As road maps out of lockdown start to come into play across the UK music groups can start to think about performing publicly again.
Whether you are one of our promoter member groups who organise performances by professional musicians or a performing group who are ready to jump off Zoom and perform in front of people again, you can now plan performances to take place over the summer. This will, at least initially, have to be with social distancing measures and other mitigations in place. This means are extra considerations need to be taken into account to help you ensure that your event can go ahead safely.
Groups have a duty of care to all those who attend their events; performers, audience and volunteers alike. Key to this process will be working with your venue to produce a risk assessment, devising measures and procedures to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, and working with your venue to implement these. This guidance will help you to consider the steps you need to take to reassure your audience, performers, volunteers and venue that you take their safety seriously. It also includes a template risk assessment document you can use to carry out your own risk assessment.
- 14 September: Scotland guidance (Step 3), info on face coverings (Step 3), mandatory to consult performers before going ahead with plans (Performers), Track and Trace is mandatory (Track and Trace), mandatory to collect audience data (FAQs), air purifiers info (Ventiliation).
- 1 October: New restrictions on venues (10pm closing and table service (Step 4, venues), More information on face coverings (step 5, face coverings)
- 9 October to include: addition of link to resource on ventilation.
- 20 October to include: addition of link to further resource on ventilation.
- Updated 25 March to include: information added about vaccines, new mutations of the virus, face shields, mitigations for musical equipment and singing. Updates to information about local restrictions, links to official guidance, the DCMC priority steps (in line with DCMS changes) and managing social contact limits and social distancing.
- 13 April: section on Lateral Flow testing added. Updates to NHS track and trace section
Step one - get the whole committee on board
Step two - understand what you can and can’t do
Step three - do some research
Step four - talk to your stakeholders
Step five - planning your event and risk assessment
Step six - communication
Template risk assessments
Step one - get the whole committee on board
The decision to put on an event should be a collective one. The committee are jointly responsible for the activities of the group, the safety of your events, and the safety of the people at those events. Everyone on the committee should be involved in the decision-making process, even if they are not the ones doing the risk assessment themselves or putting practical measures in place on the day.
Appointing someone to head up the COVID-19 risk assessment and risk management is a good idea. If numbers allow you could appoint a sub-committee to investigate options further and agree on how and when the individual or sub-committee reports back to the committee for a decision. The sub-committee could include volunteers who are not in the committee. See our guidance on committees for more info on how a sub-committee can operate.
Be inspired: some of our member groups did manage to put on events in summer 2020. There are three case studies below to find out how they did it.
Step two – understand what you can and can’t do
Check the latest government guidance about putting on events. This changes often, so keep all relevant links handy and look at them regularly, certainly before making changes/taking decisions.
England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and now Wales have issued guidance about whether and how non-professionals can meet to make music in a group. Some of that is about to be updated in March/April 2021 as restrictions start to ease, but these links will remain valid for you to check.
The DCMS guidance for England has already been updated (18 March 2021) so much of this guidance is based on DCMS advice, but the principals of putting on COVID-19 Secure events will apply to all nations.
Our Can my group get back to in-person activities? resource tells you what you can and can’t do and will always give you a summary of the current situation, including numbers allowed to meet.
Not following the official guidance for the performing arts is not against the law, but we strongly recommend that you adhere to it wherever possible or articulate why you are not following it, if you decide to act differently. Not following the guidance could open you up to claims of negligence if someone catches COVID-19 as a result of attending your event, which could lead to a loss of trust from your audience, volunteers and venue, and damage to your group’s reputation. If you are not able to put on an event that adheres to government guidance, you should consider whether it is worth the risk of putting an event on at all until guidance changes.
Capacity limits have been set in England for both indoor and outdoor events. For most venues it will be 50% of the capacity. That is a maximum limit, the practical limit of how many audience members can be safely accommodated will be lower for some venues. This practical limit should of course take precedence.
Keep referring back to our guidance tool on what you can do to get the most up to date information.
To wait or not?
Different sizes of event, with different measures needed will be possible at different points on the route out of lockdown. For example, in England you can hold an event at step three (17 May earliest) with a capacity limit and mitigations needed. At Step four (21 June earliest) there could no limits on social contact. So, there could be an argument to wait until step four as you might be able to have more people attend and holding the event could be simpler.
