England: COVID-19 advice for musicians

This page is regularly updated to cover the latest information coming from the UK Government that affects musicians working in England.

You can read our COVID-19 advice pages on Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales too.

Key dates for the music sector

The UK Government has published a roadmap on easing lockdown restrictions in England, with indicative dates of what may happen when. Please note these dates are subject to reduced prevalence of the virus and other key indicators in the roadmap, and may be adjusted accordingly.

In brief, some key dates that may affect musicians' work include:

Step 1 - 8 March 2021
: Schools reopen for all pupils.

Step 1 - 29 March 2021: Amateur and non-professional rehearsals can recommence outdoors under certain conditions.

9 April 2021: Free rapid flow lateral tests available to everyone without Covid-19 symptoms in England.

Step 2 - From 12 April 2021: Weddings with up to 15 guests can take place in premises which are permitted to open.

Step 3 - no earlier than 17 May 2021: Theatres and concert halls to open. Performance and large events open, subject to conditions. Up to 30 people at weddings. Amateur and non-professional music can resume.

Step 4 - no earlier than 21 June 2021: Legal limits on contact removed, nightclubs can open, no legal limits on attendance at weddings.

This is not exhaustive and other planned changes may also open up opportunities for work for musicians. See below for more details on information we have so far. We will be updating this page regularly as more guidance becomes available.

Last updated: 9 April 2021

Private teaching

From 12 April 2021, any child can access private face-to-face tuition. We can see nothing in the regulations which expressly prohibits adult face-to-face music teaching for all adult learners.

Last updated: 12 April 2021

The position in relation to teaching children and adults face-to-face is described below:

Teaching adults face-to-face:

In view of the Government’s green light for Step 2 of the Roadmap taking effect on 12 April, and in the context of the wide range of activities permitted from that date, we can see no good reason why all adult face-to-face teaching should also not resume from 12 April. We have told the Government that this is our position and that we will advise our members accordingly. If Government tells us anything to the contrary, we will advise members immediately.

Teaching children face-to-face:

Government guidance for out-of-school settings was updated on 7 April 2021. This governs what happens for private music tuition.

From 12 April 2021

The Government has confirmed that all children can access out-of-school settings without any restrictions from this date. This means that private teaching can take place face-to-face either in the teacher's home or the pupil's, subject to a risk assessment and implementation of any of the usual mitigations and COVID-safe working practices.

See also the latest guidance on working in other people’s homes.

See also our guidance on risk assessments.

ISM members can also download a sample risk assessment to help get them started.

Points to note:

  • Some premises are only permitted to open for certain exempt activities which include supervised activities, education or training for children.
  • Children should be encouraged to attend settings close to where they live or go to school. This should, ideally, be within walking or cycling distance.
  • Children deemed clinically extremely vulnerable are advised not to attend out-of-school settings while shielding advice applies nationally.


Performances and rehearsals

The Government’s guidance on organised events states that from 12 April 2021 live music can proceed outdoors at certain events and venues, but only where it is incidental to proceedings, and is not in itself the main attraction. Ticketed live performances are not permitted at Step 2. Current restrictions for indoor events remain in force until 17 May 2021 at the earliest.

Last updated: 12 April 2021

Professional performers and live performances

From 5 January 2021, professional performers in England are permitted to rehearse and perform in performing arts venues in accordance with certain restrictions stated in the UK government’s existing guidance for the performing arts, summarised below:

  • Live audiences are not permitted to attend performances
  • Performances can be recorded, broadcasted or live-streamed instead
  • Organisers of rehearsals and permitted performances must continue to take all mitigating actions possible to reduce the risk of transmission between staff, workers and participants
  • Social distancing must be maintained wherever possible
  • Where the social distancing guidelines cannot be followed in full in relation to a particular professional activity, organisations should consider whether that activity needs to continue

Our understanding is that meeting in private homes to rehearse, perform, record and broadcast is not permitted under the current rules.

From 12 April 2021:
An event can take place from 12 April 2021 if:

1. It is a drive-in performance or show; or
2. All three of the following conditions are met:

a. The event takes place outdoors

b. Attendees arrive and leave in a staggered manner throughout the day

c. It does not involve attendees converging on and congregating in a site for a specific discrete performance or activity, such as a theatre or music performance

The Government guidance lists examples of permitted events. These include community fairs, village fetes, agricultural shows, literary fairs and food and drink festivals.

