In person non-professional activity can return at step 3 of the road map – so as of 17 May.
DCMS updated their guidance (18 May) to detail how this can happen.
The guidance states (section 2.4):
- “non-professional activities are permitted indoors and outdoors, within the legal gathering limits.
- Outdoors, people can take part in non-professional performing arts activities in a group of up to 30 people. Activities can take place with multiple permitted groups, provided the groups are kept separate throughout the activity, and the event is organised in line with the organised events guidance for local authorities.
- Indoors, people can take part in non-professional performing arts activities in a group of up to 6 people, or as a group of 2 households/bubbles. Activities can take place with multiple permitted groups, provided the groups are kept separate throughout the activity, and the event is organised in line with the organised events guidance for local authorities.
- However, non-professional singing indoors should only take place in a single group of up to 6 people.
- Activities should be organised to allow for social distancing to be maintained.”
This means guidance is different for non-singing and singing groups, with greater restrictions on what singing groups can do.
What can my group do?
- Inside and outside: no fixed maximum as long as conditions are met - so maximum numbers are dictated by safety.
Singing – outside only
You can meet to rehearse with no fixed limit on the numbers, but with some conditions as set out in Coronavirus (COVID-19): Organised events guidance for local authorities:
- “Event organisers follow all relevant COVID-secure guidance depending on the type of event, and complete a related risk assessment” (this is DCMS guidance for music groups – see COVID secure rehearsals below)
- “All reasonable action has been taken by the event organiser to mitigate risk to public health.” (this is DCMS guidance for music groups – see COVID secure rehearsals below)
- “Organisers and attendees adhere to all legal requirements, including maintaining group sizes permitted by social contact restrictions… and preventing mixing between groups, enforcing social distancing guidelines and mandating face coverings in indoor areas where required.”
It is important to understand what is meant in the last point by “…maintaining group sizes permitted by social contact restrictions… and preventing mixing between groups social contact limits”:
- This means that the total number of people attending a rehearsal can be more than the social contact limit – but that they must always remain in sub-groups within social contact limits.
- So, indoors the social contact is 6. If your venue could safely (i.e. with social distancing) allow for 42 people (as an example) to attend, all 42 could attend but they would have to stay in a maximum of 7 sub-groups of 6 people. With no mixing / switching between the sub-groups.
- Likewise, outside the social contact limit is 30. If you can safely (i.e. with social distancing) allow for 60 people (as an example) to attend, all 60 could attend but they would have to stay in a maximum of 2 sub-groups of 30 people. With no mixing / switching between the sub-groups.
- Making Music advise that you go further than this both indoors and outdoors and treat everyone as a sub-group of 1 – and don’t allow for any mixing. This will mean your rules can be very simple and clear and make the rehearsal much easier to manage.
The last point also mentions “face coverings in indoor areas where required” see our separate guidance on face coverings and singing for more information
Singing - inside
The DCMS guidance says: “non-professional singing indoors should only take place in a single group of up to 6 people.”
This means groups can meet to rehearse in groups of 6 people maximum, plus conductor and accompanist (as they are working, they don't count in the numbers).
What else have DCMS said?
We, along with other sector organisations, have been campaigning to get this guidance changed. So far no change to the guidance has happened, but the DCMS response to the first industry joint letter to Caroline Dinenage, Minister of State for Digital and Culture at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, states:
"Whilst it is for organisers and venues to determine how to operate in accordance with the relevant guidance and regulations, we would remind you that the limits do not apply to activity taking place for work or commercial activity."
It is not clear (perhaps deliberately so) what is meant by ‘work’ and ‘commercial’ and we have been told that no further clarification will be provided. 'Work' could mean anyone being there in a professional capacity. 'Commercial' does not have to be about profit – it could be about the commercial sale of products and services such as tickets for concerts or being paid a fee to perform at an event. So a rehearsal working towards a concert or performance could be commercial.
The Association of British Orchestras also received the following notification from DCMS:
The Performing Arts guidance states that non-professionals are those participating in the Performing Arts other than for work purposes.
Event organisers will need to consider the specifics of each case, with regards to whether activity is being undertaken for work purposes or not.
ABO interpreted this as meaning that non-professional singers taking part in a concert put on by a professional orchestra would count as participating for "work purposes", and would therefore be exempt from the limit of 6. Under this interpretation, amateur choruses of professional orchestras are now rehearsing and performing in numbers greater than 6.
Guidance v law
We have had some queries from members asking if the DCMS guidance is law. The answer is no. It is guidance – not law. The law is set down in The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Steps) (England) Regulations 2021. The law does allow for groups to rehearse indoors in numbers greater than 6. Risk assessments and measures would have to be in place to ensure the total number was a safe number and the event was covid secure.
It is the DCMS guidance for the sector that sets the limit on numbers at 6.
Does this mean we can meet?
DCMS guidance sets the limit at 6, but those limits do not apply to activity for work or commercial activity.
You would not be breaking the law if you met in greater numbers than 6.