At the same there are no guarantees about the dates for the steps or what restrictions will be in place at each step. The government is also reviewing separately how long which mitigations (e.g. face coverings on public transport) will be considered necessary. The outcome of this review is expected in May or June. So, whilst limits on social contact might be removed at step four, other measures may still have to be in place. Many people think that some form some form of the virus will be with us for some time and that new strains and vaccine effectiveness waning could cause disruption for the next 12 to 18 months.
As has been the case for since March 2020 there is uncertainty about what will be possible when, and planning around prospective dates and possible changes in restrictions is not easy. We think a cautious approach is best. For the moment, and possibly for the next year, plan to incorporate as many known mitigations as possible. As ever, whatever you decide having in-built flexibility is vital.
Step three – do some research
To do an effective risk assessment you need to understand the risks you are trying to reduce.
Do some background reading/watching/listening of at least some of the research and guidance from other countries. We have collated a lot this for you in our research resource. This will help you understand what the issues may be, according to the scientists, and what others have already implemented and how successfully.
You also need to keep an eye on infection rates in your area at all times. It does not look as if England will return to local restrictions, but Scotland is bringing back the local protection levels following lockdown, and we don’t know about Wales and Northern Ireland. Please check our 'Can my group get back to in-person activity' resource for updates on this.
Public Health England also publish daily data (and longer term comparisons) on cases, testing and deaths for UK, nations, regions, local authorities by size, if you want to keep an eye on trends in your area.
When doing your risk assessment the two key areas to consider in terms of potential COVID-19 transmission are:
- Aerosols; these are so small that they don't fall to the ground as quickly as the heavier droplets do (see below). Aerosol particles therefore can be suspended in the air like fog or like a cloud for a length of time yet to be established, in quantities which may or may not be sufficient to infect someone breathing them in; research still also has to determine how long it takes for those aerosol particles to dry out and stop being infectious. Further considerations are whether aerosols, if breathed in, especially if you take deep breaths in order to sing or blow into an instrument, could travel further into your respiratory system.
- Mitigations: knowledge is still limited but so far there has been broad agreement:
- Open air carries fewer risks.
- If indoors, then large volume spaces preferable (floor space and height of ceilings, the Germans call this ‘cathedral-like’ spaces).
- Indoor spaces need to have good ventilation, ideally air conditioning which removes used air upwards; and/or has filters fitted; no system that recycles air. Fans could be used, in corners of rooms (to prevent air stagnation and accumulation), but preferably in conjunction with cross ventilation from open windows/doors or upward mechanical ventilation at the same time; if higher level windows are available, they are preferred, as warm air travels upwards (carrying particles with it).
- Importance of social distancing, DCMS guidance is for 2m, and states that this is never to be compromised for non-professionals.
- Spending less than 15mins face to face with others in enclosed space.
- Face coverings are now mandatory in all four nations of the UK in almost all indoor public spaces, including places of worship and community centres, frequently used by members for rehearsals. There are some exceptions – check the updated government advice (England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland).
- Droplets; emitted through breathing, sneezing, coughing; heavier than air (because they are larger than aerosols), passed on through shared surfaces on which they fall or are deposited through people’s hands. The virus can remain viable on surfaces for up to 3 days (depending on the surface),
- Mitigations: hand-washing; cleaning of surfaces; not touching face; not sharing equipment; coughing/sneezing into elbow
Every size of particle in between droplet and aerosol; the virus is not confined to either tiny or large particles, so there is a continuum between droplets and aerosols; how quickly any droplet/aerosol falls to the ground or can be otherwise removed from the air depends not just on their size (i.e. weight compared to surrounding air), but also the humidity (more makes them heavier and more likely to drop, less dries them out, so they can float for longer) and heat of the room (the virus loves the cold; it dries out and is killed off more quickly by heat and sunlight, hence less prevalence of these kinds of viruses in the summer).
Mitigations: hence the importance of using all and any mitigations that you can implement, so that you have the highest possible chance of catching all and any size droplets/aerosols, either through ventilation, cleaning and other hygiene measures, face coverings, distancing etc.
