Is Live Performance Safe?

With lockdown easing, the forums I subscribe to have discussed the safety of performing again, notably on the street. Many artists say that they don’t believe it is ethical or moral to head out to the street and perform for a live audience again. There is no governing body of street performers worldwide. Nobody is saying we should or shouldn’t do anything. It is all on us, and we have to decide what is right and wrong in this situation. That is a lot of responsibility to put on a large group of individuals. Too much. For that, I think we need to look at this on an individual level. The artist needs to decide whether they are prepared to work, whether they can handle the consequences. It is my personal belief that the impacts of a live performance in an open-air public space will be negligible if anything negative happens at all. The truth is that we will never know the real impact our shows will have regarding spreading the virus. It is intangible. We will see the positive effects, and that is something I’ll be choosing to focus on. It is the only thing that will be based on evidence, not speculation, and it will be the only thing in my power to control.

Stopping the spread by staying home isn’t a viable option indefinitely. We can see the roadmap putting more and more people back out in the world. With schools and non-essential shops opening once again, we have to admit that the damage done by a street show won’t compare to the effects of these other institutes reopening. It’s a good thing, it’s well overdue that the country gets back on its feet, and I believe that street performing should be on the front line of returning to an open world. Theatres and live music venues are still a while away from opening because of government guideline and their position to be governed. The same problem of street performers not having anyone give the green light means that there is also an absence of red lights to stop us from doing what we feel is right. I have been performing recently, and I am taking it as an opportunity to bring a sense of normalcy back to the world. For the 30 or so minutes that people watch me perform, they can see life on the street again after a year of walking around saying, “I’ve never seen it this quiet before”. Now there is noise once again.

For many of the people I have performed for over these last few weeks, it will be their first live show in over a year. I’m trying to make it an enjoyable and memorable experience for everyone. I, too, want to enjoy it. I’m soaking up every second of every show and continuously reminded that this is better. This is a better life and a better situation than we have had to endure over these last twelve months. Laughing together, meeting up spontaneously and killing a little bit of time without looking at our phone. All of it is positive, and I would like to remind my performer friends of this fact. What we do is good for the world – I know it feels like it might not be right now, but that’s what a year without it will do to you. You can easily forget the energy of a show and be dragged into the what-ifs and paranoia of a world in the grips of a global health crisis. The danger is real, but the positive effects of you doing what you’re best at far outweighs the risk of doing it. I’ve heard people saying they don’t see themselves heading back out until Summer 2022. That is a crazy prediction to make. If you don’t feel comfortable going out, who am I to tell you what to do. If I can persuade you to go out though, I hope to do that. Even to do one show, then run back home before anything goes wrong. I believe you’ll find the visible smiles and audible laughter to be a lot more convincing than the notion of an invisible killer. Choose to see the positive you do. Suppose you do happen to see performers comfortable performing and happy to be back out in the world before you are ready. In that case, I understand, but try to see this is as a good thing. People are moving on, not just artists; the whole world is back at work and has been for months. Give yourself permission to join them.

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