Following changes to the rules governing social interaction in all the nations of the UK, confusion arose as to their application to leisure-time music groups.
However, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) have confirmed and the relevant FAQ has been updated, to say that (in England):
3.18 Can I go to my hobby club / amateur musical group / other leisure activity?
It is against the law to gather in groups of more than 6, where people are from different households or support bubbles. Some activities - such as those organised for under-18s - are exempt. In a COVID-19 Secure venue or public outdoor place, non-professional performing arts activity, including choirs, orchestras or drama groups can continue to rehearse or perform together where this is planned activity in line with the performing arts guidance and if they can do so in a way that ensures that there is no interaction between groups of more than 6 at any time.
If an amateur group is not able to ensure that no mingling takes place between these sub-groups of no more than 6 (including when arriving at or leaving activity or in any breaks or socialising) then such non-professional activity should not take place.
The takeaway here is that music groups are planned, risk assessed and organised activity and therefore can continue to meet. However, the onus is on all groups to do this carefully and properly, in line with guidance, and in particular to avoid any risks of mingling.
The ‘groups of 6’ are to some extent misleading because if a music group of 36 meets, you should not be thinking of 6 sub-groups of 6, but simply of every single person attending as a sub-group of 1. None of those sub-groups should mingle, i.e. 2 metres social distancing is to be maintained throughout their engagement with the activity, from everyone else – during arrival, playing/ singing, break, and departure, as well as immediately outside your rehearsal venue.
Again, the update does not affect organised group music activity. However, groups in Scotland cannot do anything indoors as the guidance for indoor activity advises that groups must only meet in the same numbers as they can socially. Outdoors there is no limit on numbers if it is organised activity – so if an appropriate space can be found, groups can meet and rehearse.
Singing, wind or brass playing are not allowed in any setting. Other musical group activity (e.g. string group, drumming circle, etc.) is permitted indoors or outdoors, with no limit on numbers, provided it is a cultural/social/community activity and a suitable venue is available.
There are still some questions around what is possible for music groups, and Making Music continues to ask for clarification. It does appear that nothing is possible indoors, but up to 30 (or more – this is one of the questions) can rehearse outdoors.
Promoters in England can continue to present concerts, indoors or outdoors, providing the performing arts guidance is followed and audiences are able to socially distance at all times. However, no indoor events are possible in the other three nations. Refer to individual nations’ guidance for outdoor events.
Guidance and tools
Making Music is continually updating our guidance tool to reflect changes.
Making Music members can also use our risk assessment guidance and templates to assist them if they wish to return to in-person rehearsals or concert presentation.