Mutations of the virus are ‘more infectious’ – what does that mean? It is not quite clear yet in what ways some of the recent mutations (Kent, South Africa, Brazil) are more infectious. Higher transmissibility could be due to:
- the virus particles are ‘stickier’, so if they do reach you, they’re more likely to successfully cling on to you and infect you
- people who have one of the new strains could be infectious for longer/earlier before showing symptoms
- people who have one of the new strains could be carrying more of the virus
- the ‘minimum infection dose’, i.e. how much virus is needed to make the next person ill could vary across mutations
- The transmission routes of the virus, i.e. through droplets and aerosols as described above does not change with new mutations.
The roll out of vaccines in the UK continues at pace. It is important to understand vaccines are not a magic bullet:
- Vaccines make it less likely you get the disease severely, they don’t necessarily stop you getting it altogether.
- Vaccines will not completely remove the chance of you passing Covid-19 on to someone else, though it has now been shown that at least one of them reduces this risk considerably.
- At the moment, it seems the vaccines are effective also against the new strands of the virus, but the virus will keep mutating and therefore the vaccines may have to be adapted, boosters may have to be given etc..
Vaccines should be viewed as another measure to alongside all the others (like face coverings and the 2m rule) against the spread of COVID-19. Even if everyone in the room has been vaccinated your events will still need mitigations and measures in place to minimise risk.
Ultimately vaccination roll out will help lead to the removal of limits on social contacts. The current earliest possible date for this in England is 21 June, but this is subject to an ongoing UK government review. Until further confirmation is provided, public events must have mitigations in place to reduce risk.
Can we require that everyone is vaccinated? There has been a fair bit of talk about this in the media and there are ongoing government discussions. But as it stands, the short answer is no, and for good reason:
- Not everyone can have a vaccination.
- It could be deemed discrimination to refuse access to something based on vaccination.
- It opens up data protection difficulties, you will be asking for health data which is classed as special category and comes with extra data protection responsibilities.
- It shouldn’t matter anyway. As per the above you will still require measures in place to make your event COVID-19 secure. The aim should be to manage the event so that the risk of COVID-19 being present and spread at the event is significantly reduced, regardless of vaccinations.
Lateral Flow tests
In England anyone can order Lateral Flow home testing kits (individuals in Scotland can order them for specific reasons and in Wales and Northern Ireland they are not currently available at all).
Lateral flow tests should be viewed in a similar way to vaccines – they are another measure to help protect against the spread of the COVID-19 alongside all the other measures (social distancing face coverings etc) – and do not replace them.
Also like vaccines, it will be very hard to require that people have had a recent negative lateral flow test result to either perform or attend at your event – but you can encourage all to have them.
What are lateral flow tests? Around 1 in 3 people who have COVID don't have symptoms but can spread the virus. Lateral flow tests are a way of managing and stopping this type of spread.
Lateral flow tests are for people without any COVID symptoms. They give a quick result (30 mins) that tells you if you currently have the virus and could spread it to others.
They work best by being taken every 3 or 4 days. This is because if you have the virus the viral load in your system varies - so if you test negative once it doesn't mean you won't have a higher viral load in the days following - so testing every 3 or 4 days gives a much fuller picture.
- If you get a negative result you are fine to go about your day - but must still follow all the other usual measures - hand washing, face coverings etc.
- If you get a positive test you must:
- self-isolate until you get PCR test results
- get a PCR test as soon as possible - this is a test sent to a lab (results take longer) that confirms the result of your lateral flow test). The PCR test result will come with further advice about what to do.
Find out more about lateral flow tests.
Where can you get a lateral flow test? The best option is to order some to your home - its free and you can order seven at a time (they take two days to arrive). You can order them online.
There are also walk in test centres across England that anyone without symptoms can use.
Step four – talk to your stakeholders
Once your committee understand what your options are and you have decided you want to put on an in-person public event, and can do so safely, you can start to speak to the people you need to make that happen.
A quick survey of your mailing list to gauge how they feel about attending events will give you an idea of the sorts of numbers you can expect to get, to help inform your planning. You don’t have to provide huge detail about safety measure in place; at this stage it’s about understanding if they would be comfortable attending, and what would make them feel comfortable. Online tools like Google forms or SurveyMonkey (free for 10 questions or fewer) can help with this. Consider quick phone calls for those who aren’t online.
