21 June is marked as pandemic independence day: Is this what hope feels like?


t has been just 24 hours since Boris Johnson announced his roadmap out of lockdown. His speech included several soundbites that the Downing Street team had presumably pegged as frontpage-worthy, including (but certainly not limited to): “The crocus of hope is poking through the frost” and “cautiously but irreversibly towards reclaiming our freedoms” – like some sort of Monty-Don-Braveheart hybrid.

But in true British form, the entirety of the briefing (which included the promise of “no legal limits on social contact” – imagine telling your 2019 self that was coming in 2021 bingo) was totally overshadowed by the blink-and-you-will-miss-it mention of nightclubs.

No one was quite prepared for any mention of nightclubs. We’d stored them on the top shelf, letting them gather dust in our minds and expecting them to stay there for many months – even years – to come. Nightclubs have been closed across the UK since March last year. And unlike other parts of the hospitality industry, like pubs or restaurants, they have generally been but a whisper on the political agenda.

Then, last week, Mr Johnson acknowledged he hadn’t totally forgotten the joy of a BNO (big night out) – but perhaps had forgotten the levels of anarchy in the club queue – when he talked of potentially using PCR tests as entry policies for entertainment venues. Then on Monday, he took it a step further and not only suggested that nightclubs could reopen in the next few months, but dared to give us a date: 21 June.

Although the Conservatives have been cautious to repeat they will be guided by “data, not dates”, and that all elements of the roadmap to recovery are dependent on various factors being met, the mere utterance of a date as opposed to the vague windows of time (how could we forget “12 weeks to turn the tide” in March 2020) we’ve become accustomed to, has sent us all over the edge into exhilarating optimism. And as a population who doesn’t need much encouragement to put on a nice top and jeans and go out out, people are (to put it mildly) besides themselves. 

The thought of pulling shapes and shouting the lyrics “So baby if you want me, you’ve got to show me love…” in somewhere that is not your kitchen or shower, is enough to turn giddy excitement into heart-pounding delirium. And that’s before you remember the air horn.

Picture the scene: there are pre-drinks, one person having three outfit changes before you even leave the house, making club toilet friends, someone falling over for seemingly no reason, sticky carpets, someone being sent home early after peaking too soon, a 20 box of nuggets to eat solo. Maybe we should just book the month off work right now.

A Twitter account called “Days until June 21st” has been set up to help us countdown the days – and gained 40k followers in just 12 hours. People have been sharing the first song they’ll sing at karaoke; screenshots of Google calendars with event “sesh” location “everywhere” on 21 June; a Simpsons meme of how we’ll all be feeling the day after; and of course that infamous Wetherspoons video of a man in short shorts grinding on a bar stool with the caption “10am on 21 June”. The pinnacle of British culture. The other countries simply could never.

In addition, the Tate Modern-worthy photograph of a Manchester street scene (originally from New Year’s 2016) has made a resurgence as a benchmark for our collective first night out. And if you weren’t feeling emotional enough a TikTok video, made in the first lockdown when we were arguably at our lowest clubbing ebb, featuring the Savage Garden song “Truly, Madly, Deeply” will possibly send you over the edge. (Don’t blame us if you can’t concentrate on work for the next three months).

As well as the unbridled enthusiasm for 21 June itself, we’re all obviously planning our outfits well in advance. See, the much shared picture of ET dressed up in a wig and dress for an idea or the meme of someone sleeping next to their clothes, with a real school non-uniform day vibe.

And well, getting our bodies ready after 15 months of elasticated trousers, comfort eating and not having to be presentable for literally anyone. That fake tan mitten won’t know what’s hit it.

For some there is understandably still reservation as Covid-19 will not have gone – yes, numbers are dropping but scientists have repeatedly warned that lifting lockdown incorrectly could cause another surge, and quite honestly the virus is here with us forever – and not everyone will have even had their first dose of the vaccine by June (the PM has set a “stretch target” of every adult having a first dose by July). Given young people will be last to have these jabs as well (as they are prioritised primarily by age group) this seems particularly relevant.

Not to mention even the government has said this is not a date set in stone, only the earliest at which this stage of lifting might occur.

But for a population that has spent a year living under draconian stay at home orders and watched other places around the world get back to a greater semblance of normality (yes Australia and New Zealand we see you and your parties), it is the first taste of hope in a long time. So just let us have this dance.

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