Plans for 1 August reopening criticised by industry figures as not enough to keep many venues open
Theatres and venues in England will be able to host socially distanced performances and gigs from 1 August under new government plans, but the move has been criticised for not being economically viable for most venues.
The culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, said the plan, which is the fourth stage of the government’s five-step plan for reopening arts venues, was a “welcome step in the path to a return to normal”. But industry figures said until stage five begins, when performances are allowed indoors and outdoors with “fuller audiences”, theatres and music venues would not be able to reopen and survive financially.
“From August indoor theatres, music venues and performance spaces will safely welcome audiences back across the country,” Dowden said. “This is a welcome step on the path to a return to normal and, coupled with our £1.57bn rescue package, will help secure the future of this important sector.”
Under the plan, venues are expected to operate at a reduced capacity to ensure social distancing, must use e-tickets, need to be deep-cleaned, performers must abide by social distancing, and limited entry points must be established.
“For most theatres it will not be economically viable to reopen with 30%-40% audience required under social distancing,” he said. “We now need to progress as quickly as possible to an announcement on the all-important stage five. 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 DCMS said it was working on pilot performances with socially distanced audiences – including a performance by the London Symphony Orchestra at St Luke’s, London – that will help provide guidelines for venues before 1 August.
The Music Venues Trust, an industry body, said because none of the pilot performances will take place in grassroots venues, it questioned whether the guidance would be comprehensive…