Professionals (promoting groups): So far most professional musicians have been keen to start performing again, but being clear about your plans and COVID-19 secure measures should be part of your discussions with them from the start, in fact it is mandatory that you consult with your performers before going ahead with plans.
Members (performing groups): If you have been rehearsing as a group you will have consulted your members on how they feel about rehearsals. However, a public performance carries different risks (e.g., more people, perhaps a different venue and transport links). Don’t assume members happy to rehearse are happy to perform, consult again and get a feel for the mood.
The venue and your working relationship with them is more important than ever. You are both responsible for making sure the event is well run. Start your conversations early to make sure you have a clear picture of what is required and who is responsible for what.
The size and layout of your venue will dictate what you can and can’t do and how you run your event. Guidance says you should always try and maintain 2 metre social distancing , but at least 1m+. The obvious consideration here is the capacity and layout options of the main seating area. But you also need to think about:
- Entry and exit points - capacity and layout options for queuing.
- The capacity of other areas (toilets, foyer, bar, garden, backstage, staff room etc).
- How people will flow from one area to another.
Also consider how well ventilated the venue is to help air flow (find out more in ventilation below).
First and foremost a venue needs to allow you to put on an event safely, but it is of course a financial decision too. If safety means a maximum audience of 25 does that offer a viable financial model?
There is unlikely to be the perfect venue and perfect answer here. It will require some adjustment and openness to new approaches on your part. Your events will be different, but as long as they are safe, you are at least putting on events.
One such example we have heard of is doing two performances in one day. If capacity is an issue, the same performances done twice to two different audiences could help make the event viable (note that cleaning would have to take place between performances).
You will also need to consider how much room there is to accommodate performers safely. For promoting groups engaging professional musicians this might not be so much of an issue if you are working with quartets or chamber groups, for example. But for performing groups with a large membership the backstage space needed to safely accommodate a choir of 100 could be challenging and you might have to consider performing with reduced numbers or having two separate performing groups for two performances.
This is a term used in official guidance a lot. It means that a venue is following COVID-Secure guidelines. There are lots of guidelines that cover different sectors and types of venue. The one relevant to our groups is the DCMS Performing Arts guidance.
Venues have certain criteria that they must meet in order to allow organised activity to take place in their premises and be a COVID-Secure venue. As the measures needed to make one venue COVID-Secure will be different to another, it is best not to think of this as a strict definition with a fixed list of items to be ticked off before a venue can be deemed ‘COVID-Secure’. Think of it as a general term for a venue that has effective measures in place to reduce the risk of COVID and ensure it is a safe environment to be in. You should ask your venue if they are following COVID-Secure guidelines, if they are not then you should not use them. As a minimum a venue should:
- Complete a COVID specific risk assessment.
- Implement measures that help to enforce social distancing.
- Implement a regular and thorough cleaning/sanitising schedule.
- Implement Test and Trace for all users (including staff).
- Communicate their plans and measures to their users.
Closing times and table service: there might be restrictions affecting what time your venue can close and if / how they can serve alcohol. The venue should be up to speed on these – but it’s worth checking what they are doing as it could impact your planning.
The venue’s risk assessment: The venue should have done their own risk assessment and have their own protective measures and procedures in place:
Ask to see these and make sure you are happy with them.
- Go and see the venue and look at their measures for yourself.
- Think about your requirements and how they fit with the venue’s risk assessment and procedures:
- Are there any risks specific to your event that might not be covered by the venue’s risk assessment? How can these be accommodated?
- Are there parts of your event that might be difficult to fit within their risk assessment? Speak to the venue about options:
- Some venues might not budge and you have to either find a way to work within their procedures, or look elsewhere
- Some might be flexible and open to different options if things are done safely. Be wary of changing too much as their staff might be used to their approach.
- All the above should be done with the venue – they know the site and will advise you on how best to manage your event.
- It is likely the venue will provide some staff and look after some of the procedures in place, but your group and volunteers may well oversee other areas. Clarity over where these lines of responsibility fall is vital.
If your venue is not forthcoming with an risk assessment or you don’t think what they have done is sufficient, then consider if it is the right venue for you. It’s your event and your audience, members or subscribers, and they will see you as responsible. If the venue is not taking it seriously, it opens you up to more risk and will make your job much harder.
