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UK Culture Secretary Announces Outdoor Theatres Can Reopen From 11 July

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UK Culture Secretary Announces Outdoor Theatres Can Reopen From 11 July

UK Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has announced further lockdown easing measures for sport and culture. Among the new rules: outdoor theatres, opera and music venues can reopen from 11 July - with live performances in front of outdoor, socially distanced audiences. This is a big "milestone", notes Dowden, for those who have been "waiting in the wings" since March.

"That means theatregoers can experience a live play for the first time in months, in places like the stunning Minack Theatre in Cornwall. And music lovers can attend Glyndebourne this summer," Dowden said.

"We're taking various measures to make these places safe as they reopen," he added. These include reduced venue capacity and the use of electronic ticketing to help test and trace. "Our performing artists deserve an audience, and now they will be getting one."

Dowden said that the Government will also be working with health experts to pilot "a number of indoor performances", in order to work out how we can "confidently usher socially distanced audiences indoors as soon as possible". Additionally, the Government will be doing scientific studies to mitigate "specific public health risks, like the impact of singing, wind and brass instruments on transmission".

In the meantime, Dowden added that the Government is also taking steps through the planning system to protect theatres and cultural venues from "demolition or change of use".

However, there are still no firm dates on when theatres can reopen for indoor performances - which is crucial for planning shows. Read the full Government statement here and guidance for the performing arts here

Industry leaders have responded to the announcement...

Julian Bird, SOLT and UK Theatre

Equity

Regent's Park Open Air Theatre

Shakespeare's Globe

The Theatres Trust

Following the statement by Culture Secretary with details of the next stages of the reopening plans in England, Theatres Trust Director Jon Morgan responds:

Guidance for reopening of theatres

Alongside the very welcome and much-needed package of government support for the culture sector announced earlier this week, the publication of the performing arts guidance today will give a further degree of clarity to theatres. The publication of details for stage 3 will allow theatres to move to outdoor performances from 11 July. However, it is disappointing that the guidelines have been published without a 'not before' date for Stage 4 and the all-important Stage 5 - the point when theatres will be able to open fully and welcome back audiences without social distancing. For the majority, it means continued delay and uncertainty as to when they will be able to reopen fully and for some, this delay may mean they never reopen.

We appreciate the difficulty in setting a date for stage 5 as it will always be conditional on circumstances such as the R rate remaining low, further safety tests being conducted and the safety of staff, creatives and audiences must be a priority. But without even an indicative date it is difficult for theatres to plan ahead - and for many theatres this uncertainty will be devastating.

With the furlough scheme ending in October, many theatres will be left in a precarious situation and there is the risk of more theatres being forced to make redundancies or closing permanently. The performing arts will be the last sector to be able to reopen viably and it is therefore critical that the government's rescue package prioritises theatres across the UK who will be most affected by the delayed reopening.

Planning system changes

Theatres Trust welcomes today's news of revisions to the planning system, which will help prevent vacant theatres from being demolished or irreversibly changed for other uses. We have been campaigning to strengthen protections for theatre buildings in the planning system and we are pleased that the government has responded to our proposal so positively. The Covid-19 lockdown has rendered otherwise vibrant theatres vulnerable to permanent closure and we have already seen four operators go into liquidation, leaving their theatres empty. These measures will help ensure these vital community assets are protected during the current crisis and can be revived to serve their local communities once again.


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