoor concerts, competitions have all disappeared from the landscape, and rehearsals have also been stopped.

In the summer though there were faint signs that things were beginning to stir, organisations were allowed to start meeting in small groups, depending on being able to social distance and other mitigating factors. This did mean that small groups could start to meet together but under some very strict conditions. The new lockdown, of course stopped it all again, in instance of the now traditional flip-flopping of a government who by and large reacts to what is going on now and has no strategic plan, but that discussion is for another time.

There is often, a way around most things and groups have until recently continued to meet, but is it the same when you can only meet as half a band and just play through some pieces without any aim in mind? The answer probably varies from person to person. There are those who want to play, not at any price but are certainly willing to accept the risks and inconveniences of playing together, and when rationally thought through those risks are probably lower than you might think. Personally, I don’t find the prospect very satisfying, to play with half of your normal group with no concerts or competitions to aim for, socially distanced and having to jump through so many hoops is not an attractive proposition, but I applaud those who are trying to make something work in very difficult circumstances. Bands are also trying to organise Christmas carolling sessions under the same circumstances, and this is also to be welcomed as it will generate a bit of much needed festive cheer.

None of this however, answers the original question of when we can play together properly again. I suspect the answer may be quite depressing as it may not be until next summer that proper and full groups might be possible. We must bear in mind that those events that fill up January, February and March for many brass bands have been cancelled, including the regional championships. This is presumably an expectation that bands will be unable to hold full rehearsals during this period and therefore will have no ability to practice a test piece properly. It has also allowed the National championships to complete in September 2021, a year later than it normally would.

It is an unpalatable fact that Bands, and indeed all musical groups and theatres, will not be able to get together properly until social distancing is no longer required and that still seems a long way away in the middle of the second lockdown. Does anybody see the restrictions being lifted before the Spring? Highly doubtful, which means that we are going to be saddled with the current situation for some time. However, there is a distinct possibility that some outside activities could be undertaken next summer, bandstands and fetes are largely outside events and could well be offered in some form. Whether this could be full groups that have been able to rehearse properly is still an open question but hopefully this is something we can look forward to.


Finally, a word on vaccines. I don’t pretend to be an expert in this but I think that the recent announcements about the effectiveness of vaccines are a very welcome light at the end of what has been a very long tunnel. However, my understanding is that although this is a very welcome development it is longer term that you might think. The plan seems to be that vulnerable groups are rightly vaccinated first but this is only going to start towards the end of the year, even if you believe a government who hasn’t got a great record of meeting it’s deadlines. This means that everyone else is going to have to wait until the new year at the earliest. When you also think that they appear to require two injections three weeks apart and that full protection is only achieved after a further week, then it will take about a month to get full immunisation. For those who have to wait until February for their turn it will be March before they can confidently resume a normal life. To add to that the scientists most optimistic forecasts are that it will be late spring before we will see any major change and that possibly not until next Winter. We wait and see what happens, but in the meantime I would be interested to hear how you are seeing things, please let me know in the comments.

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