Do your own risk assessment: Even if your venue has done a brilliant risk assessment and is on top of everything, you still need to do your own risk assessment. Some of this might reference the venue’s risk assessment but you as an organisation need to take ownership of the event and take the time to think through the risks and how to mitigate them. Your risk assessment should also be published on your website and made available to anyone attending the event.
Once you know what you need to do, think about who you need to do it. It may be that you need more volunteers than normal to manage things, but make sure you keep things to a minimum and don’t have more people than you need. The venue might be providing staff for some areas so make sure you know what they are responsible for.
Step five – planning your event and risk assessment
DCMS have a useful overview of the minimum steps you should consider in order to minimise risks. Although DCMS is official guidance for England the principles are useful all four UK nations:
- Complete a COVID-19 risk assessment
- Clean more often
- Ask participants to wear face coverings
- Make sure everyone is social distancing
- Increase ventilation
- Take part in NHS Test and Trace
- Turn people with coronavirus symptoms away
- Design your production processes to minimise risk
- Take proactive steps to encourage audiences to support the safety of the event
- Limit audience numbers and manage capacity to allow for social distancing
We cover all 10 of these in more detail below, followed by some additional considerations when doing a risk assessment.
Complete a COVID-19 risk assessment
More so than ever you need to know how every detail of the event will run and be confident you have systems in place to make sure you are providing a safe environment. A full risk assessment is the only way to do this.
The DCMS guidance states (section 1.1): "Failure to carry out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment and put in place sufficient control measures to manage the risk may be considered a breach of health and safety law."
Risk assessment for COVID-19 safety has two purposes:
- To reduce to as low as possible the chance that someone infectious with coronavirus is present at the performance.
- In the unlikely event that someone infectious is at the performance, the risk of transmission – through all possible routes – is minimised as much as possible (life is never entirely risk-free).
It does require a good level of attention to detail and thoroughness as you need to consider every aspect of your event.
- Consider audience, volunteers, performers and anyone else who might be present.
- Break your event down into small sections – what will happen, in what order and where?
- For the day of your event make sure you consider each area of your venue too.
- Identify potential risks in each section of the event and area of the venue - and think about what you can do to minimise or mitigate those risks. Remember to consider droplets and aerosols for each section and area (see step 3 above).
- Mitigations should be balanced. You can’t eliminate risk - it is about sensible, practical and workable measures that minimise and reduce risk to an acceptable level.
- Breaking the event into sections is useful from a practical point of view but remember to keep an overview of the whole too - think about how any measures for one section or area of risk might impact another.
- Your risk assessment should also be published on your website and made available to anyone attending the event – this is not only suggested by guidance, but will also inspire trust in your stakeholders.
Clean more often
This will be a big factor for the venue – you should expect that it is thoroughly cleaned between each use/hire. There will also be cleaning to do during the event such as:
- Ask all attendees to wash hands or use hand sanitizer
- Clean surfaces that are touched a lot such as door handles and toilets.
- Cleaning that is specific to your activity such as instruments (see ‘Performers’ below).
The venue might take care of much of this - be clear about what they are responsible for where you are expected to help or be responsible.
Ask participants to wear face coverings
From September wearing face coverings is mandatory in all four nations:
- Audience members are required to wear face coverings at all times, except when drinking or eating – coverings should go back one once they have finished eating
- Staff and volunteers are required to wear face coverings at all times
- Performers are required to wear face coverings at all times other than when they can’t due to performing (e.g. during rehearsals and performances).
Note that some people are exempt from wearing face coverings on medical grounds.
Having disposal face coverings available for everyone is good idea, as is clear signage reminding people of the rules.
Fine out more about Face covering rules.
Shields versus face masks? Shields point whatever droplets and aerosols you emit downwards – and the aerosols will then still float upwards and linger in the air. Shields can also act as virus traps, i.e. as stagnant areas where virus collects. Overall, the consensus appears to be that triple layer cotton face coverings, washed regularly, are very effective.
Make sure everyone is social distancing.
We have merged this with ‘Limit audience numbers and manage capacity to allow for social distancing’ – see below.
The ventilation of your venue is important for air flow and helping aerosols disperse.
