Managing a moving audience outdoors in Covid times

Government coronavirus guidelines allow for music performances during the festive season. In England, the Department for Digital, Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) has issued guidance for managing indoor and outdoor performances, but the outside guidance does not specifically cover moving audiences, which are a common part of festive carol and band performances.

Any group looking to put on a performance in an outdoor public space should think carefully about how to manage a movable audience. Please do bear in mind that the rules are different for rehearsals and performances. For more about what is allowed for rehearsals, see our guidance tool.

For performances 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, then again you can expect that they will 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.

Managing a transient crowd isn’t easy at the best of times, but with tensions potentially high at the moment it can be more difficult. 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 outside events in level 1 areas 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 is allowed outside but with mitigations in place - such as face covering, social distancing and limited duration. So 2m markings and asking people to move on will be crucial here, too. You could even suggest they just hum!
  • 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.