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.”