Despite the warnings of a second wave imminent, it seems that a step in the right direction has been made to bring life back into our UK Arts sector.
With reduced capacities and performers advised to perform back-to-back as opposed to ‘face-to-face’ it’s far from the usual, to say the least.
But yes, it finally happened today.
Or … yesterday whenever you get around to reading this.
It has been confirmed that open-air gigs, festivals and theatre shows can resume in England from this weekend, as long as they have “a limited and socially distanced audience”, the government has said.
As vague and presumptuous as this statement is, outdoor gigs are finally back baby.
“This is an important milestone for our performing artists, who have been waiting patiently in the wings since March.”Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden
Alongside this announcement, “test events” will also go ahead for indoor venues to plan accordingly in order to maintain audience capacity at a safe, social distance.
The test events will feature the London Symphony Orchestra performing at St Luke’s Church, as well as performances at the London Palladium and Butlin’s holiday parks. It is interesting to see that these are completely different venues in size, capacity and availability. So it is somewhat reassuring to see the Government is looking at both ends of the spectrum.
This announcement also marks the start of stage three of the Government’s “roadmap” for reopening the live entertainment industry.
Although, there are no dates for stage four or five at the moment, which is providing a problem for individuals within the sector who are seeking further clarity regarding indoor venues.
Of course, it’s a different kettle of fish so it’s hard to estimate at this early stage. The enclosed space with the lack of ‘fresh’ air draws up more problems with safe social distancing, and with the majority of local UK venues being no bigger than that of a living room – especially the beautifully grimy ones – the 2m rule goes out of the window with that.
In general, it is a good step in the right direction, but what gigs or plays in the UK – apart from your UK Summer music festivals – are covered outside? Of course, it is a niche market, so there is a few venues in the UK set to reopen that are primarily outside.
Of course, you’ve got your stadium giants like Milton Keynes Super Bowl that is deemed as ‘outside’, but it’s not likely that crowds will be flooding to this venue anytime soon.
Venues like The Minack Theatre in Cornwall – which was cited as a venue that can reopen – will thrive from this news and will undoubtedly be beginning to set up rehearsals again. With its steeped curvature and open-air functionality being situated right next to the ocean, it can provide safe and easy distancing from audience to performers whilst we still enjoy the magic of theatricality.
New guidelines for future performances have also been published fairly recently in England in response to the announcement.
It is important to take into account;
- Electronic ticketing: this is to provide further assurance to be able to manage capacity efficiently so the audience can be tested regularly.
- Keeping to the smallest number of singers or wind/brass players in one space: this is because these variations of performing carry the higher risk of transmission and so more attention needs to be carried out upon participation. I imagine this is down to the fact that your breath is required to use these instruments and spit is a huge factor in the transmission of COVID. Would they have wear face coverings?
- Working in fixed teams: this is to assure you know who you are working with continuously, and so reports and tests can be carried out effectively knowing who they have been around at work.
You more than welcome to read the full guidelines on the link above.
Now? Now it seems to be a test of time set by the Government to see how well safety measures are handled at stage three in the coming months before we push on for stage four and five. This ultimately results in full indoor venues opening across the UK. These will be the grass-root venues that you connect to your local music scene, to the mass venue giants like the O2, where you connect with your international music artists.
I just hope it won’t be as messy as when the government opened up the pubs to the British public on a Saturday.