Covid-19: Can my group get back to in-person activities?

Guidelines covering how music groups can get back to rehearsing and performing are being published in the different nations of the UK: 

The guidance does vary and so what you can and can’t do is different, depending on what type of group you are and where you are in the UK.

The tool below will help you identify which bit of guidance is relevant to you, and help you establish what your group can and cannot do.

The situation is ever changing, so please always check the latest official guidance, including local variations, before making and implementing any plans.

First published 13 July 2020

Updated:

  • 31 July
    • England (performing groups and promoting groups)
    • Scotland (promoting groups)
    • 3 August - Wales (performing groups and promoting groups)
  • 7 August (Northern Ireland – performing groups and promoting groups)
  • 14 August (England – performing groups and promoting groups)
  • 20 August (England – performing groups )
  • 21 August (Scotland - promoting groups and England – performing groups) 
  • 25 August (Scotland - performing groups)
  • 24 August (Northern Ireland - performing groups)
  • 10 September (Scotland - performing groups, and England - performing groups)
  • 16 September (England - performing groups)
  • 17 September (Northern Ireland - performing groups, Northern Ireland - promoting groups, England - performing groups)
  • 18 September (Scotland - performing groups, England - performing groups)
  • 21 September (England - performing groups)
  • 22 September (England - performing groups, Northern Ireland - performing groups (other))

What country is your group based in?

What type of group are you? 

On 22 September, the DCMS confirmed that although new restrictions have been announced by the government, this will not affect amateur music groups, and they can continue to follow the existing guidance.

The Performing Arts – Working Safely During Coronavirus guidance was updated on 17 September and it explicitly states:

“Confirmed that from 14 September 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.” (new section in Introduction)

The ’sub-groups of no more than 6’ are causing some confusion when related to rehearsals. It is clearer for performances – you should not take a group booking of more than 6, and that group then needs to be socially distanced from the next sub-group.

In rehearsals, however, you should think of your ‘sub-groups’ as sub-groups of 1 attending your rehearsal (unless they are parent/child or partners or flatmates from same household). In other words, every single person in a rehearsal should be socially distanced at all times from every single other person in a rehearsal – and during breaks, arrival, departure and bathroom queue. See our guidance and risk assessment template for more detail.

Updates have been published to the Coronavirus (COVID-19): Meeting with others safely (social distancing) guidance, which is aimed at individuals and their behaviour. Amongst other things it states that “venues following COVID-19 secure guidelines will be able to continue to host more people in total.”

There is also an FAQ which is new and was published on 14 September, aimed at individual behaviour, not at organisations.

This FAQ reads in full:
3.19 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 six, where people are from different households or support bubbles. The rule above does not mean that there cannot be more than six people in any one place. All activities for under 18s are exempt. There can be multiple groups of six people in a place, provided that those groups do not mingle.

In practice, however, this will make it difficult for some activities to take place without breaking the law. Activities where there is a significant likelihood of groups of more than six mingling – and therefore breaking the law – should not take place until further COVID-19 Secure guidance has been developed and approved to enable the activity to happen safely. This may include extended tour groups, large banquet dinners, society or club meetings, or amateur music or drama rehearsals.

It is now confirmed by the 17 September update that as organisations, businesses and charities, member groups should be following the Performing Arts guidance which was updated on 11 September, but only to add the 7 priority actions each organisation is now expected to take in order to operate; all of these are covered in Making Music’s risk assessment guide and template already.

The DCMS guidance says "both professionals and non-professionals (meaning those participating in performing arts other than for work purposes), or groups which include non-professionals, should refer to this guidance for their activities.’"

And: 

"Within this guidance there are no set limits on the numbers who can be involved in planned non-professional activity taking place outside and/or in a Covid-secure venue.”… “However, organisations must ensure an appropriate COVID-19 risk assessment is carried out and that the numbers of individuals involved are able to be socially distanced at all times. Organisations and venues will want to minimise the risk as far as possible and this guidance sets out a number of mitigations that should be considered when doing so."   

Social distancing

“Non-professional activities should not take place that require social distancing to be compromised.” (Introduction section).
And:
“Non-professionals are restricted by rules on meeting with others safely. This means that 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.”

This wording is stronger than the previous version and emphasises what is referred to in the FAQ quoted above, namely that there is to be absolutely no mingling. If there is any mingling, activity cannot take place.

