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England to allow outdoor performances this week

Outdoor concerts and performances will be allowed in England from tomorrow (Saturday) with social distancing measures in place.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden announced the news yesterday (Thursday) giving outdoor theatres, opera, dance and music the green light to resume.

He also noted that the Government will work 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.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) is working alongside sector bodies including UK Theatre, the Association of British Orchestras and the Musicians’ Union to identify suitable pilots. This will include working with London Symphony Orchestra at St Luke’s as well as the London Palladium and Butlins, among 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 reopen.

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.”

New DCMS guidance 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.

It provides advice on all aspects of performance, and requires a reduction in venue capacity and limited ticket sales to ensure social distancing can be maintained, while all tickets must be purchased online and venues are encouraged to move towards e-ticketing for help with track and trace.

All venues will be instructed to produce risk assessments and review their cleaning regimes, however deep cleaning and social distancing systems, including floor markings are all required to be completed in a way that does not damage the historic fabric of any listed buildings.

While many in the industry welcome the announcement, it is still a long way off before some venues can think about opening up.

Shakespeare’s Globe, an open-air theatre in London, said it is still not “economically viable” for it to reopen with socially distanced performances.

It added: “We’re an independent charity with very limited reserves. The Government understands our situation, and we are incredibly grateful for their promised investment in our sector, as well as recognition of the contribution theatre and the arts make to people’s lives.”

Today’s announcements follows the government’s announcement of £1.57bn of funding for the arts, culture and heritage sector earlier this week.

Image: Pauline E / (CC BY-SA 2.0) / Edited for size

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