Theatres and music venues in UK can reopen in August

Boris Johnson said new measures should be carried out in a ‘Covid-secure way’

Ellie Harrison
Friday 17 July 2020 14:25
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Culture Secretary: Theatre performances without social distancing some way off

The UK government has announced that theatres and music venues can reopen on 1 August.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson made the announcement on Friday (17 July), saying: “We will restart indoor performances to a live audience, subject to the success of pilots, and we will also pilot larger gatherings in venues like sports stadia with a view to a wider reopening in the autumn.”

The government emphasised that the reopenings should be done in a “Covid-secure way”, adding: “Audiences, performers and venues will be expected to maintain social distancing at all times.”

The move follows the government’s £1.57bn rescue package for the arts industry.

While the latest announcement is likely to be welcomed by many in the arts, most theatres will not be able to afford to put on shows at 20-25 per cent capacity, which could be the maximum allowed in adherence with social distancing guidelines.

The head of Theatres Trust, Jon Morgan, told BBC News the move “will not be economically viable”.

He said: “We now need to progress as quickly as possible to an announcement on the all-important stage five [in the government’s roadmap for the return of professional performing art], allowing theatres to reopen fully with the appropriate safety measures.

“Without this most theatres cannot reopen viably and we need the go-ahead for Christmas shows, on which the survival of many theatres depends, in the next few weeks at the very latest.”

This latest announcement will now see venues move to stage four of the government’s road map, which is outlined below.

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)

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