On Tuesday 10 March, we heard live music in a full AB for the last time. The vibrant activities of Ancienne Belgique were brought to an abrupt halt by the coronavirus crisis. The consequences of this crisis have struck AB at its heart. The coronavirus measures relating to culture, the accompanying capacity restrictions and the absence of major international tours mean that AB has to adjust its employment situation accordingly.
As a result, more than 200 external employees will lose their professional link with the venue.
This includes many stage hands, security staff, hospitality workers, backstage catering crew, freelance technicians, external cleaning teams etc.
Many of these employees have relied on their activities in AB for (most of) their income for a long time, and played a major role in the day-to-day running of the venue. In total, the equivalent of 30 full-time staff will lose their employment. The future looks grim for this large group of employees within their professional fields.
Sadly, this change in AB’s employment situation is only one example of the far-reaching consequences of this crisis on our once-thriving events and live music sector. Many people and suppliers in the industry have seen an unprecedented loss of revenue and turnover since the start of the crisis. The devastating consequences for the entire field are already tangible now.
The health and safety of artists, crew and the many visitors to AB are the number one priority for everyone at AB. AB certainly intends to take its responsibility and do everything possible to stop the virus. Working with the oKo (the body for consultation between arts organisations), which is in close contact with the Culture cabinet, AB has drawn up a plan of action. AB is doing everything to ensure that it complies with the measures included in these guidelines. It’s therefore hard to swallow when we see that our sector continues to suffer blow after blow while other industries (such as aviation) are free to resume their activities without having to take social distancing (1.5 metres) into account.
In this crisis, the cultural and recreational industries are in urgent need of a clear perspective in order to work on a recovery. Unfortunately, the outlook is anything but encouraging, and everyone at AB is afraid that a true relaunch will only be possible in the summer of 2021, even according to the most optimistic forecast. This was recently confirmed during a Flemish Parliament inquiry to evaluate the coronavirus policy.
Therefore, we ask you kindly to support LIVE2020. This solidarity fund for the Belgian live music sector supports relaunch activities and ensures that concerts can be held, even if they are loss-making. Despite the support measures put in place by the various authorities, this fund is essential to the survival of our sector. It is truly important that our artists can go on playing and that we can continue to enable the AB audience to discover new music. You can support this via AB by buying an AB mask (€10), or by adding a donation of your choice when you buy tickets.
Photos: Kobe Van Hecke