Managing a moving audience outdoors in Covid times

As lockdown begins to ease around the UK groups can start to think about public performances again, with outside events some of the first to happen.

You can use our guidance tool to find out what is and isn't possible in each UK nation. As it stands in England outdoor events can happen at step three of the roadmap out of lockdown (17 May earliest), with capacity limits set at 4,000 people or 50% of total capacity. This does not cover outdoor venues with no fixed capacity or a transient audience, such as a band stand. 

That doesn’t mean you can’t perform in an outdoor venue with no fixed capacity, but you will have to think about how to manage a movable audience.

You need to try to avoid large numbers of people gathering too close to each other, potentially without face coverings, in a small space.

If you are invited to perform by another organisation (e.g. shopping centre), then you can expect that they will be responsible for crowd management. Even so, it is worth remembering that your group and your reputation will be associated with the performance and we suggest you still carry out a risk assessment. Make sure you work closely with the organiser to ensure they are managing and mitigating risks. You need to be confident that your members are safe and that there are effective crowd management measures in place.

Many outside public performances take place on council or local authority property (e.g. town squares, parks etc). If the council or local authority is open for business and booking slots, they might take take care of crowd management. However, with budgets tight this might not always be the case and there might be some expectation that groups do some of this. Either way you should ask for advice from the Local Authority on what is possible and how the audience should be managed.

Managing a transient crowd isn’t easy at the best of times, but with COVID restrictions it can be more difficult still. A busy area with lots of footfall would require a lot of planning, hands on deck and may incur some costs. Groups should think carefully before agreeing to manage a crowd in this situation, and balance up the workload demands and risks to your members and the group’s reputation if things don’t go to plan.

Quieter areas will be more manageable and although fewer people will hear the music, at least some will - and at least your members get to play and/or sing.

If you decide you can handle it then the next question is how. You should do a full risk assessment - our resource and template will help with thinking here, but a few things to consider specifically for movable audiences are:

  • In Scotland, only outside events in level 0 areas can have a moving audience (ambulatory). In Level 1, outside events have to be seated. In England DCMS guidance for outdoor performances is that they should be ticketed and ideally seated. While tickets are not applicable in this situation, seating could be considered. Providing some seating might help with control - making it clear to people where they are allowed to be and meaning you can arrange socially-distanced seating.
  • There will of course be people who do stop and stand, too. This probably can't be avoided but some people gathering tends to lead to more people gathering, which is when a problem might develop: 
    • Think about what you can do to encourage people gathering in a socially distanced way - some markers on the floor or cones marking out areas will let people know there are rules in place and a system to be followed.
    • You could also find a way of displaying our ‘face covering’ and 2m distancing poster
    • You will also need to think about if, when and how to ask people to move on. A key consideration here is who will be doing the asking. It could be a tough task and while most people in the audience will be understanding, some might be less so, and the right person and right approach can make all the difference.
  • Audience singing was specifically allowed outside (but not inside) at Christmas time with mitigations in place (face coverings, social distancing and limited duration).  Current guidance is to discourage audience singing – but it is not specific about indoor / outdoors. As such we recommend you err on the side of caution and do not encourage audience singing. 
  • Avoid cash donations if you can - contactless card payments are a safer option. See our resource for more. If you do shake a bucket, make sure the bucket is quarantined for 72 hours before counting the money.
  • If audience are joining in, rather than handing out sheets with the words on, you could bring a flip chart or some other way of displaying the words at the front or side of the audience for them to follow. Make sure it is large and clearly visible or it could lead to people crowding around it and not social distancing.


We hope you find this Making Music resource useful. If you have any comments or suggestions about the guidance please contact us. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the content of this guidance is accurate and up to date, Making Music do not warrant, nor accept any liability or responsibility for the completeness or accuracy of the content, or for any loss which may arise from reliance on the information contained in it.