The U.K. Will Allow Indoor Concerts Beginning in August
After clearing outdoor concerts to resume earlier this month, the U.K. government began a pilot program to test the feasibility of hosting small indoor events. That program has gone well enough that the country plans to begin allowing indoor concerts and other gatherings to resume beginning August 1, with some restrictions in place.
On Friday, July 17, the country’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport announced “theaters, music halls and other venues” will be able to host indoor concerts starting on the first day of August, citing the success of testing with the London Symphony. Venues will need to enforce reduced capacity, deep cleaning, use of e-tickets, social distancing and other safety measures, while audiences and performers will also be required to follow social distancing and other safety protocol.
The U.K. government recently announced a £1.57 billion relief package for the arts and entertainment industries that should help keep venues afloat while they’re unable to operate at the full capacity typically necessary to turn a profit.
Culture secretary Oliver Dowden said of the next phase of 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. From August indoor theaters, 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 plan, will help secure the future of this important sector.”
Jon Morgan, director of Theatres Trust, illuminated the biggest problem still facing the industry, saying:
“[The news is] a step in the right direction [but] for most theatres it will not be economically viable to reopen with 30-40% audience required under social distancing. We now need to progress as quickly as possible to an announcement on the all-important Stage 5, allowing theatres to reopen fully with the appropriate safety measures. 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.”
It’s not immediately clear how the new policy will affect small music venues where patrons are typically crammed into tight, poorly ventilated spaces and businesses operate on razor-thin margins. It also seems doubtful that a mass increase in indoor gatherings will come without a spike in coronavirus cases and deaths.