live music outdoors is back - but not as we know it

published: Fri 10th Jul 2020


It was announced yesterday by the Secretary of State for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, Oliver Dowden, that live music could resume outdoors in England. Many of the news reports seemed to suggest that everything was back to normal, while the published guidance paints a different picture.

In order to go ahead events will have to satisfy local authorities that they will be able to operate in line with the guidance: "Local authorities should avoid issuing licenses for events that could lead to larger gatherings forming and provide advice to businesses on how to manage events of this type. If appropriate, the Government has powers under schedule 22 of the Coronavirus Act 2020 to close venues hosting large gatherings or prohibit certain events (or types of event) from taking place."

The guidance covers all of the performing arts and is very long. Much isn't too relevant to festivals or outdoor events, along with a lot of detail for production standards out of sight of the public's eye, and other parts you might expect about managing audience movements to avoid crowds and pinch-points, sanitation, keeping a record of attendees (can be done via ticketing for ticketed events), etc.

The more interesting parts seem to be:-

- "Reducing site, premises or venue capacity and limiting ticket sales to a volume which ensures social distancing can be maintained."

- audience "social interactions should be limited to a group of no more than two households (indoors and out) or up to six people from different households (if outdoors)".

- and if social distancing can't be maintained "organisations should consider whether that activity needs to continue for it to operate, and if so, take all the mitigating actions possible to reduce the risk of transmission between their staff, participants and visitors". As far as we can tell, that probably means mandatory face masks.

- or, alternatively, if it can't be maintained "discouraging or avoiding gatherings such as performances or screenings that may encourage audience behaviours that increase transmission risk".

When everyone has finally arrived in their personal bit of socially distanced space "organisers should ensure that steps are taken to avoid audiences needing to unduly raise their voices to each other. This includes, but is not limited to, refraining from playing music or broadcasts that may encourage shouting". 

There's no timetable for when things might change from this so for the moment, welcome to the new normal.

It's possible for festivals and events to operate within these rules, but whether they will be financially viable &/or give the enjoyment people have come to love is another thing.


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