Easing the lockdown: Performing

Below we have provided guidance on the easing of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions in relation to performers in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

We will be updating this page as developments arise. The UK government has stated it is looking at further research, particularly in relation to singing, and wind and brass playing, which is likely to result in revisions to its guidance.

Page updated: 13 August 2020

England

The UK government’s road map for bringing back live performance safely in England comprises five stages:

Stage One: Rehearsal and training (no audiences)
Stage Two
: Performances for broadcast and recording purposes
Stage Three
: Performances outdoors with an audience and pilots for indoor performances with a limited socially-distanced audience
Stage Four
: Performances allowed indoors and outdoors (but with a limited socially-distanced audience indoors)
Stage Five
: Performances allowed indoors / outdoors (with a fuller audience indoors)

In early July the UK government published guidance for people who work in performing arts in England. It has since been announced that we are at Stage Three of the roadmap and announced on 31 July that we will not move to Stage Four before 15 August at the earliest. The indicative date given for moving to Stage Five has also been revised and is now November.

What this means for live performance

Performing arts taking place outdoors with a limited and socially distanced audience present resumed on 11 July. This means that currently outdoor theatres, opera, dance and music can resume so long as they take place outside and with a limited and socially distanced audience. When Stage Four begins, this will be extended to include performances taking place indoors as well.

The following measures should be considered to allow for safe resumption of performances:

  • A reduction in venue capacity and limited ticket sales to ensure social distancing can be maintained.
  • All tickets must be purchased online and venues are encouraged to move towards e-ticketing for help with track and trace
  • Venues should have clearly communicated social distancing marking in place in areas where queues form and adopt a limited entry approach.
  • Increased deep cleaning of auditoriums
  • Performances should be scheduled to allow sufficient time to undertake deep cleaning before the next audience arrives
  • Singing and the playing of brass and wind instruments in groups or in front of an audience is limited to professionals only
  • Performers, conductors, musicians must observe social distancing wherever possible

Professionals working in the performing arts can return to their activities in line with this guidance.

Non-professionals (meaning those participating in performing arts other than for work purposes), or groups which include non-professionals, may refer to this guidance for their activities, but must at all times do so in line with government legislation and guidance on meeting people outside your household.

Non-professionals should currently not engage in singing or playing wind and brass instruments with other people given these activities pose a potentially higher risk of transmission and whilst research is ongoing. DCMS has commissioned further scientific studies to be carried out to develop robust scientific data for these activities to assist the development of policy and guidelines.

    Some practical measures for performers

    We recommend that members refer to this guidance to understand the changes they are likely to find when returning to a rehearsal and performance spaces.

    Section 4 of the new guidance addresses how to keep those in the performing arts safe. It is worth reading in full as it covers a wide range of rehearsal and performance scenarios. Understanding the social distancing implications of this guidance is essential.

    Of particular interest are the sections on singing and playing wind and brass instruments (section 4.2) and other types of musical activity (see section 4.3).

    The government’s aim is to minimise the risk of transmission whilst singing and playing wind or brass instruments. The guidance notes:

    'This is the initial phase of the recommended guidance. Further guidance will be issued when there is sufficient scientific evidence to support a move.

    Singing and playing wind and brass instruments, especially in groups, are considered higher risk activities because of the potential for aerosol production and the absence presently of developed scientific analysis to assess this specific risk. The evidence is being developed rapidly. This Section sets out the additional risk mitigation appropriate to the initial phase of returning to singing and playing wind and brass instruments.'