Our interpretation is that low-volume background music by a musician or small group of socially distanced musicians outdoors at these types of events is permitted.


Step 2 social distancing rules limit people from attending an event in a group of larger than six people or two households (including a linked support bubble). Permitted numbers of musicians is not clarified, so we would suggest musicians follow this rule. Event organisers should follow COVID-secure guidance and must adhere to legal requirements.

The Government’s guidance for pubs, restaurants and other hospitality venues recognises that live music can be an important part of these venues’ activities. Our interpretation is the same as for events ie that low-volume background music is permitted. Loud background music is prohibited. The Government’s roadmap mentions ‘outdoor drive-in performances events’. Social contact rules will apply, ie no more than six people together in a group.

From 17 May 2021 at the earliest:

Some large events, including conferences, theatre and concert performances will be permitted to re-open with certain restrictions as follows:

  • Controlled indoor events of up to 1,000 people or 50% of a venue’s capacity, whichever is lower
  • Outdoor events with a capacity of either 50% or 4,000 people, whichever is lower
  • Pilots will run as part of the Events Research Programme to examine how such events can take place without the need for social distancing using other mitigations such as testing

For amateur and non-professional groups please see section below entitled 'Amateur choirs and groups.'

Schools and colleges

All schools are to reopen for all students on 8 March. Face-to-face music provision is permitted under certain circumstances in schools from 8 March. This section includes advice on testing in schools.

Last updated: 11 March 2021

The UK Government has published guidance for English schools which takes effect on 8 March 2021. The Government has acknowledged that music provision is important for returning students. Peripatetic teachers can move between schools, but must follow the COVID-safe measures adopted by each school they attend.

Individual face-to-face music lessons can continue in schools and organisations providing out of school childcare.

Peripatetic teachers are permitted to teach face-to-face in schools from 8 March.

Performances in schools

Performances with an audience are not permitted.

Live streaming or recorded performances are permitted, subject to safeguarding considerations and parental permission.

Singing and playing wind or brass instruments in schools

  • is permitted in line with guidance from the DCMS for professionals and non-professionals but with certain restrictions
  • is not permitted in larger groups such as in choirs or ensembles or assemblies unless significant space, natural airflow, social distancing (2 metres) and mitigations are in place
  • singers, wind and brass players should be positioned to avoid air from their instrument blowing into another player
  • use microphones where possible
  • encourage singing quietly

General safety information about teaching face-to-face in schools

  • playing instruments or singing in groups should take place outdoors wherever possible
  • playing indoors is possible but with appropriate social distancing and Covid-19 mitigations students should be positioned back-to-back or side-to-side whenever possible
  • use microphones where possible.
  • avoid sharing instruments and equipment limit handling music scores or parts
  • regularly disinfect shared equipment, for example, music stands, chairs.
  • social distancing should be maintained wherever possible.

Covid-19 asymptomatic testing in schools

The Government recommends that schools and colleges should offer access to two rapid lateral flow tests every week for on-site staff. Although testing is not mandatory it is strongly encouraged. Individual schools and colleges may decide their own internal policies in conjunction with their risk assessments. Where a member is an employee or a worker at a school, they are expected to follow the school’s own policy. For self-employed contractors, it is possible to refuse to follow the school’s policy but that may risk future relations with that school.

Many schools are sending home testing kits to staff members via post. We think it is unreasonable to expect VMTs to travel to schools to collect home testing kits where other members of staff are receiving them by post. Please contact us if a school is following this procedure.

Please note that where someone has symptoms of Covid-19, they must self-isolate immediately and order a lab-based polymerase chain reaction test from the NHS.

Wearing face coverings in schools


Government guidance
recommends ‘that face coverings should be worn in classrooms or during activities unless social distancing can be maintained.’ Individual schools and colleges may decide their own internal policies in conjunction with their risk assessments. Where a member is an employee or a worker at a school, they are expected to follow the school’s own policy. For self-employed contractors, it is possible to refuse to follow the school’s policy but that may risk future relations with that school.

If you are exempt from wearing a face covering, it is your duty to tell any schools to avoid any misunderstanding.

Amateur choirs and groups

Amateur and non-professional rehearsals can recommence outdoors under certain conditions from 29 March 2021.

From Step 3 of the Spring 2021 Roadmap, all amateur and non-professional activity can recommence.

