Isle of Wight Festival boss: Use ‘army’ of arts workers to aid vaccine rollout


The boss of the Isle of Wight Festival has called on Boris Johnson to make use of an “army” of unemployed staff in the music industry to help with the national vaccine effort.

Like many in the arts, John Giddings and his staff will face a big financial hit if the popular annual music festival is unable to go ahead as intended in June.

“I am petrified they won’t roll [the vaccine] out in time for the festival to go ahead and I want to do everything physically possible to help,” Mr Giddings told the PA news agency.

“We have got trained and skilled people sitting at home doing nothing.

“We need to use them. We are at war with an invisible enemy and you have got to fight it.

“We have a whole army of people out there and they haven’t been employed for the last year. If we lose this summer they are going to be in serious in trouble financially.”

The line-up for this year’s festival, due to take place on June 17-20, includes major artists like Lewis Capaldi, Lionel Richie and Duran Duran.

Mr Giddings said his staff and others working in the events industry already had the skills required for helping with the set up of venues and dealing with the public.

He said: “We have thousands of people who are unemployed who are used to crowd control, health and safety. We run all the venues in the UK, we know how to get people in and out safely and properly.

“You need a doctor and a nurse to inoculate people, but logistically we can make it all happen.”

He added: “They are all really highly trained and skilled. Just because they work in rock and roll doesn’t mean they are not.”

Isle of Wight Festival 2010
Isle of Wight Festival 2010

A number of temporarily-closed venues have also voiced support, saying they have the space and facilities to make it Covid secure.

James Lindsay, CEO of the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, told the PA news agency he wanted to play his part in the fight against the virus.

He said: “The venue is standing here doing nothing and as soon as we can get the vaccine and get back to our new normality of life — we want our business to be up and running. We are a major contributor to the night-time economy. ”

He said there was enough space across the two floors to employ a one-way system, with staff used to working to Covid health and safety guidelines.

Jeremy Joseph, owner of G-A-Y, has offered up all of his venues for the vaccinations, including London’s Heaven, which has a capacity of 1,625.

He said: “We had converted Heaven into a big bar and we created booths before we went into lockdown. The whole dance floor is split up into little booths with screens to protect people, so it is all set up and ready to go.

“We are desperate. We have an empty venue, empty space, let’s just use it.”

The venue is licensed for 24 hours, so he said it could offer around-the-clock vaccinations.

Coronavirus – Fri Dec 4, 2020
Coronavirus – Fri Dec 4, 2020

Mass vaccination hubs at seven sites across England including sports venues and London’s Excel convention centre will begin operations next week, Downing Street has confirmed.

In December, Nicola Sturgeon thanked the co-founder of BrewDog after an offer to use their closed bars as coronavirus vaccine hubs.

James Watt said he was now in talks with Scotland’s First Minister and the Minister for Vaccine Deployment, Nadhim Zahawi.

He tweeted: “We have offered all Brew Dog bars to help with a quick roll out of the vaccine. For free.

Vaccine update: We are in now talks with the Minister For Vaccine Deployment @nadhimzahawi & @NicolaSturgeon

We have offered all @BrewDog bars to help with a quick roll out of the vaccine. For free.

We have waiting areas, huge refrigerators & ace people who can help organise.

— James Watt (@BrewDogJames) December 31, 2020

“We have waiting areas, huge refrigerators & ace people who can help organise.”

The owners of the Clapham Grand, in south London, added that they would also “love to assist with the vaccination rollout”.

“We’ve got so much space, all the fridges, tried and tested distanced one way systems….. and in-house confetti canons (let’s also make it fun)!”

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