    Singing

    To achieve the aim of reducing transmission risk government is currently advising that the following are the steps likely to be needed:

    1. Limiting singing in groups or in front of audiences to professionals only (ie for work purposes only).
    2. Observing extended social distancing (current guidance is that if the activity is face-to-face and without mitigations, 3 metres is appropriate) between each singer, and between singers and any other people such as conductors, other musicians, audiences or accompanists.
    3. Limiting singing in groups to group sizes which are as small as possible in one discrete space, and only considering increasing this number if a comprehensive risk assessment has been conducted which includes but is not limited to:
      1. the size of the space
      2. the ventilation levels within the space
      3. the positioning of singers within the space
      4. the effectiveness of any booths, barriers or screens in use
      5. the use of fixed teams to reduce contacts
    4. Avoiding exposure of audiences, crew and other performers through using alternative programmes, technology or re-orchestrating for fewer voices as the first priority.
    5. Operating outdoors wherever possible.
    6. If singing indoors, limiting the numbers to account for ventilation of the space and the ability to observe extended social distancing.
    7. For singers working with other individuals, positioning side-to-side or back-to-back and avoiding singing face-to-face even when following the required distance.
    8. When essential, if it is not possible to maintain recommended extended social distancing whilst singing, using one or multiple fixed teams to manage risk of transmission and considering :
      1. Wherever possible, limiting the number of singers in any fixed team to the smallest number possible
      2. Where a very small fixed team means professional work cannot resume, considering a larger fixed team only if a comprehensive risk mitigation plan has been put in place which may include but is not limited to:
        1. Reducing the number of singers in the fixed team as much as possible
        2. Conducting rehearsals and training in smaller fixed teams wherever possible and gradually increasing the number of people in the fixed team over time in order to observe and manage risk
        3. Communicating clearly the maximum number of people allowed to engage as a fixed team at any one time
        4. Screening of anyone in a fixed team prior to entry into venues, which may include, but not be limited to, a COVID-19 symptom questionnaire
        5. Determining what level of monitoring for COVID-19 symptoms or for COVID-19 is required to achieve as reasonable a level of risk mitigation as possible. This may include regular private testing, noting that this will not allow any relaxation of other control measures
        6. Ensuring there is a clear policy in place for managing a COVID-19 positive individual, and abiding by government and PHE guidelines and reporting requirements
        7. Appointing an existing member of staff or of the organisation as a COVID-19 officer who will be responsible for oversight of fixed teams, including the risk assessment and ensuring the appropriate mitigations are in place
    9. Within the fixed team, positioning side-to-side or back-to-back and avoiding singing face-to-face wherever possible.
    10. Observing extended social distancing (current guidance is that if the activity is face-to-face and without mitigations, 3 metres is appropriate) between the fixed team and any other people such as conductors, other musicians, audiences or accompanists wherever possible.
    11. All members of a fixed team self-isolating if one member displays symptoms of COVID-19, which again reiterates the need to keep fixed teams as small as possible.
    12. It is unlikely that this fixed team approach will be possible where professional performers work with more than one group or organisation simultaneously.
    13. Considering using booths, barriers or screens if possible between individual singers who are not part of a fixed team, between fixed teams of singers and others, and between performers and any audience, noting that:
      1. The effectiveness of the booth, barrier or screen varies substantially depending on the type of booth, barrier or screen used
      2. Only some types of booth, barrier or screen will be effective enough to be viable for use in situations where extended social distancing cannot be maintained
      3. Comprehensive risk assessments will be needed whenever using booths, barriers or screens to ensure that transmission risk is appropriately contained and that other health and safety risks such as noise exposure are managed, particularly when using booths, barriers or screens in situations where extended social distancing cannot be maintained.
    14. Considering regular private testing (noting that this will not allow any relaxation of other control measures) with an accredited provider, particularly for members of a fixed team, and those who sing with more than one group at a time such as deputising musicians and teachers.
    15. Making sure that no singers are participating if suffering with symptoms of COVID-19 or when advised to self-isolate.

    Results of further research conducted will lead to updates in the government guidance.

