Theatres and music venues in England can open their doors to socially distanced audiences from August 1, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced today (Friday).
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) is working with the sector on pilots of performances with socially distanced audiences that will inform final guidance for venues in the run up to August 1.
These include the London Symphony Orchestra at St Luke’s, London with a variety of further events in the coming weeks.
The announcement marks the move to stage four of the government’s five-stage roadmap for the return of professional performing arts. Last week, outdoor concerts and performances were allowed in England with social distancing measures in place.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “The UK’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 theatres, music venues and performance spaces will safely welcome audiences back across the country.
“This is a welcome step in the path to a return to normal and, coupled with our £1.57 billion rescue package, will help secure the future of this important sector.”
The government’s guidance on indoor events includes encouraging e-tickets to be used by venues, with tickets to be purchased online to reduce contact and help with track and trace.
Music Venue Trust, among other live entertainment organisations, has been in talks with the government with regards to pilot events being held.
It said it has not received confirmation that any of these events have been authorised to take place in Grassroots Music Venues and has therefore questioned whether August 1 is a “realistic” date for those pilot events to have taken place and to have informed the final guidance for venues.
MVT said in a statement following today’s news: “It should be noted that we have already provided evidence to the government that staging live events with any level of social distancing measures would not be financially viable for the majority of Grassroots Music Venues.
“If such socially distanced events are to be part of the progress towards normality within the sector from 1 August, significant subsidies will be required if this measure is to have any noticeable impact upon the number of shows actually taking place.
“We would also note that events at Grassroots Music Venue level typically take between 6 weeks and 6 months to arrange, and that a notice period of two weeks is another enormous challenge to the objective of bringing back live music safely.”
Today’s announcement follows the government’s pledge of £1.57bn in funding for the arts, culture and heritage sector last week.
In addition, it has been announced today that sports stadiums can begin to reopen on October 1 with pilots including the World Snooker Championship in Sheffield from July 31 and the Glorious Goodwood horse racing festival from August 1.
Further guidance outlining the licensing obligations for sports stadia and how venue operators must calculate safe capacities in line with social distancing restrictions will be published by the Sports Grounds Safety Authority.
Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston said: “I recognise that not every sport, team or club has the benefit of huge commercial revenue, and it is often their dedicated fans that are the lifeblood which helps keep them going. By working closely with sports and medical experts, these pilots will help ensure the safe return of fans to stadia.
“Although it will remain some time before venues are full to capacity, this is a major step in the right direction for the resumption of live spectator sport across the country.”