British theatres to reopen in August
London – Indoor performances with socially distanced audiences can take place in England from the start of August, the Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said.
The government is working with the sector on pilots of performances with socially distanced audiences in theatres and music venues.
Johnson said the findings would feed into final guidance for venues in the run-up to them reopening.
But the head of Theatres Trust said the move “will not be economically viable”.
Although Jon Morgan, director of Theatres Trust welcomed the news as “a step in the right direction”, he said that “for most theatres it will not be economically viable to reopen with 30 to 40 per cent audience required under social distancing”.
He said they needed to progress to theatres being allowed to open fully “with the appropriate safety measures”, adding: “Without this most theatres cannot reopen viably and we need the go-ahead for Christmas shows, on which the survival of many theatres depends, in the next few weeks at the very latest.”
The government stressed that “audiences, performers and venues will be expected to maintain social distancing at all times.”
It added: “This guidance will be for organisations in England. Organisations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland should adhere to the advice of the devolved administrations at all times.”
Venues have been shut since March as part of the lockdown due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport added it was now working with venues, including the London Symphony Orchestra on measures for reopening.
However, it added that singing and the playing of brass and wind instruments in groups or in front of an audience is “still currently limited to professionals only”.
Earlier this month the government announced a £1.57 billion support package, following several weeks of lobbying from theatres, music venues, art galleries and other cultural institutions, many of which had said they were on the brink of collapse.
The government has also now outlined measures to “support the safe return of audiences”, including:
Reduced venue capacity and limited ticket sales to ensure social distancing can be maintained;
Tickets should be bought online and venues encouraged to use e-tickets to reduce contact and 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;
Performers, conductors and musicians must observe social distancing wherever possible.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “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.” (BBC)