    Wind and brass

    To minimise transmission risk the following steps are likely to be needed:

    1. Limiting wind and brass playing or in front of audiences to professionals only (i.e. for work purposes only).
    2. Observing extended social distancing (current guidance is that if the activity is face-to-face and without mitigations, 3 metres is appropriate) between each player, and between players and any other people such as conductors, other musicians, audiences or accompanists.
    3. Limiting wind and brass playing to group sizes which are as small as possible in one discrete space, and only considering increasing this number if a comprehensive risk assessment has been conducted which includes but is not limited to:
      1. the results of further research currently being conducted
      2. size of the space
      3. the ventilation levels within the space
      4. the positioning of players and their instruments within the space
      5. the effectiveness of any booths, barriers or screens in use
      6. the use of fixed teams to reduce contacts
    4. Avoiding exposure of audiences, crew and other performers through using alternative programmes, technology or re-orchestrating for other instruments as the first priority.
    5. Operating outdoors wherever possible.
    6. If playing indoors, limiting the numbers to account for ventilation of the space and the ability to observe extended social distancing.
    7. For wind and brass players working with other individuals, positioning side-to-side or back-to-back and avoiding playing face-to-face even when following the required distance.
    8. When essential, if it is not possible to maintain recommended extended social distancing whilst playing wind and brass instruments, using one or multiple fixed teams to manage risk of transmission and considering :
      1. Wherever possible, limiting the number of wind and brass players in any fixed team to the smallest number possible
      2. Where a very small fixed team means professional work cannot resume, (for example, for a large professional brass ensemble), considering a larger fixed team only if a comprehensive risk mitigation plan has been put in place which may include but is not limited to:
        1. Reducing the number of wind and brass in the fixed team as much as possible
        2. Conducting rehearsals and training in smaller fixed teams wherever possible and gradually increasing the number of people in the fixed team over time in order to observe and manage risk
        3. Communicating clearly the maximum number of people allowed to engage as a fixed team at any one time
        4. Screening of anyone in a fixed team prior to entry into venues, which may include, but not be limited to, a COVID-19 symptom questionnaire
        5. Determining what level of monitoring for COVID-19 symptoms or for COVID-19 is required to achieve as reasonable a level of risk mitigation as possible. This may include regular private testing, noting that this will not allow any relaxation of other control measures
        6. Ensuring there is a clear policy in place for managing a COVID-19 positive individual, and abiding by government and PHE guidelines and reporting requirements
        7. Appointing an existing member of staff or of the organisation as a COVID-19 officer who will be responsible for oversight of fixed teams, including the risk assessment and ensuring the appropriate mitigations are in place
    9. Within the fixed team, positioning side-to-side or back-to-back and avoiding playing face-to-face wherever possible.
    10. Observing extended social distancing (current guidance is that if the activity is face-to-face and without mitigations, 3 metres is appropriate) between the fixed team and any other people such as conductors, other musicians, audiences or accompanists wherever possible.
    11. All members of a fixed team self-isolating if one member displays symptoms of COVID-19, which again reiterates the need to keep fixed teams as small as possible.
    12. It is unlikely that this fixed team approach will be possible where professional performers work with more than one group or organisation simultaneously.
    13. Considering using booths, barriers or screens if possible between individual wind and brass players who are not part of a fixed team, between fixed teams of wind and brass players and others, and between performers and any audience, noting that:
      1. The effectiveness of the booth, barrier or screen varies substantially depending on the type of booth, barrier or screen used
      2. Only some types of booth, barrier or screen will be effective enough to be viable for use in situations where extended social distancing cannot be maintained
      3. Comprehensive risk assessments will be needed whenever using booths, barriers or screens to ensure that transmission risk is appropriately contained and that other health and safety risks such as noise exposure are managed, particularly when using booths, barriers or screens in situations where extended social distancing cannot be maintained.
    14. Considering regular private testing (noting that this will not allow any relaxation of other control measures) with an accredited provider, particularly for members of a fixed team, and those who play with more than one group at a time such as deputising musicians and teachers.
    15. Making sure that no players are participating if suffering with symptoms of COVID-19 or when advised to self-isolate.

