Coronavirus: Outdoor concerts, plays and opera get government go-ahead

Media caption,

The culture secretary promised to act to protect theatres and other venues from demolition

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.

Outdoor performances can go ahead from Saturday, 11 July.

A number of small indoor test events will also take place to help plan how and when venues can begin to reopen.

Those pilot performances will also be socially distanced, and guidelines for indoor venues have been published.

The test events will feature the London Symphony Orchestra at St Luke's Church, as well as performances at the London Palladium and Butlin's holiday parks.

"This is an important milestone for our performing artists, who have been waiting patiently in the wings since March," Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
The Minack Theatre in Cornwall was cited as one venue that can reopen

"Of course we won't see crowds flooding into their venues, but from 11 July our theatres, operas, dance and music shows can start putting on outdoor performances to socially distant audiences.

"That means theatregoers can experience a live play for the first time in months at places like the stunning Minack Theatre in Cornwall, and music lovers can attend Glyndebourne this summer."

Capacities will be reduced and the venues will be asked to use electronic ticketing in order to keep a record of visitor details in case they are needed by the test and trace system, he said.

The announcement means 11 July will mark the start of stage three of the government's roadmap for reopening the live entertainment industry.

There are no dates for stages four and five - indoor performances with a limited audience, and indoor performances with a fuller audience. However the government has said dance studios can reopen from 25 July.

New guidelines for future performances in England have also been published, with recommendations including:

  • Reduced capacities and cast and orchestra sizes to allow social distancing
  • Performers, conductors and musicians to be socially distanced, possibly back-to-back or side-to-side, rather than face-to-face
  • Singers and wind and brass players to have added social distancing - 3m is suggested - and screens could be used
  • Singing and brass and wind playing in groups or in front of an audience limited to professionals only
  • Increased deep cleaning of auditoriums

Julian Bird, chief executive of the Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre, said the guidance was "welcome", but urged the government to provide more clarity regarding indoor performances.

The government has also commissioned a scientific study on the risks associated with singing and brass instruments.

And Mr Dowden said planning rules would be changed to prevent empty venues from being demolished or redeveloped.

Follow us on Facebook, or on Twitter @BBCNewsEnts. If you have a story suggestion email