If you are considering meeting in numbers greater than 6, you may wish to consider the following two risks to your choir:
- Insurance: see below.
- Reputation: consider the impact on the reputation of your group with reference to your participants, your audiences, your local community and the wider sector.
There is no exclusion on the Making Music policies under the liability cover for COVID (or indeed any communicable diseases), i.e. you are covered, if your activity is permitted.
However, RSA, who is the underwriter for Making Music Insurance policies, have said that if a group ignores relevant DCMS guidance and then makes a claim under the liability section of the policy, that claim would be declined. So ignoring relevant government guidance means your activities would not be insured.
BUT after sharing the minister’s letter and statement that "Whilst it is for organisers and venues to determine how to operate in accordance with the relevant guidance and regulations, we would remind you that the limits do not apply to activity taking place for work or commercial activity." , RSA have now confirmed (10 June) that in their opinion a commercial activity would include ventures that involve ticket sales and where it is customary for fees to be charged for attending events and include rehearsals before said event(s).
This means that if you are meeting to rehearse towards a concert which is or will be selling tickets, or if you are meeting to rehearse towards a performance for which your group will be paid, then this commercial activity allows you to meet indoors in numbers greater than 6 and it will therefore be covered by your MMIS insurance policy.
If singing outside is no possible for you group can of course still rehearse online:
There is separate guidance and restrictions for youth groups (where all members were under 18 as of 31 August 2020) – see Youth Groups below for more details.
Music in churches
There are some different rules for music in churches. These relate to music as part of worship. Where a group is hiring a church for a rehearsal the above limits as set out by DCMs apply.
There is separate Government guidance for youth groups called Protective measures for holiday and after-school clubs, and other out-of-school settings during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
It applies to formal education settings, extra-curricular activities in schools and government defined out-of-school setting providers (e.g. Ofsted registered). But it also references ‘community activities’ and ‘providers of youth services and activities’. As such youth groups that are not affiliated to a school or Ofsted registered are covered by this guidance.
It is important to note that the guidance is for groups providing services for children who were under the age of 18 on 31 August 2020. So, all your members must meet this criteria.
What can youth groups do?
From 12 April
Outdoor: the guidance states:
“Outdoor provision to all children, without restrictions on the purpose for which they may attend.”
“Additionally, if the activity is taking place outdoors, groups can be of any number. This is because the transmission risk is lower outside.”
So outdoor rehearsals are possible with no formal limit on numbers. However, you should still think about total numbers and what is a safe number (see Risk assessments and mitigations below).
Indoor: the guidance states:
“out-of-school settings and wraparound childcare providers can offer provision to all children, without restriction on the reasons for which they may attend”.
So indoor rehearsals are possible with no formal limit on numbers. However, you should still think about total numbers and what is a safe number (see below).
Risk Assessment and mitigations
It is essential you do a risk assessment and have measures in place to mitigate risk.
Whilst there is no limit on numbers, you should think about what is a safe number and as well as limiting mixing between children (such as using sub-groups or ‘bubbles’).
The COVID secure rehearsals section below which references DCMS guidance and our risk assessment guidance and template will help with this. But you should also refer to:
COVID secure rehearsals
All groups should undertake a comprehensive risk assessment and put in place strong risk mitigation measures.
Read the Making Music resource Risk assessment for COVID secure rehearsals including a template risk assessment to find out more.
You should also read the DCMS guidance in full. DCMS have highlighted 11 Priority actions to take. Some relate more to performance rather than rehearsal and /or professionals. We have pulled out the 7 priority actions relevant for non-professional rehearsal that you must take as an organisation below, along with the specific guidance for non-professionals.
The 7 priority actions you must take as an organisation
- Complete a COVID-19 risk assessment. Share it with all your stakeholders.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Increase ventilation by keeping doors and windows open where possible and running ventilation systems at all times.
- 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*
- 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.
Specific guidance for non-professionals
DCMS have also set out some measures for non-professionals to consider (some are specific to singing). They overlap with the 7 priority actions above, so we are just listing additional measures below. You should take the 7 above and the additional measures below as a whole.
- Ensure that your activity is permitted. You must adhere to the legal gathering limits and any other restrictions, such as venue closures.
- Limit the number of people involved. The cumulative effect of aerosol transmission means that the more people who are involved, the higher the risk of transmission (to each other or an audience). It is therefore important to limit the total number of individuals involved in singing or other performing arts activity as much as possible. If a larger number of people need to be involved in an activity, this should only take place in a well-ventilated COVID-secure venue or outdoor public space, and in line with regulations (such as the legal gathering limits) and the guidance set out on this page.
- Limit the duration of activity as far as possible, and include breaks/intervals where people can go outside and/or the area can be aired.
- Where possible, avoid raised voices. Consider reducing the volume of speaking and singing during rehearsals, and use microphones (if available) rather than breath for amplification.
- There is also Government Guidance on singing. It follows advice already given by DCMS and Making Music in our risk assessment resources. But is a useful collection of the key points in relation to singing specially.