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Culture Secretary issues guidance on reopening theatres including plans to trial safe indoor performances

First Published 9 July 2020, Last Updated 10 July 2020

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden today announced that outdoor performances with social distancing can take place as of 11th July.

Oliver Dowden said: “Our culture, heritage and arts are too precious to lose. That’s why we’re protecting venues like theatres from redevelopment if they fall on hard times.

“We are also giving further clarity on restart dates in our roadmap back to performance. From July 11 we can all enjoy performances outdoors with social distancing and we are working hard to get indoor audiences back as soon as we safely can, following pilots. Our scientific research project will also help speed up this journey.

“Combined with our £1.57bn rescue package, this is a comprehensive plan to help our brilliant arts organisations weather the covid storm and bounce back stronger.”

The Government will also be working with the sector to pilot a number of small indoor performances with a socially distanced audience to help inform plans about how best to get indoor venues back up and running. This will include working with London Symphony Orchestra at St Luke’s as well as the London Palladium and Butlins amongst others.

A change in planning rules will also mean theatres, concert halls and live music performance venues will be protected from demolition or change of use by developers, stopping those that have been made temporarily vacant during lockdown disappearing altogether and giving extra security to these businesses as they start to re-open.

In addition to announcing the reopening of outdoor performances, new guidance, published by the Department for Digital Culture, Media and Sport today, will help performing arts organisations, venue operators and participants in the UK understand how they can work and take part in the performing arts safely, and keep their audiences safe.

The guidance follows the government’s five-stage roadmap outlining how we will get audiences back into performing arts venues. It provides advice on all aspects of performance, from casting, sound and lighting, costume and fitting, to cloakrooms, orchestra pits, hair and make-up.

Singing and the playing of brass and wind instruments will be permitted in a managed and controlled professional working environment to minimise risk.

The Secretary of State has also commissioned a scientific study on the risks associated with singing and brass instruments which will be done in partnership with Public Health England, professional musicians from the Royal Opera House and the BBC and scientists from Imperial College, London and Bristol University. This will help inform our work on getting the performing arts fully back up and running safely, by testing what can be done safely.

The guidance makes clear that the following measures should be considered to allow for safe resumption of performances:

  • A reduction in venue capacity and limited ticket sales to ensure social distancing can be maintained
  • All tickets must be purchased online and venues are encouraged to move towards e-ticketing for help with track and trace
  • Venues should have clearly communicated social distancing marking in place in areas where queues form and adopt a limited entry approach *. Increased deep cleaning of auditoriums
  • Performances should be scheduled to allow sufficient time to undertake deep cleaning before the next audience arrives
  • Singing and the playing of brass and wind instruments in groups or in front of an audience is limited to professionals only
  • Performers, conductors, musicians must observe social distancing wherever possible

In response to the announcement, Julian Bird, Chief Executive of Society of London Theatre, UK Theatre and Executive Producer of the Olivier Awards said: “We welcome the publication of the guidance on reopening theatres and other performances, along with clarification around rehearsals and other areas of the sector’s work.

Importantly the date of 11 July for outdoor performances to recommence is now clear (stage 3 of the government roadmap) – and we continue to urge the government to publish “no earlier than” dates for initial indoor performances with a socially distanced audience and most importantly for full venue reopening (stages 4 and 5 respectively) to allow theatres and producers to plan and prepare.”

 

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We are now cancelling all performances up until and including 31 May 2020 to help us process existing bookings whilst we wait for further clarity from the government in terms of when we will be able to reopen.

We are so sorry that in these testing and difficult times you are not able to enjoy the show you have booked for and hope the following helps clarify next steps in respect of your tickets .

There is nothing that you need to do if your performance has been cancelled, but we do ask for your patience.

If you have booked directly with the theatre or show website for an affected performance, please be assured that they will contact you directly to arrange an exchange for a later date, a credit note/voucher or a refund. If you have booked via a ticket agent they will also be in contact with you directly.

We are processing in strict date order of performance, so you are likely to be contacted after the date you were due to go to the theatre. However, we want to reassure you that you will be contacted, and your order will be processed, but please do bear with us.

We’d like to thank everyone who has been patient and kind in dealing with their ticket providers so far and we are sorry that we cannot process your order as quickly as we would like.

Please do not contact your credit card company as that will slow the process down and put an additional burden on our box office and ticket agent teams.

In order for us to serve our audiences the best we can, please do not get in touch with your point of sale if you have booked for performances after 31 May. Please be reassured that if we have to cancel future performances you will be directly contacted by your theatre or ticket provider. Our producers continue to plan for all eventualities dependent on the individual needs of their shows and we will provide further updates on specific shows as and when they become available.

We look forward to welcoming you back into our theatres as soon as we are allowed to resume performances. In the meantime stay safe and healthy.

While theatres are currently closed, various venues and productions are making announcements for their individual shows, including cancellations and rescheduled performances. Please check with the individual shows for details.