The 7 priority actions you must take as an organisation

  1. Complete a COVID-19 risk assessment. Share it with all your stakeholders.
  2. Clean more often. Increase how often you clean surfaces, especially those that are being touched a lot. Ask your participants, professionals and volunteers to use hand sanitiser and wash their hands frequently.
  3. Ask your participants to wear face coverings in any indoor space or where required to do so by law…Some exemptions apply. Check when to wear one, exemptions, and how to make your own.
  4. Make sure everyone is social distancing. Make it easy for everyone to do so by putting up signs or introducing a one way system that they can follow.
  5. Increase ventilation by keeping doors and windows open where possible and running ventilation systems at all times.
  6. Take part in NHS Test and Trace by keeping a record of all your attendees for 21 days. From 18 September, this will be enforced in law. Some exemptions apply. Check Maintaining records of staff, customers and visitors to support NHS Test and Trace for details. *Please note: you must register for an official NHS QR code and display the official NHS QR poster from 24 September 2020. Find out how on the government's website*
  7. Turn people with coronavirus symptoms away. If an attendee (or someone in their household) has a persistent cough, a high temperature or has lost their sense of taste or smell, they should be isolating.

There is other government guidance specific to community groups and community activity (that the DCMS guidance does not specifically refer to):
Guidance for the safe use of multi-purpose community facilities states (section 3.c) then refers back to the DCMS performing arts guidelines. It now says, confusingly:

“However, for activities and social groups where there is a significant likelihood of groups mixing and socialising (and where it will be difficult to prevent mingling and therefore breaking the law) should not take place in a community facility. These may include but are not limited to:

  • formal or informal clubs and hobby clubs (e.g. women’s institute, veteran’s associations, freemasons, sewing clubs, book clubs, crafts clubs, reading groups)
  • amateur choirs and orchestras
  • informally organised sport activities on facilities grounds (professionally organised sport activities are exempt)

But then it says later in the same paragraph: 
“Community facilities are now permitted to host socially distanced indoor and outdoor performances in line with the performing arts guidance.” (which currently has professionals and non-professionals on an equal footing)
And
“Both professionals and non-professionals can now engage in singing, wind and brass in line with the performing arts guidance.”

ACRE (Action in Communities in Rural England) have issued guidance to the village halls in their membership that they can host community groups, including amateur music groups, provided there is strict social distancing.

What can music groups do?

Groups can host in-person rehearsals, indoors or outdoors, provided they undertake a comprehensive risk assessment and put in place strong risk mitigation measures. Specifically, groups need to spell out that there is to be no social interaction (no mingling) and put measures in place to prevent this happening.

It is crucial in order to ensure for continuing permission to meet for individual groups and for the whole sector that groups avoid any mingling (=social interaction at less than 2 metres distance) during their rehearsals.

You still have an obligation to collect information offline for people without a smartphone or who do not wish to use the NHS app.

Please refer to Making Music’s risk assessment and guidance for full details

 

The DCMS guidance allows for outdoor and indoor performances, this means promoting groups that arrange performance by professionals can start to put on events again. 

The guidance states: 

"As of 15 August we are now at Stage Four of the roadmap. This means that socially distanced indoor and outdoor performances can take place in line with this guidance, though we encourage organisations to continue to work outdoors wherever possible." (Introduction section).

Outdoors

The guidance states: 

“It is against the law for gatherings of more than 30 people to take place in private homes (including gardens and other outdoor spaces).

Businesses and venues following COVID-19 Secure guidelines can host larger groups. This is also the case for events in public outdoor spaces that are organised by businesses, charitable or political organisations, and public bodies, provided they take reasonable steps to mitigate the risk of transmission, in line with COVID-19 Secure guidance and including completion of a risk assessment. Any other gathering in an outdoor space must not be any larger than 30 people. More details on managing audiences can be found in Section 5 of this document” (Introduction section).

Indoors

As of 15th  August indoor performances are possible but with a limited socially-distanced audience.

What about the rule of six?

New government guidance on meeting socially states:

“From Monday 14 September, when meeting friends and family you do not live with (or have formed a support bubble with) you must not meet in a group of more than six, indoors or outdoors”

However, the guidance also states “…venues following COVID-19 secure guidelines will be able to continue to host more people in total …but no one should mix in a group of greater than six”

This means you can have an audience of more than six people – but no group booking should exceed six (unless it’s a household / support bubble) and audience members should not mingle with each other, unless they have come as a group of six (or less).

