Live indoor performances can resume in England as lockdown rules are eased

14 August 2020, 13:04

Live indoor performances can resume in England
Live indoor performances can resume in England. Picture: Getty

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

Theatres and concert halls can reopen with social distancing, as a number of lockdown regulations across England are eased.

Live indoor performances can resume in England tomorrow with social distancing, the PM Boris Johnson has announced.

This means theatre and live music can return to arts venues, with reduced audiences.

The easing of lockdown rules will come into play on Saturday 15 August after being delayed by a fortnight, due to a slight uplift in people being diagnosed with coronavirus.

In his announcement, the PM added that casinos, bowling alleys, skating rinks and soft play centres will be allowed to reopen. Wedding receptions for up to 30 guests will also be permitted.

Johnson said this phased reopening “will allow more people to return to work and the public to get back to more of the things they have missed”.

Read more: What is the government’s latest guidance for live music venues? >

Trial performance took place at the London Palladium
Trial performance took place at the London Palladium. Picture: PA

The PM also reiterated the government “will not hesitate to put on the brakes if required, or to continue to implement local measures to help to control the spread of the virus”.

Culture secretary Oliver Dowden confirmed the news on Twitter, describing it as “another important step on the recovery of the arts, helped by our £1.57bn rescue package”.

Venues can now apply for a grant from the £1.57bn pot, of which £500m in emergency grants will be distributed by Arts Council England to prop up the worst-affected venues.

However, there is no guarantee the money will allow venues to start putting on shows again, with many saying it’s only enough for them to merely ‘survive’ until early next year.

Andrew Lloyd Webber, among other major arts figures, has openly criticised the government’s advice to open venues with social distancing. The 72-year-old theatre owner said: “The average play needs a 65 percent capacity, while the average musical needs more. That’s before it even starts to repay anything.”

Jon Morgan, director of Theatres Trust, echoed those thoughts to the BBC, saying: “For most theatres it will not be economically viable to reopen with 30-40 percent audience required under social distancing”.

Incorporated Society of Musicians’ chief exec, Deborah Annetts, welcomed the reopening but said: “The fact still remains that until live music venues can fully reopen without social distancing, musicians will not be able to fully return to work, and their income will be far less than before COVID-19, which is not sustainable.”

Christmas shows, including pantomimes and ballets, across the country are already starting to be cancelled.

Venues have been shut since March under coronavirus lockdown.