The U.K. government has announced that indoor performances in theaters and other venues in England can take place from Aug. 1, and business events and conferences can resume from Oct. 1. Social distancing rules will have to be observed.
The announcement was made Friday on Twitter by Oliver Dowden, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. He added that the move “builds on pilots” with the London Symphony Orchestra, among others.
In a statement, Dowden said: “The U.K.’s performing arts sector is renowned across the world and I am pleased that we are making real progress in getting its doors reopened to the public with social distancing. From August indoor theaters, music venues and performance spaces will safely welcome audiences back across the country.”
The measure only applies to England as the rest of the U.K. have national administrations that control the reopening of public events.
Julian Bird, CEO of the Society of London Theatre, commented on Twitter: “Delighted indoor performances can resume from 1 August! Socially distanced audiences for now but we hope to build towards full audiences very soon!”
Friday’s announcement marks the move to Stage 4 of the government’s five-stage roadmap for the return of professional performing arts. Under the new regime, audiences, performers and venues will be expected to maintain social distancing at all times.
Under Stage 4, theaters and other venues will have to follow guidance previously set down by the government. The following conditions must be met:
- Reduced venue capacity and limited ticket sales to ensure social distancing can be maintained
- Tickets will be purchased online and venues encouraged to use e-tickets to reduce contact and help with track and trace.
- Venues should have clearly communicated social distancing marking in place in areas where lines 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.
- Performers, conductors, musicians must observe social distancing wherever possible.
The move follows the government’s announcement of £1.57 billion ($1.97 billion) of funding for the arts, culture and heritage sector earlier this month, the biggest ever one off investment in these industries.
In a statement, Jon Morgan, director of Theatres Trust, welcomed Friday’s announcement, but added a note of caution. “Alongside the support package and performing arts guidance announced last week, this is a step in the right direction, but for most theaters it will not be economically viable to reopen with 30-40% audience required under social distancing.”
“We now need to progress as quickly as possible to an announcement on the all-important Stage 5, allowing theaters to reopen fully with the appropriate safety measures. Without this most theaters cannot reopen viably and we need the go-ahead for Christmas shows, on which the survival of many theaters depends, in the next few weeks at the very latest.”