COVID secure events and Risk Assessments 

Groups planning indoor or outdoor performances should follow DCMS guidance on managing performances

The 7 priority actions you must take as an organisation are:

  1. Complete a COVID-19 risk assessment. Share it with all your staff. We have  produced guidance to help groups do risk assessments, including a template risk assessment.  
  2. Clean more often. Increase how often you clean surfaces, especially those that are being touched a lot. Ask your staff and your customers to use hand sanitiser and wash their hands frequently.
  3. Ask your customers to wear face coverings in any indoor space or where required to do so by law. That is especially important if your customers are likely to be around people they do not normally meet. Some exemptions apply. Check when to wear one, exemptions, and how to make your own.
  4. Make sure everyone is social distancing. Make it easy for everyone to do so by putting up signs or introducing a one way system that your customers can follow.
  5. Increase ventilation by keeping doors and windows open where possible and running ventilation systems at all times.
  6. Take part in NHS Test and Trace by keeping a record of all your customers for 21 days. From 18 September, this will be enforced in law. Some exemptions apply. Check Maintaining records of staff, customers and visitors to support NHS Test and Trace for details.
  7. Turn people with coronavirus symptoms away. If a staff member (or someone in their household) or a customer has a persistent cough, a high temperature or has lost their sense of taste or smell, they should be isolating.

Online events 

We know live performances (whether indoor or out) will not be possible for all groups. It is worth remembering that livestreaming  and recorded performances for online broadcast are till viable options. We have guidance on livestreaming and livestreaming subsidies to help with this. 
 

Read the official guidance. 

 

The Scottish Government updated the Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for the performing arts and venues sector on 17 September. It provides guidance specifically for non-professional music groups. 

What does the guidance say?

In the 'Playing Music' section of the guidance it states:

“Non-professional musicians (including singing and wind and brass instrumentalists) may sing or play in groups outdoors and indoors, but group size should be limited to that permitted by social gathering guidance (Staying safe and protecting others). This currently allows for meetings of no more than 6 people from a maximum of 2 households either indoors or outdoors. Any local restrictions on household gatherings will also apply. You should maintain 2 metre distancing and avoid playing or singing face to face.”

However, the guidance also states:

“Non-professionals who are participating in an organised outdoor activity managed by an organisation - including a business, charity or club - can, from 24 August, meet outdoors. Organisers have a duty to ensure compliance with 2 metre physical distancing, hygiene measures and this and other relevant guidance, including events guidance, and to undertake the same risk assessment processes as referenced in this guidance for professional organisations, including member/participant representatives in those processes.”

Scottish Government have clarified that an activity is 'organised' if it is organised by:

(a) a person responsible for carrying on a business or providing a service,
(b) a place of worship,
(c) a charity or other not for profit organisation,
(d) a club or political organisation, or
(e) the governing body of a sport or other activity.

The guidance lays out steps that will usually be needed “for all musicians (professional and non-professional) working indoors or outdoors in accordance with the restrictions above”. They include:

  • Observe the 2 metre physical distancing between each musician and between musicians and any other people such as conductors, accompanists or audiences (where permitted) at all times whilst playing (measured from the edge of the performer’s chair)
  • Use back-to-back or side-to-side positioning (rather than face-to-face) whenever possible
  • Limit the duration of rehearsals, and performances where permitted, as far as possible

The guidance does not now differentiate between singing/wind/brass and other instrumentation. 

The referred to events guidance provides guidance for all event organisers, from small to very large, outdoors and indoors. Refer to this for mitigations appropriate to the size and nature of your activity e.g. in Overview

Outdoor seated live events – Attendees must have allocated seats for the duration of the event - either physical seats or marked areas on the ground which households must sit within … Event organisers must ensure that seating allows for physical distancing to be practised. Attendees must be able to enter and exit the event at fixed points only so numbers can be controlled and contact details collected. Event organisers should ensure that attendees do not congregate in certain areas (such as toilets, entry/exit or refreshment points) which could make physical distancing difficult. Capacity should be calculated based on ensuring 2m physical distancing up to a limit of 200 attendees at any one time.” N.B. Refer to full guidance for all advised mitigations.

What can groups do?

Musicians can sing or play in groups that do not exceed the numbers for meeting socially i.e. 6 people from 2 households indoors and outdoors. You must maintain a 2m distance. You must abide by any local restrictions on household gatherings. 

Groups who would be considered an organisation (i.e. business, place of worship, charity, club or governing body) – can organise outdoor activity for non-professionals to participate in. Organisers must comply with physical distancing, hygiene measures, risk assessment processes and other guidance provided in the Guidance for Performing Arts and Venues Sector and events guidance. The maximum group size as laid out in the events guidance is 200.

Even groups that would be considered organisations cannot organise indoor activity for non-professionals in numbers any greater than 6 from 2 households.

 

Live outdoor events are planned in phase 3 of Scotland’s plan. Although the plan is currently in phase 3, changes are being introduced in stages

The Scottish Government confirmed on 20th August that with effect from Monday 24th August the following could resume:

“Outdoor seated live events and outdoor open space live events – with physical distancing, enhanced hygiene, and restricted numbers – following guidance.”

