Audiences who adhere to social distancing can return to indoor theaters, music and performance venues beginning Aug. 1, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced Friday (July 17). The policy represents the fourth phase in the country’s five-stage reopening plan for live events.
In the lead up to the August start date, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport will conduct pilots of performances with socially-distanced audiences — including the London Symphony Orchestra at St. Luke’s London — using the findings there to inform final guidance for venues. The announcement notes that “audiences, performers and venues will be expected to maintain social distancing at all times,” with measures to include reduced capacity, online ticket purchases to reduce person-to-person contact, social distancing markers, increased deep cleaning measures, staggered performance schedules and maintaining social distance between performers where possible.
“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,” said U.K. culture secretary Oliver Dowden in a statement. “From August indoor theatres, music venues and performance spaces will safely welcome audiences back across the country.”
The guidance is applicable only to venues in England; in Scotland, Wales and Northern Island, reopening measures are dictated by national administrations.
In a statement following the announcement, UK Music Acting CEO Tom Kiehl welcomed the new measures, while noting that the industry has a long way to go before reaching a full recovery.
“It’s an important step to now have a date for reopening live performances with social distancing in indoor venues, but there is still a long road ahead for musicians, performers and the sector as a whole,” said Kiehl. “The Government needs to continue to working with the industry as a whole so we can get back to live events and let the music play.”
Friday’s announcement follows the U.K. government’s unveiling earlier this month of a £1.57 billion ($1.96 billion) funding package for the arts, culture and heritage sector. Since the start of the pandemic in the U.K., more than 350,000 people in the recreation and leisure industry have been furloughed. The live events industry alone supports 210,000 jobs.