- Natural ventilation
- Ceiling height – higher ceilings allow for better air flow and ventilation
- Open windows and doors can create a cross current – check their effectiveness before the day and on the day with the help of a CO2 monitor (see below)
- Mechanical ventilation
- Air-conditioning – the right kind of air conditioning can help. They should remove air upwards (downwards or across room could blow aerosols onto people) and ideally change the air 6 times per hour. Your venue should be able to guide you in this
- Fans: fans aren’t always great for ventilation as they tend to distribute aerosols evenly in room and not upwards. But they could be used, in corners of rooms (to prevent air stagnation and accumulation) in conjunction with cross ventilation from open windows/doors or upward mechanical ventilation at the same time. If higher level windows are available, they are preferred, as warm air travels upwards (carrying particles with it)
- You could consider plug-in HEPA filter fitted air purifiers, but if you need them for a large space, they are not cheap (e.g. £250 for a 140 square metre space).
The Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) has published some excellent Covid-19 Ventilation Guidance, including recommended actions to improve indoor ventilation naturally and mechanically.
Music Mark has also created a useful resource called Ventilation of teaching spaces: Questions you need to ask. It is designed for schools, but you may find it a useful reference when considering ventilation in your venue.
CO2 monitor: you can check for air quality and the effectiveness of ventilation from windows/doors by using a CO2 with monitor (e.g. on Amazon £80). High CO2 correlates to other harmful particles in the air in high concentration, so high CO2 means time to ventilate and/or will show you whether you’ve sufficiently ventilated
Support NHS Test and Trace
Hospitality venues in England are required by law to have a system in place to record contact details of people who use their venue (this means everyone: staff, performers, audience volunteers etc.). This is most commonly done using the NHS track and Trace system, but can also be an individual giving their name and contacts details. The onus is on the venue to have this in place – not the organisation hiring the venue. Venues are also legally required to refuse entry to those who refuse to check in or provide their contact details.
If your venue doesn’t have it in place you it should really be a red flag that they are not a COVID-19 secure venue.
The venue might ask you to help collet the information – but they are the ones responsible, and you should be led by them.
You might decide to keep your own records anyway. Such as attendance lists for performers and audience. This is fine but the formal record keeping should be done by the venue, so make sure any records you decide to keep don’t confuse the issue.
Whilst the venue is responsible, it is good to understand the basics of what needs to be done and the data protection implications, especially if you do plan to keep your own informal records.
Rules around the collection of data can be tricky. But if you follow the below basic principles you will be fine:
- only collect what you need
- explain why you are collecting it
- store it safely
- delete it once you don’t need it
See our FAQs for more info below:
Who should we collect data from? anyone who attends your event in any capacity – so performers, audience, volunteers and anyone else who is there.
What data should we collect? name and phone number, date of visit, time of arrival, and time of departure too if possible (an estimated departure time would be ok too),
If it is a group booking do we need data for everyone in the booking? Yes – the rules have changed (April 2021) so that every visitor must either check in on the NHS app or give their contact details - not just one person in the group (as was the case previously)
What if I already have their data? (mailing list, previous ticket sales etc): you don’t need to collect it again but you should check it is accurate and have a register confirming they attended (with timings as per above). So in practice it is probably simplest to collect it again for this specific purpose.
How long should we keep it? for track and trace purposes 21 days. If you have collected it specifically for this purpose you should delete it after 21 days. If you already had it (mailing list, previous ticket sales etc) you can keep it in line with your normal data protection procedures.
Do we need to tell people why we are collecting it? Yes. We think people are used to this now but a simple written or verbal explanation “We are collecting data for NHS track and trace purposes. We will share the data with the NHS if they request it for track and trace purposes”.
Can we collect the data to use for other purposes? (e.g. adding to mailing list) You can but this should be a separate sign up process and you should make it clear the different ways the data will be used. Remember that for a mailing list sign-up you need to you need a record of their consent.
What if someone won’t provide the data? It is a requirement that every visitor either scans the NHS QR code using their NHS COVID-19 app or provides their name and contact details. Venues are legally required to refuse entry to those who refuse to check in or provide their contact details.
