26 June 2020

Culture Secretary unveils road map for phased return of the performing arts

26 June 2020

A five-stage plan that could see the return of the performing arts has been unveiled by the Culture Secretary.

Oliver Dowden said his “road map” for the phased return of live performances would help ensure they can resume as soon as it is safe to do so.

He said that he “desperately” wants to see live shows return, adding that they “are the soul of our nation and a lynchpin of our world-beating creative industries”.

Oliver Dowden unveiled the plans on Thursday (PA Media)

The first two stages of the plan are already in place.

Stage one is for rehearsals to resume with no audience present and social distancing guidelines in place.

Performances which are being recorded are permitted in stage two of the plan, provided social distancing rules are being followed.

Stage three allows for outdoor performances with socially-distanced spectators, as well as pilots for indoor performances with a limited crowd.

The fourth stage of the plan allows for performances to take place inside with a limited, socially distanced audience.

The final stage will see performances permitted both indoors and outdoors, with more people allowed in the audience.

Mr Dowden said: “I desperately want to raise the curtain on live performances in theatres and music venues as soon as we can – they are the soul of our nation and a lynchpin of our world beating creative industries.

Capital FM Monster Mash Up with Voxi by Vodafone – London (PA Archive)

“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.”

He 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 road map provides a clear pathway back.”

Theatres and concert halls can reopen from July 4 under latest guidelines but will not be able to stage live performances and will be limited to screening recordings of past events.

Kate Varah, executive director of the Old Vic theatre in London, welcomed the “clarity and information” provided in the Culture Secretary’s plan but added that more detail is needed.

She told the PA news agency: “I think if we had some timelines that would be brilliant, because we can then start to plan our businesses around those rough dates.”

Ms Varah said it was time that “we are addressed as a sector”, adding: “I appreciate that others have come before us but I hope now that we have made a compelling enough case to give evidence of the real need here.”

Julian Bird, chief executive of UK Theatre and Society of London Theatre, also said the Government needs to provide further details about its plans.

He said: “While the five-stage road map towards the reopening of performing arts venues and productions is welcomed, it is essential that Government gives indicative ‘no earlier’ than dates for stages three to five 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 Government to confirm this.”

The performing arts have been badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

On Thursday the Theatre Royal in Newcastle announced plans to make half of its staff redundant due to the impact of the lockdown.

Earlier this week the Theatre Royal Plymouth announced it has started redundancy consultations following a plunge in revenues.

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