Viability of Our 2021 Season
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The government’s best-case scenario is that the country will release the final restrictions on 21st June, about a week before our season would normally start. This step would include the removal of social distancing which is a pre-requisite to a return to dancing. This date is heavily dependent on all previous steps in the easing of restrictions going perfectly without raising infection rates. Should even one step cause a problem, the final step could be delayed by weeks or even months rendering our season either wholly or partially impossible.
No one will have danced for at least 16 months by the end of July 2021. None of us will be “match fit” and to go straight to the fast paced, physically demanding nature of Summer Tuesdays without a period of shorter, easier paced classes and socials first would be difficult and, in some cases, possibly even dangerous.
We should also consider the musicians. Like the dancers, no band has performed for a long time and playing for a whole evening is physically and mentally demanding and to ask them to perform at their usual levels of excellence is a big ask without a period of rehearsals and smaller, less frantic event formats.
After being conditioned for such a long time to maintain social distance and avoid close contact with other people, many dancers may be worried about returning to dancing straight away once lockdown eases. COVID-19 will still be present in the population and even though vaccination provides everyone with a high degree of protection, there will still be a small residual risk of catching the disease. Some dancers might prefer to take extra precautions and stay away from larger events at first, slowly building up their confidence through the familiar surroundings of their club classes.
One of the defining features of Summer Tuesdays is that we don’t regularly give recaps and walk throughs. After so long without dancing, it is likely that some people will lack the confidence to attend our evenings until they have had a period of re-familiarisation through regular dance classes.
It is also possible that having not had their usual programme of classes and events for so long, that some clubs will choose to run extra functions through the Summer of 2021 and some people who would normally attend Summer Tuesdays would either prefer or feel obliged to support their local events instead.
Even when restrictions in the UK are lifted, there may well be restrictions on International travel. This could well have a knock-on effect on the availability and prices of internal flights. As we regularly fly bands down from Scotland, we could find it impossible to book flights at an acceptable price or time. Even if we can book the flights in the first place, there is still the risk that flight cancellations could persist, potentially leaving us without a band at very short notice.
A number of dancers travel to Summer Tuesdays on public transport. This has been scaled down over lockdown and it is not clear if and when services will return to a pre-lockdown level. There is also a social aspect to travelling on public transport – dancers may remain wary of exposure to large crowds of people in the confined spaces of a train or bus.
Summer Tuesdays runs on a cash-in, cash-out model and holds no financial reserves. After paying the band and any expenses incurred each week, the rest of the money taken on the door goes straight to the church in lieu of hall rent. The cost of purchasing air tickets is paid for out of our personal finances and this leaves us vulnerable to the uncertainties listed above. In 2020 we were exposed to a potential loss of over £1,000 but as all the flights were eventually cancelled, we were able to re-coup this money as cash refunds from the airline. If the flights had gone ahead, we would have had to rely on accepting a time-restricted voucher for future travel, in the name of each musician, which may not have been useable in the timescale.
Due to the uncertainty of the government lockdown relaxation timetable, it is too early to say whether the season could in theory go ahead without disruption, but even if it could, the concerns listed above could lead to a substantial reduction in numbers in 2021. It is impossible to evaluate how much of an impact on numbers these concerns could have but we should expect significantly lower numbers than our average attendance of 106 in 2019. From the experience of earlier seasons, once numbers drop below 90, the special atmosphere that is Summer Tuesdays begins to lessen and although our breakeven point (without Hall Rent) is around 60 dancers, any significant drop in numbers could permanently affect the reputation and appeal of Summer Tuesdays.
Our conclusion is therefore, that an early resumption of our events is not advisable and we have made the difficult decision to cancel the 2021 season.
Graham & Caroline Hamilton1st March 2021