Who do we share the data with? You only have to share the data with NHS Test and Trace if they ask for it. They will only do this where it is necessary, either because someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 has listed your premises as a place they visited recently, or because your premises have been identified as the location of a potential local outbreak of COVID-19
Find out more about NHS track and trace
Turn people with coronavirus symptoms away
This applies to everyone at the event. It is hard think to police. At the same time people know the rules so will self-police. The important thing is that you keep asking the question. Whenever anyone arrives at the event make sure they aware that they should not attend if they have symptoms: persistent cough, a high temperature or has lost their sense of taste or smell.
Design your production processes to minimise risk
This relates more to a rehearsal process than performances. But the fundamental pint stands – minimising risk should be in-built into your event by design. When you plan the event plan to minimise risk, rather than planning and then thinking about risk.
Take proactive steps to encourage audiences to support the safety of the event
Provide clear information on how the event will be run at all points – as part of the booking process and during the event itself.
Simple procedures: The most important factor when designing and implementing your measures and procedures is that they are effective at reducing risk. But secondary to that should be keeping things simple. Your audience need to be able to understand and follow the measures for them to be effective. Unnecessarily complex systems and convoluted procedures won’t help with this.
Activities that could increase aerosol transmission: shouting, chanting and singing along could all increase transmission and so should be actively discouraged. Make it clear that singalong is not allowed. If you play background music during the interval limit the volume so people don’t have to shout.
Limit audience numbers and manage capacity to allow for social distancing
A key condition of putting on events in England is to:
"…ensure that those attending do not mix beyond what is permitted by the social contact limits…"
This is an important concept to understand. As it stands (March 2021) at step three in England the social contact limit for indoors will be six people or two households. This means:
- Groups of up to six people can meet indoors – these six people could be from six different households.
- A group of more than six (and indeed of any number) can meet indoors if all the people are from a maximum of two households.
However, for an event you can have multiple groups of six or two households in the same venue – as long as they keep to subgroups of six / two households.
It is important to remember that the rule of six does not mean social distancing stops:
- Six people from six households meeting up still need to maintain social distancing rules.
- The only time social distancing does not apply is for members of the same household or a support bubble (when someone living alone or a single parent who lives alone with their children can meet with one other household).
- So, two household meeting (that are not a support bubble) still have to maintain social distancing.
All the above is true of both audience and those running / performing at the event. But you probably want to think of the two as different sets.
Audience: you could have a total audience of 60 (for example, and assuming it is safe to do so) – but they must stay in subgroups of six or two households, and crucially not mix with any of the other subgroups of six / two households.
You need to think carefully about how you will manage bookings and audience members at the event to limit social contacts. There are different approaches and factors to consider.
- How will you verify the number of households for group bookings? You can ask people to self-certify by agreeing to terms and conditions – but could you also consider limiting group bookings to max. six people regardless of the number of households.
- In theory three couples attending separately could form a group of six at the event. Once they have done this, they should not then mingle with anyone else. This could be hard to manage so limiting audience members to mingle only with those on their booking might be a good idea.
- If you have household bookings of more than six, groups of six might question why they can mingle in a larger group. Likewise, a single household / bubble doesn’t have to socially distance, whilst a multiple household booking does. Clear communication before and at the event about the rules will be important. Another option is to ask that social distancing applies to everyone, regardless of households.
You will need to weigh up the pros and cons of different approaches. Most people know and understand the rules and different permutations so it’s fair to expect cooperation. Having rules that go beyond the official guidance (e.g. not allowing a booking of more than six regardless of household numbers) could meet with opposition. Although it does same to be a common approach and clarity and parity of rules might be simplest for audiences to understand and for you to manage.
The most important thing is that you do find a way to effectively ensure people do not mix beyond social contact limits.
Organisers / volunteers / performers: just as with audiences you could have of 60 people running the event / performing (for example, and assuming it is safe to do so) – but they must stay in subgroups of six or two households, and crucially not mix with any of the other subgroups of six / two households. We recommend you keep things very simple and treat everyone as their own subgroup of one, and that everyone maintains social distancing at all times. This will provide clear rules for everyone to follow and will make your planning and management of the event simpler.
Additional considerations for risk assessments
The section below looks at the things to think about when doing your risk assessment. Our template risk assessment has more detail on specific risk areas and possible mitigations to help you develop your own.
A key point is that you do have to create your own, all events and venues will present some common risks and mitigations, but will also present different and unique ones. There is no one size fits all template. You must look at your situation, assess your risks and put your own measures in place.
