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Live event producers hold out hope drive-in concerts can go ahead during pandemic

Last Updated Jul 26, 2020 at 3:46 pm PST

FILE: The Summerset Music & Arts Fesitval is moving to a different format for August 2020. (Courtesy Twitter/@summersetfestca)

Producers of live events in BC continue to insist they can safely manage large outdoor concerts

Producers are pointing to the success of recent drive-in shows in other provinces like Alberta and Ontario

BURNABY (NEWS 1130) — Surging cases of COVID-19 in B.C. don’t bode well for anyone with dreams of attending a large music festival this summer, but industry insiders remain confident drive-in events don’t have to be limited to 50 cars or less.

That’s the maximum number set by Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry in May.

“We need to adapt to that. It’s a balance between numbers of people that we can find quickly and reducing risk and trying to find ways that people can be innovative and keep things going.”

Chris Briere, the president of Briere Production Group, believes increasing that limit to at least 200 cars is still safe.

“We’ve seen in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario, people would show up, they’re on site for 60-75 minutes to see a show and then, they have to leave. No one’s getting out of their vehicles to wander around. You’re not allowed to get out of your car.  We’d have security monitoring that. You’re not allowed. You’d have to leave.”


Other live entertainment-related business operators also say they won’t survive if they have to wait until next year –or later– to get back to work, but Henry has repeatedly said she’s not lifting the 50-car limit.

“We’re sticking with the numbers that we have here.  The last thing I want is for businesses to go under.  It is not going to be forever, but it is definitely going to be for this summer and into the fall.”

Briere insists there’s little risk if shows are capped at 75 minutes and fans don’t leave their cars.

“We would love a reply back and them just to say, look, here’s the sticking points with what you’re proposing and to work together to try to find a solution.  You know, they found solutions with the film industry, with other industries and restaurants getting back, so I would hope they would work with us as well to try and find a creative solution that meets their safety expectations.”

Meanwhile, the MLA for Maple Ridge-Mission is working with Tourism Minister Lisa Beare to help B.C.’s music industry outlast the pandemic.

Bob D’Eith says a new $7.5 milion fund managed by Creative BC under Amplify BC connects with groups needing support including the organizers of music festivals forced to cancel events planned this summer.

“Getting some money to venues and to other parts of the live industry.   There’s also a $300-thousand innovation fund and that’s going to allow artists and industry to pivot their programs and ideas to be able to work within this new paradigm.”

D’Eith, who’s also a musician, says money normally dedicated to showcase artists has been shifted to keep various programs alive.

“What’s really great too is a lot of the organizations are talking to each other and the music industry is working together very well right now and it’s wonderful to see.  There’s a lot of work that’s been done and there’s a tonne more work that needs to be done, but I think the music industry is resilient and we’ll get through this.”

He tells NEWS 1130 the main thing he heard during consultations in April and May is a willingness for all stakeholders to be more flexible.

“That is key and that is what Creative BC’s done and that’s what the BC Arts Council has done is allowing more flexibility with the funding that’s been available and that’s critical for the organizations that have had to cancel festivals and shows and then ask, ‘Do we have to give the money back?’ No.  We’re going to allow you to pivot.  To do what you need to do to survive, so instead of focusing on having to grown the organization, which has always been what the funding has been in the past, how can we help people get through this?  That is a fundamental change that the funding’s taken and I think that’s key.”

He adds it’s not lost on him many music lover who enjoy going to concerts and listening to live performers are also struggling this summer across the province.

“People are missing concerts and they’re missing their live music and I think it’s really important to know that we’re doing everything we can to try to get fans and people connected.  That’s part of why the streaming programs have been great, but we know people are missing their concerts.”

Amplify BC was created in 2018 after consultations with the music industry and Creative BC also has partnerships the First Peoples’ Cultural Council to design and deliver targeted funding through their respective activities.