Covid concerns prompt councillor to question plans for Pride and the Brighton Festival

There is no guarantee that any festivals announced for this year will go ahead, according to the council’s licensing manager.

Jim Whitelegg’s comment came after Conservative councillor Samer Bagaeen asked why Brighton and Hove City Council had not responded to announcements from Pride and the Brighton Festival.

Councillor Bagaeen said that he had contacted Brighton and Hove’s director of public health Alistair Hill to find out whether the organisers had received advice.

He said: “I would like to see the public health advice that has been given that allowed those two announcements to be made.

“We need to think across multiple things and ask the questions and get the answers.”

Councillor Bagaeen spoke out at when the council’s Licensing Committee met yesterday (Thursday 4 March).

After the meeting, Councillor Bagaeen said that the announcements were “premature” and that he would not feel comfortable joining large-scale events at this stage.

Brighton Pride is scheduled for the weekend of Friday 6 August to Sunday 8 August, just over six weeks after the coronavirus restrictions are expected to end on Monday 21 June.

And the rules are expected to have been loosened by the time the Brighton Festival begins on Saturday 1 May.

Events in the first few weeks are likely to be held online or in pop-up outdoor locations until Monday 17 May from when live events can take place indoors with a socially distanced audience.

But if infection rates rise, then the roadmap out of lockdown could well change in response.

Council licensing manager Jim Whitelegg said that he and the council’s executive director for the economy, environment and culture, Nick Hibberd, were due to meet other “stakeholders” about events this summer.

Mr Whitelegg said: “We will be governed by what the current restrictions are and what the guidance is.

“It will be a local decision taking into account local infection rates and local risks. It’s a bit too early to say that any event is happening.”

“It’s probably a little bit premature for event organisers to announce things are going ahead.”

Councillor Samer Bagaeen

He said that a “safety advisory group” regularly met key stakeholders such as public health officials to discuss forthcoming events.

Brighton Dome and Brighton Festival chief executive Andrew Comben said that contingency plans were in place should the public health situation change.

He said: “We have already planned substantial parts of our programme to be online and have contingency plans in place to convert more to online events if needed.

“We are also rescheduling some of our planned indoor socially distanced events to later dates to give artists and audiences the best chance of them taking place.

“Artists have responded to restrictions in brilliantly creative ways and we are confident that the experience of the festival, although very different from other years, will be a rich and rewarding one for everyone.”

Brighton Pride said: “We are regularly reviewing our planning by working with strategic partners and will be following government guidelines.

“If the roadmap changes we have several contingency plans, including reduced capacity at Preston Park, to deliver a covid-safe event and would also review if we are able to deliver other elements for Pride such as the Community Parade.

“After the success of our 2020 virtual Pride online, we will also be planning smaller events with a small audience or online to take place throughout the summer that we hope will help raise funds for local community groups.”

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