Theatres and music venues have been given the green light to reopen in England from Saturday with socially distanced audiences.

The news follows the release of the updated performing arts guidance published by the UK Government and a “successful” series of pilot events. It marks stage 4 of the government’s five-stage roadmap for the return of professional performing arts.

The new plan will also see trials of a number of sporting events with socially distanced spectators, which were also postponed last month as infections rose. The first such event will be the final of the World Snooker Championship at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre this weekend, with a full pilot programme to follow.

New tougher enforcement measures have been introduced for breaking social distancing restrictions, with fines for repeatedly not wearing face coverings where mandated to be “significantly increased” in the coming weeks, and on the spot fines for hosting or facilitating gatherings of more than 30 people will be introduced.

Socially distanced events were scheduled to open on August 1 in England following a pilot run performed at The London Palladium, but the plan was paused for two weeks due to infection rate concerns.

Fans were in attendance at the start of the World Snooker Championship before spectators were banned. Sports stadia are still scheduled to begin reopening on October 1.

Last month, fans attended a UK sporting event for the first time since March as 1,000 people watched the friendly cricket match between Surrey and Middlesex at the Kia Oval.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “The nation’s hard work to keep the virus under control means we can now make further careful progress on recovery with allowing audiences back for indoor performances, fans back at sports events and the reopening of more Covid-19 secure leisure businesses.

“We must all continue to Stay Alert but today’s welcome news means these organisations can finally get going safely, and we can enjoy more of the things we love as a nation.

“I have no doubt that they will work incredibly hard to keep their fans, patrons, and customers safe.”

Nightclubs, dance halls, and discotheques and other such establishments remain closed in law.

UK Music Acting chief executive Tom Kiehl has warned the music industry still faces an “extraordinarily difficult” future.

He said: “Further easing of lockdown for live performance is a symbolic moment, yet it remains extraordinarily difficult to resume events and gigs in an economically viable way.

“The Government must ensure support measures for all aspects of the sector – including venues, festivals, musicians, performers and crew – are in place while many individuals and businesses in the sector still cannot get back to work.”

Image: MrsEllacott (CC by 3.0)