Indoor Shows to Return to England in August
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson today (17 July) announced that Indoor performances will return to venues across England from 1 August, provided audiences adhere to social distancing measures.

However, the prime minister has also announced that local authorities “will have new powers in their areas”, meaning they can “close specific premises, shut public outdoor spaces, and cancel events” in response to outbreaks of the virus.

Central government will also be able intervene with events. “Where justified”, says Johnson, ministers will have the power to “close whole sectors or types of premises in an area, introduce local “stay at home” orders and reduce the maximum size of gatherings beyond national rules”, increasing uncertainty for event organisers.

The announcement follows the reopening of outdoor shows last week and marks the fourth stage of the government’s five-step roadmap to reopening the live entertainment industry. The fifth and final phase of the plan will see venues reopen with fuller audiences.

The news also comes less than 24 hours after four popular English venues – Gorilla and Deaf Institute in Manchester and VMS Live-operated the Welly and the Polar Bear in Hull – announced that they were closing due to Covid-19 pressures.

Upon reopening, venues will have to put a limited number of tickets on sale to reduce numbers; sell all tickets online to facilitate track and trace systems; place social distancing markers in areas where queues are likely to form; increase deep cleaning of auditoriums; schedule sufficient time between performances; and ensure artists and their teams also observe social distancing wherever possible.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) is working with the sector on pilots for performances with socially distanced audiences that will inform final guidance for venues in the run up to the 1 August reopening.

“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,” comments culture secretary Oliver Dowden.

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

“This is a welcome step on 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.”