Indoor theatre to resume from August 1 in UK with social distancing

Indoor theatre to resume from August 1 in UK with social distancing
Coronavirus – Fri Jun 19, 2020

Live indoor theatre and concerts will be able to resume with socially distanced audiences from August 1, after months of dimmed lights and empty stages.

The British Prime Minister said that indoor performances with live audiences will be allowed, subject to the success of pilots, and trials will begin of larger gatherings in places like sport stadiums.

However, some arts venues have said it is not financially viable to reopen with social distancing in place.

Director and choreographer Matthew Bourne wrote on Twitter: “Why make these announcements when they know that the vast majority of theatre, dance and music is not financially viable under ‘Covid secure’ conditions?”

He added the hashtag: “#falsehope”.

It comes after the UK Government announced a £1.57 billion (€1.72bn) support package to “protect” the future of Britain’s arts, with museums, galleries and theatres, independent cinemas, heritage sites and music venues eligible for emergency grants and loans.

Some theatres have already closed down, making staff redundant, amid the pandemic and high-profile industry figures have warned that the industry might never recover without significant intervention.

On Friday, the Royal Opera House announced it has begun a restructure process because of the scale of financial pressure, alongside continued restrictions on the ability to perform to live audiences.

The opera house’s director of music, Antonio Pappano, has waived his salary since the beginning of the crisis and chief executive Alex Beard has taken a significant reduction in salary.

Outdoor performances were allowed to resume on July 10 with restricted audience numbers and social distancing.

Mr Johnson said: “It is my strong and sincere hope that we will be able to review the outstanding restrictions and allow a more significant return to normality from November, at the earliest, possibly in time for Christmas.”

The festive period is a vital time for many theatres, with much of their annual income coming from pantomimes.

Theatres will be able to open with reduced venue capacity and limited ticket sales to ensure social distancing, while tickets will be purchased online and venues encouraged to use e-tickets to reduce contact and help with track and trace.

There will also be increased deep cleaning of auditoriums, and performances will be scheduled to allow sufficient time for cleaning before the next audience arrives.

The London Symphony Orchestra at St Luke’s in London is among the arts venues piloting new arrangements, while the upcoming World Snooker Championships in Sheffield, the Glorious Goodwood horse racing festival and two men’s county cricket friendly matches are set to be among the pilot sporting events.

The UK Government said the “events have been carefully selected to represent a range of sports and indoor and outdoor spectator environments”.

The World Snooker Championships begin on July 31 at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, while Surrey’s friendly with Middlesex on July 26 and 27 has also been earmarked, as has Goodwood, which starts on August 1.

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.

“From August indoor theatres, music venues and performance spaces will safely welcome audiences back across the country.

“This is a welcome step in the path to a return to normal and, coupled with our £1.57 billion rescue package, will help secure the future of this important sector.”

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