UK Culture Secretary Reveals Guidelines for Reopening Theatres - But Still No Funding

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UK Culture Secretary Reveals Guidelines for Reopening Theatres - But Still No Funding

UPDATE 26/06: Julian Bird, CEO of SOLT and UK Theatre, has responded to Oliver Dowden's statement: "While the five stage roadmap towards the reopening of performing arts venues and productions is welcomed, it is essential that government gives indicative, "no earlier" than dates for stages 3 to 5 now so that the sector can plan for the future - otherwise with no information at all, theatres and producers will have to assume a worst-case scenario and plan to be shut for a long period.

"With the rest of the economy now reopening quickly, we firmly believe that with the right safety processes in place, we can get back to full audiences in theatres within months - we now need the government to confirm this."

UK culture secretary Oliver Dowden has revealed a five-step programme which he says 'provides a clear pathway back' to reopening theatres.

The steps include:

  • Stage 1 - Rehearsal and training, with no audiences and adhering to social distancing guidelines
  • Stage 2 - Performances for broadcast and recording purposes, adhering to social distancing guidelines
  • Stage 3 - Performances outdoors with an audience plus pilots for indoor performances with a limited distance audience
  • Stage 4 - Performances allowed indoors and outdoors, but with a limited distanced audience indoors
  • Stage 5 - Performances allowed indoors and outdoors, with a fuller audience indoors

Dowden said, "I desperately want to raise the curtain on live performances in theatres and music venues as soon we can - they are the soul of our nation and a linchpin of our world beating creative industries. We know the challenges - theatres must be full to make money, and performers need to be safe on stage as they sing, dance and play instruments - but I am determined to ensure the performing arts do not stay closed longer than is absolutely necessary to protect public health." adding, "We had a roadmap for elite sport, and we've succeeded in getting that back on. While the challenges facing performing arts are numerous, we must have clear steps to follow and provide as much certainty and focus as we can."

"We will then progress with outdoor performances with an audience - and some outdoor events are beginning to be planned for later in the summer. Alongside this we'll do some pilots on indoor performances to identify the best mitigations to take. Eventually, and only when it is safe to do so, we'll reintroduce indoor performances with audiences," he continued.

A statement from the UK Government reads, "While we can not right now put timings on when we will move through each phase of the roadmap and also understand the scale of the challenge of this process, the culture secretary is clear that he wants to move through each step as soon as it is possible and the public health position allows. Guidance will accompany each of the stages."

Dowden added: "I know the public wants its theatres open, our brilliant performers want to go back to work, and we will do all we can to get them fully back up and running. Our roadmap provides a clear pathway back."

Currently, no specific dates have been announced for the launch of each phase, however, reports indicate that the first two can be implemented now. The implementation depends upon the status of the pandemic and current scientific wisdom.

However, Dowden's plan lacks vital details on the exact timeline of events - and, crucially, much-needed funding to support theatres on the brink of collapse right now and arts workers who may be forced to leave the industry. Nor can theatres attempt steps like speculative rehearsals or socially distanced performances - which would require selling far fewer seats than normal - without Government funding to make it financially viable.

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