Coronavirus: Five-stage ‘roadmap’ for performing arts return unveiled


Culture secretary Oliver DowdenImage copyright
AFP

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Culture secretary Oliver Dowden hosting a government press briefing on 17 June

A five-stage “roadmap” intended to help the performing arts sector start to rebuild after the coronavirus lockdown has been unveiled by the government.

The “phased return” will initially let performances take place outdoors, with indoors performances to follow later.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said he wanted “to raise the curtain on live performances” as soon as possible.

But there is no mention of additional funding, which several venues have said is key to their continued survival.

Nor is a specific time frame given, though a DCMS spokesperson said the first two stages could take place immediately.

The five stages are outlined as follows:

  • Stage One – Rehearsal and training (no audiences and adhering to social distancing guidelines)
  • Stage Two – Performances for broadcast and recording purposes (adhering to social distancing guidelines)
  • Stage Three – Performances outdoors with an audience plus pilots for indoor performances with a limited distance audience
  • Stage Four – Performances allowed indoors/outdoors (but with a limited distanced audience indoors)
  • Stage Five – Performances allowed indoors/outdoors (with a fuller audience indoors)

Mr Dowden said live performances in theatres and music venues were “the soul of our nation and a lynchpin 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.”

The culture secretary likened his roadmap to the “Project Restart” plans that have enabled the Premiership, the Championship and other “elite sport” competitions to resume, albeit without fans.

“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,” he continued.

“Our roadmap provides a clear pathway back.”

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Dame Judi Dench is among many theatre figures to voice concerns for her industry

Earlier this week Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that theatres and concert halls could reopen from 4 July, but not for live performances.

The enforced closure of the UK’s performing arts venues in March due to safety concerns have left many facing a severe financial shortfall.

Some theatres have announced plans to make staff redundant, while theatres in Leicester, Southampton and elsewhere have gone into administration.

During an interview with Channel 4 News on Wednesday, Dame Judi Dench voiced her fears that some major theatres may not reopen in her lifetime.

“I can’t see how it’s going to recover,” said the 85-year-old actress. “If the theatres now close and become dark, I don’t know when we’re going to get them back.”

The culture secretary outlined his roadmap for the performing arts at the latest meeting of the government’s Cultural Renewal taskforce on Thursday.

The taskforce, set up in May, includes representatives from Arts Council England, English National Ballet and the Ambassador Theatre Group among its members.

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