    Playing music (excluding singing, wind and brass)

    To minimise the risk of transmission playing in music groups (excluding singing, wind and brass) the following steps will usually be needed:

    1. Observing social distancing at all times whilst playing.
    2. Where playing as a group of non-professionals (i.e. for non-work purposes), following the guidelines on meeting people outside your household. The group size limits do not apply to professionals who are working.
    3. For professionals (i.e. for work purposes) where social distancing is not possible, using fixed teams which are positioned socially distanced from any other fixed team or anyone else.
      1. Note that this fixed team approach is not recommended in non-professional environments unless all the members of the fixed team are part of the same household or support bubble.
      2. It is also unlikely that this fixed team approach will be feasible where professional performers work with more than one group or organisation simultaneously.
    4. Using back-to-back or side-to-side positioning (rather than face-to-face) whenever possible.
    5. Playing outdoors wherever possible.
    6. If playing indoors, limiting the numbers to account for ventilation of the space and the ability to social distance.
    7. Considering regular private testing (noting that this will not allow any relaxation of other control measures) with an accredited provider, particularly for those who play with more than one group at a time such as deputising musicians and teachers.
    8. Considering using screens or barriers in addition to social distancing.

    Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales

    The advice above relates to England only. As devolved nations provide more information on how cultural activities may take place as part of their lockdown easing plans, we will add to these pages. You can find some information and links to advice for each country below.

    Northern Ireland

    On 5 August Arts Council of Northern Ireland published a guidance manual, providing practical measures to support the safe reopening of arts performance venues in Northern Ireland. It includes guidance on performing, singing and playing wind and brass instruments, touring, cleaning and the opening of venues.

    The guidance sets out the protocols, adjustments and equipment that will be required by venues to maintain social distancing and protect the health and wellbeing of audiences, performers, staff and participants. It covers all aspects of reopening, including risk assessments, staff training, capacity considerations and special provisions, so that audiences can be reassured that all the appropriate measures are in place and the environment they are entering is safe.

    There is also a special section within the manual, ‘Creating Work’, which offers guidance for organisations, arts groups, individual practitioners and everyone engaged within the arts in taking those important steps back into working together safely to present public performances.

    Northern Ireland is currently at Step 3 and they are awaiting a date for concert and theatre rehearsals resuming. The guide will help venues prepare safely for this stage, and reopening when next steps for theatres, art centres and venues are announced.

    The BBC summarised what’s in the guidance.

    Venues are advised to adopt measures like social distancing, enhanced cleaning, one-way signs and hand sanitisers similar to other workplaces.

    They will also keep records of anyone entering for 21 days to assist with contact tracing.

    Venues will also have to consider whether audiences will have to wear masks or face coverings when they reopen - as they are "enclosed public spaces".

    Venues will also decide if they need to introduce temperature checks for staff or audiences, although this is not mandatory.

    The guidance also said that when venues reopen performances may need to be 'shorter, fewer, oftener, safer'.

    Other measures may include:

    • Removing seats to create audience 'pods'
    • Smaller productions like one-person drama shows
    • Shorter performances in alternative venues and more outdoor performances, using spaces like bandstands
    • Holding more performances online

    Theatres and other venues will have to reduce the number of people they can admit to ensure social distancing.

    Members of the audience may only be able to sit together if they are from the same household or support bubble, for example.

    You can also read the relaxation of regulation recovery plan and the Department for Communities report on guidance for a phased return of culture and heritage destination venues, which includes advice on how theatres and arts centres will operate.

    Scotland

    Scotland remains in phase 3 of the route map out of lockdown. On 30 July, the Scottish government announced indicative dates for the reopening of live performance. These indicative dates are contingent on the continued suppression of the virus.

    Monday 24 August is the indicative date for the reopening of live outdoor events, with physical distancing, enhanced hygiene, restricted numbers and following guidance.

    Monday 14 September is the indicative date for indoor live events, theatres, live music/concert halls and other indoor entertainment venues, with physical distancing, restricted numbers and following guidance. This does not include nightclubs – engagement with the sector will take place ahead of the next review.

    Individual legal advice

    If you are an ISM member, you can seek advice from our legal team on your personal situation by contacting [email protected].

    Risk Assessment

    BAPAM have created a downloadable risk assessment for performers.