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Country and the Coronavirus

The weekend was set to be a wash out, as the majority of fans began travelling down to London on Thursday news started filtering through of the imminent cancellation of CMA Songwriters Series and C2C Festival. Admittedly it was always under threat but the rumours began when artists started posting they were flying home due to Donald Trumps travel ban. As the day went on it became too late for many to cancel and get a refund on travel and accommodation costs and with no official announcement, many took the plunge! The songwriters show was called off around 3pm, but presumably waiting for the outcome of the cobra meeting C2C didn’t pull the plug until 7pm Thursday night, less than 24 hours before it was due to start. The implications of this decision made it a loss for everyone involved. Fans lost their event of the year as well as hundreds of pounds, artists lost their income - both main stage and pop up stage performers, journalists and photographers lost money, small businesses who had paid £5000 for a pitch in the town square area lost business and their pitch fee and C2C... well who knows where it now stands. For now the festival isn’t cancelled, just postponed but till when we don’t know. A big debate is will the insurance cover this huge blow for the festival organisers, were they hoping the Cobra meeting would ban large events and gatherings thus forcing insurers to pay out? Who knows the politics of the festival but what we do know is that this is a worrying time for everyone particularly those in the entertainment industry. C2C might have been cancelled and many artists cut their tours and income short by flying back to the States, but those who stayed put on their own shows for the remaining fans who were already in London and unable to get back until Monday. One of these artists was Kaitlyn Baker who was over for the first time from Nashville, along with the band King Callaway, Kaitlyn’s team organised a show on Friday night at All Bar One and it was a sell out. The Observatory, also inside the O2 spontaneously agreed to put on a Country music party for the disappointed C2C fans, for the remaining nights a DJ kept the Country music party going in there. Meanwhile Buck n Bull the popular Country music club night was busy trying to pull an event together too. On Saturday they hosted Katy Hurt and DJ Hish who was meant to be DJ’ing the after parties, another who stayed behind despite the warnings from Trump. I headed off to see a good friend of mine from Nashville who was on tour with Joanne Shaw Taylor. Sonia Leigh who the Country family in the U.K. should know very well from the hits she wrote for the Zac Brown Band and her subsequent solo country records has diversified quite a lot as a songwriter. I showed up at the gig, a sold out show, with no mentions of the pandemic, here it was as if nothing was going on in the outside World. The crowd, who didn’t actually know or want a support artist was here for a Blues Rock gig, seeing me in my Country 2 Country hoodie, talking of my super cool friend who was the support artist had them worried. “We don’t like Country music, I don’t want to see a support artist” well they soon changed their tune when Sonia came on stage and began acoustically playing through some of her songs including favourites of mine, When We Are Alone, Booty Call, Shelter and Spider in the Roses. She also played new songs such as her latest single Give You Love (make sure to check it out!) She played every song with a smile on her face and has an endearing charm about her that had much of the audience captivated. She was busy at the merch table after which was good to see, lots of new fans were made that night. She was continuing to tour here but afraid of how the situation might change. 24 hours later Trump extended his travel ban to include the U.K. and Ireland and US airports turned to pandemonium with people trying to get home.

Now much of Nashville, music city, still recovering from a deadly tornado is shutdown. Musicians aren’t making a living, many don’t have medical insurance either. For now the U.K. carries on, some tours are cancelled, others are not, schools are open, bars are open, sport has cancelled itself but the government is still in limbo as to whether events should be cancelled or not. There is no doubt though that this is going to be a huge blow for arts and culture around the World. So what do we need to do? Well just like the Country fans did this past weekend, make the best of a bad situation! Heed the advice but support each other in any way we can, hopefully the majority of people will come out of this healthy but we might all come out of this a lot poorer. This could be career ending for independent artists and small businesses so support them in whatever way you can, order that t-shirt or that CD, pay for their online live streamed shows. Some of the vendors due to sell their products at C2C managed to get a last minute slot at local markets but others did not. Go online, purchase from them directly through Facebook and other social media channels. This is the first festival cancelled in the U.K. but it might not be the last. We need to make sure when we come out the other side that we still have artists to play for us, we still have companies to sell us those quirky gifts, we still have theatres to go to, still have festivals to go to - so get behind C2C and support them in their next steps as well as the artists, particularly the independent ones! Most importantly whatever your situation remember to stay safe in this time and look out for elderly neighbours and family members. Below I have provided a few links to artists and vendors I have mentioned, please support them, I have also provided a link to the NHS advice and finally a link to where you can get your Country music fix on a Saturday night - the Grand Ole Opry has shut its doors to the audience but is now being streamed, it cheered me up, perhaps it can do the same for you!

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