Dealing with Covid-19 for the UK Theatre Industry

How will theatres open after lockdown?

Theatres all over the world are excited to once again open their curtains. The UK’s government has announced the national roadmap out of lockdown. We expect the 17th May to be the earliest date theatres will be allowed to reopen, looking at the guidance. With how hard the theatre industry has been hit this year and last, it is crucial theatres start to regain revenue. To do this, theatres must inspire confidence for eager yet anxious visitors, and be secure in their safety procedure. This article aims to advise theatres and booking offices on the correct procedure of reopening and maintaining a safe environment.

When will theatres reopen after lockdown?

Prior to the big reopening in May, theatres are permitted to continue to operate. Government guidance was updated on 6th January 2021 and includes:

  • Performing arts professional may continue to rehearse and train
  • Performances allowed for broadcast purposes
  • Theatres, concert halls, grassroots music venues and entertainment venues must remain closed.
  • Non-professional activity must stop
  • Performances with an audience cannot take place
  • You can only leave home for work purposes

The DCMS developed a five-stage roadmap to bring performing arts back safely. There are five stages of the phased return:

  1. Rehearsal and Training
  2. Performances for broadcast and recording
  3. Outdoor performance with an audience, indoor pilots with a limited socially-distanced audience
  4. Performances allowed indoors and outdoors, audiences socially distanced
  5. Performances allowed indoors and outdoors

These stages match up with the stages laid out through the government’s roadmap out of lockdown. June is when we expect a return to normality with a lift on social contact rules.

How to reopen a theatre after lockdown?

Opening and continuing safely is all about managing risk. It is the employer’s duty to reduce risk in the workplace, this is done by taking preventative measures. Information on how to successfully carry out a risk assessment is issued by The Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

To correctly undertake a risk assessment, you must:

  • Identify what work activity or situations might cause transmission of the virus

Common areas in a theatre which may cause transmission of COVID-19 include small passageways, queues, bars, if audience members experience close contact while seated or moving between seats, as well as when waiting to exit. These situations of high risk should be limited and controlled by the theatre employers and staff.

  • Think about who could be at risk

Older audience members and visitors with a disability are at a higher risk. Perhaps these members could be identified and given preferential treatment with increased safety measures.

  • Decide how likely it is that someone could be exposed

Identifying the hazards is the first step to controlling exposure. Protect both your visitors and employees by cornering off unnecessary high traffic areas or where people may congregate. There are a combination of controls which can be put in place – these include reorganising facilities, physical barriers, one-way systems and leaving non-fire doors open to improve ventilation.

  • Act to remove the activity or situation, control the risk

Clear communication is essential. When working with the public, its important to ensure that they take all reasonable measures to comply with social distancing and hygiene measures. The new guidance and safety procedure within your facility should be provided and explained to visitors.

The government recommends activity time be made as short as possible and areas such as cloakrooms should have a no contact procedure. Minimise contact around transactions by using online booking and pre-payment. Washing facilities and hand sanitiser at accessible places, and signs should be on display to remind visitors of the precautions.

For what to include when creating your own safety assessment, see the HSE’s documentation.

Booking Protect’s refund protection gives ticket purchasers the opportunity to apply for a full refund if certain unforeseen circumstances occur and they can no longer attend an event.

Theatres and box office venues will be able to give the confidence and peace of mind to their customers through refund protection. Booking Protect’s service is easy to assimilate with your online platform and will spare you from many refund requests. Contact us for more information about Booking Protect.