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UK government’s five-step reopening plan criticised

The UK government has unveiled a new five-phase plan for the reopening of theatres and live music, though a specific timeframe and funding details were not included.

The announcement came after UK Music called for a more specific timetable for the return of live events, which were not included in the new measures announced by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday.

Theatres and concert halls have been given the green light to reopen in England from July 4, though live performances will not be permitted due to concerns over transmission of COVID-19.

The phases, the first two of which can already begin, released by the Department for Digital, Culture, Music and Sport (DCMS) are as follows:

  • Stage One – Rehearsal and training (no audiences and adhering to social distancing guidelines)
  • Stage Two – Performances for broadcast and recording purposes (adhering to social distancing guidelines)
  • Stage Three – Performances outdoors with an audience plus pilots for indoor performances with a limited distance audience
  • Stage Four – Performances allowed indoors/outdoors (but with a limited distanced audience indoors)
  • Stage Five – Performances allowed indoors/outdoors (with a fuller audience indoors)

The roadmap has been criticised by some from within the industry for its lack of clarity in terms of dates and the fact that there was no mention of any additional funding for the sector.

Music Venue Trust said the first phase should have been an “announcement of the sector support deal needed to prevent the complete collapse of the sector.”

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “I desperately want to raise the curtain on live performances in theatres and music venues as soon as we can – they are the soul of our nation and a linchpin of our world-beating creative industries.

“We know the challenges – theatres must be full to make money, and performers need to be safe on stage as they sing, dance and play instruments – but I am determined to ensure the performing arts do not stay closed any longer than is absolutely necessary to protect public health.”

In the last two months, here have been warnings of a “cultural catastrophe” with theatres and live entertainment being the sectors hit hardest by the pandemic. Around 70 per cent of theatres caution that they could be forced to close forever by the end of the year without further support from the government.

Music Venue Trust chief executive Mark Davyd, said: “We have consistently told government that what the culture sector needs is the support to enable them to do what they do best.

“We don’t need guidance on how to organise creative activity and connect with audiences, this is what our venues do professionally. We need the money to survive the crisis and plan our own route back to full use.”