The indicative of 14 September remains for the following:

“Certain indoor live events – with physical distancing, enhanced hygiene, and restricted numbers – following guidance.

Other indoor entertainment venues – following guidance with physical distancing requirements (e.g. theatres, live music venues).”

Read more about phase 3 key dates.  

What can groups do? 

We also have guidance on doing risk assessments, including a template. 

  • Organise online livestream performances, with artists performing from their own homes. Read the Making Music guidance on livestreaming, including our livestreaming subsidy.
  • Plan for how to return safely for indoor events are allowed. See our planning for the future resource for more information. We are also working on guidance to help groups do risk assessments. 

Read the official guidance.  

 

18 Sept: New guidance has been published in Wales (16 Sep). We are currently looking into how this will affect music groups, and will publish updated information below soon.

25 August: At the moment there is no specific guidance in Wales for music groups. This means groups can meet in line with general official advice about how friends and family can meet socially as follows.

  • Outdoors: the guidance says "Gatherings of up to 30 people are now permitted outdoors. But you should continue to maintain physical and social distancing from people outside your household, or extended household if you have formed one (subject to what is said about young children above)." (3rd August)
  • Indoors: two households can form one extended household 
  • Social distancing: 2m 

What can groups do? 

  • Hold outdoor rehearsals with up to 30 people people. 
  • Plan for how to return safely in larger groups and indoors when the official guidance changes. See our planning for the future resource for more information. We are also working on guidance to help groups do risk assessments. 
  • You can help Making Music to put pressure on the Welsh Government so non-professional groups are allowed to assess and manage the risks for their own group. 

 Read the official guidance.  

 

Gatherings indoors or in public places are not allowed to exceed the below. 

  • Outdoors: the guidance says "Gatherings of up to 30 people are now permitted outdoors. But you should continue to maintain physical and social distancing from people outside your household, or extended household if you have formed one (subject to what is said about young children above)." (3rd August) 
  • Indoors: two household can form one extended household 
  • Social distancing: 2m 

What can groups do? 

  • Hold outdoor concerts of up to 30 people people (in total). 

  • Organise online live stream performances, with artists performing from their own homes. Read the Making Music guidance on livestreaming, including our live streaming subsidy. 

  • Plan for how to return safely in larger groups and indoors when the official guidance changes. See our planning for the future resource for more information. We are also working on guidance to help groups do risk assessments. 

Read the official guidance.  

 

The Arts Council Northern Ireland document: In the Bubble of Our Making: Reopening the Arts in Northern Ireland (based on official guidance) applies to professionals only. This means promoting groups that arrange performance by professionals can start to put on events again. 

The document says (page 48): Given the lower risk of transmission in an outdoor setting, consider the use of an outdoor performance space.

Indoor performances are not currently allowed. It was hoped they may be possible from 1 September, but on 27 August the NI Executive announced it could not relax Coronavirus restrictions and allow theatres and venues to reopen.

In their guidance for community centres it also says: “Events such as concerts/theatre are not permitted to take place in a council run Community Centre as part of this proposed easement.”

What can groups do? 

Read the official guidance.  

 

The Arts Council Northern Ireland document: In the Bubble of Our Making: Reopening the Arts in Northern Ireland (based on official guidance) says on page 3:

Non-professionals should not currently engage in singing or playing wind and brass instruments with other people given these activities pose a potentially higher risk of transmission and whilst research is ongoing. 

The official guidance is clear, and your group cannot organise any in person rehearsals. 

What can groups do? 

The Arts Council Northern Ireland document: In the Bubble of Our Making: Reopening the Arts in Northern Ireland (based on official guidance) says on page 3:

Non-professionals (meaning those participating in performing arts other than for work purposes), or groups which include non-professionals, may refer to this guidance for their activities, but must at all times do so in line with government legislation and guidance on meeting people outside your household.

The government guidance on meeting people outside your household says: 

Indoors: no rehearsals are permitted indoors in private households. No performances are allowed.

Outdoors: only 6 people from up to 2 households can rehearse outdoors in a private garden. No performances are allowed.

Please check local restrictions which are now in place in some postcodes/areas. 

What can groups do? 

  • Small indoor rehearsals of up to 6 members from two different households.
  • Rehearse outdoors with no limit on numbers, but everyone should everyone maintain social distancing by being at least two metres apart.
  • If your group is planning to do either of these things carry out a risk assessment and follow government advice on safety measures to minimise risk. See Making Music’s guidance and risk assessment for rehearsals.
  • You can plan for how to return safely in greater numbers when the official guidance changes. See our planning for the future resource for more information. 
  • You can help Making Music to put pressure on the Northern Ireland Executive to allow non-professional groups to assess and manage the risks for their own group.

Read the official guidance