Last updated: 31 March 2021

From 29 March 2021:

Government guidance confirms that non-professional performing arts activity will be permitted outdoors within the legal gathering limits as follows:

  • groups of up to six people or a group of two households
  • a group of two households can include more than six people where all members of the group are part of the same two households (including where they are part of a support bubble)
  • social distancing should be maintained between people who do not live together or share a bubble

Indoor non-professional performing arts activity is not permitted, unless an exemption exists, such as performances which form part of an act of worship. Please see guidance for places of worship for details.

From Step 2 of the Spring 2021 Roadmap (from 12 April):

Government guidance states that ‘outdoor gatherings or events, organised by a business, charity, public body or similar organisation, can be organised, subject to specific conditions:

  • that they comply with COVID-Secure guidance including taking
    reasonable steps to limit the risk of transmission
  • complete a related risk assessment
  • ensure that those attending do not mix beyond what is permitted by the social contact limits (unless another exemption exists, such as for work purposes, or supervised activities for children)

Permitted rehearsals outdoors under this guidance will cease to be lawful if people start watching, as performances are not permitted under Step 2 of the Spring 2021 Roadmap.

b>>From Step 3 of the Spring 2021 Roadmap (no earlier than 17 May):


We have had confirmation from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport that all non-professional and amateur music can recommence from Step 3 of the Spring 2021 Roadmap. Step 3 will be no earlier than 17 May 2021 and will depend upon the Government’s review of relevant COVID-19 data. We will provide further details nearer the time.

Music in worship

From 28 March 2021, certain restrictions for singing during an act of worship will be relaxed.

Last updated: 27 March 2021

Government guidance states that the following can take place from 28 March 2021:

Indoors:

A single small group of singers will be allowed to perform, or rehearse for performance, only where essential to an act of communal worship. This should be limited to as few singers as possible, with social distancing being maintained at all times. Communal singing should not take place.

Outdoors (in the grounds or outside space of a place of worship):

When communal worship takes place outdoors, the congregation may join in with singing, and should follow the principles set out in the performing arts guidance. This includes ensuring that congregation members follow social distancing rules. Social contact limits apply, meaning that households, support bubbles or groups of 2 must not mingle. Communal singing in other public open spaces should not take place.

Government guidance for the performing arts should be followed where professional musicians rehearse in a place of worship.

Weddings and funerals

Last updated: 12 April 2021

Weddings

From 12 April 2021:

Weddings
, receptions and commemorative events including wakes will be able to take place with up to 15 attendees (in premises that are permitted to open).

Anyone working is not included (we assume this will apply from this date onwards)They can only take place in COVID-19 secure venues or in public outdoor spaces unless in exceptional circumstances

Please note that restrictions for singing and playing wind or brass instruments for an act of worship apply.

From 17 May 2021 at the earliest:

Weddings and receptions can proceed with up to 30 attendees.

Please note that restrictions for singing and playing wind or brass instruments for an act of worship apply.


From 21 June 2021 at the earliest:

There will be no limits on attendees at weddings from this point onwards, subject to the outcomes of the Government’s Events Research Programme which it will run during spring 2021. This will include a series of pilots using enhanced testing approaches and other measures to run events with larger crowd sizes and reduced social distancing to evaluate the outcomes. The pilots will start in April.

The Government will bring the findings from across different sectors and different settings to determine a consistent approach to lifting restrictions on these events, including life events such as weddings/civil partnerships and funerals. Depending on the outcome of this work, the Government hopes to be able to lift restrictions on these events and sectors as part of Step 4.

Funerals

From 29 March 2021:

Restrictions are as follows:

  • A maximum of 30 attendees are permitted
  • Anyone working is not included (we assume this will apply from this date onwards)
  • Funerals can take place in COVID-19 secure venues or in public outdoor spaces unless in exceptional circumstances
  • Please note that restrictions for singing and playing wind or brass instruments for an act of worship apply.
  • Wakes with up to six attendees will be permitted but not in private homes.


From 21 June 2021 at the earliest:


The Government proposes that there will be no limits from this point onwards, subject to the outcomes of the Government’s Events Research Programme which it will run during spring 2021. This will include a series of pilots using enhanced testing approaches and other measures to run events with larger crowd sizes and reduced social distancing to evaluate the outcomes. The pilots will start in April.

The Government will bring the findings from across different sectors and different settings to determine a consistent approach to lifting restrictions on these events, including life events such as weddings/civil partnerships and funerals. Depending on the outcome of this work, the Government hopes to be able to lift restrictions on these events and sectors as part of Step 4.

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