Timing and transport
When planning your event consider whether there is a time of day that will help make it safer. For example if you need people to queue outside your venue in a public space, when might this be quieter? Would daylight hours mean people feel safer? A start time and finish time that means people don’t have to travel on public transport at peak hours would be better. There might not be a perfect option here but it is worth considering the different factors to reduce and balance risk.
Also consider whether there is sufficient car parking available, remember that lift sharing might not be an option for many. Is there a place to lock bicycles? What public transport is available (e.g. reduced timetables) and how high a risk does it present (e.g. train vs bus vs underground)?
Ticketing and donations
The guidance does not say you have to have ticketed only events, but it is recommended. Door sales will require strict number management and effective data collection for track and trace. Pre-selling tickets allows you to control numbers and plan how to manage the audience seating area. This will reduce risk and make the whole process easier. Also consider how to reduce contact points (e.g. exchanging paper tickets or cash):
- Advanced online / e-ticketing can mean no physical exchange of tickets and help with track and trace
- Contactless card payments for door sales or donations (see our guidance on this)
Entry and Exit points
These are likely to be pinch points with people gathering, and maintaining social distancing will require some management. Don’t just consider external entrances and exits, internal points (e.g. routes to toilets or from foyer to auditorium) are just as likely to be pinch points. Consider how you will create space for queuing, how to keep queues flowing and whether you can introduce one way systems where possible. Clear signage and staff on hand to direct and explain will also help.
Different rooms / areas of the venue
Consider each part of the venue that will have people in and what measures you need to reduce risk and maintain social distancing. This should include where audiences might go during intervals, areas for volunteers and performers (including onstage), and don’t forget outdoor spaces either, outdoor is less risky but still needs managing. If some parts of the venue won’t be used make sure they are clearly marked as no entry and have effective control measures.
A good approach is to keep distinct and separate areas for different groups of people to reduce possible contacts. So, performers only go backstage and onstage (no mingling with the audience) or volunteers are given designated areas to work in and stick to.
Maximum Capacity: for each area of the venue you need to work out the maximum capacity that allows for effective social distancing. There are some online calculators that can tell you how many people can be in a space of certain size whilst maintaining social distancing. These can be useful starting points but are quite simplistic. You need to consider:
- The shape of the area
- Other physical features e.g. pillars
- 2 metres is a 2-metre radius
- Where and how people will flow through the room
- Where people might be queueing to exit
Toilets, cloakrooms and storage: some areas might need extra consideration if they present higher risk of contact points. The venue should have done a fair bit of planning in this area so you might be able to incorporate their existing measures.
Think about items people are likely to bring (buggy’s, umbrellas, coats etc) and how they will be stored and how you can minimise who touches them.
- Can you ask people to minimise what they bring?
- Can people keep things with them instead of storing?
- For larger items can you have a designate storage area and operate self-service storage?
- If staff/ volunteers do have to handle, make sure they have gloves and hand sanitizer
Make sure your adjustments take into account accessibility for disabled people and those with sensory disabilities. For example, try to manage queues so that they don’t block accessible routes to entrances and exits, or consider how a change of layout or walking route could affect someone with a visual impairment.
Interval and refreshments
Intervals have the potential to create areas of risk as people will be moving around and the space available to them might be less than in the auditorium.
That said, being sat in the same place for long periods is not ideal either. An interval with audiences leaving the auditorium should be considered in order to ventilate the auditorium. Ideally, where possible, ask people to go outside.
Intervals are also are part of the event experience so we understand that groups will want to try and keep them - and there is no reason you shouldn’t as long as you can do it safely. An open mind to new ways of delivering might be needed.
Refreshments do present an area of increased risk. If the venue provides refreshments, you should follow their procedures and be led by them. If the venue does not provide them, think carefully about whether you have them or not as they will create more work than usual. Allowing people to bring their own or having a presale option included as part of the ticket price could help manage it.
- There are rules about how food and drink can be consumed:
- Food and drink has to be ordered and consumed whilst sat down – i.e. table service
You can provide alcoholic drinks on their own – i.e without also having to order food (unlike the previous national lockdown)
Whether you are a promoting group engaging professional musicians or a performing group with members providing a safe environment is essential.
Some key considerations are:
- Create a ‘performers only area’ to reduce their risk of being exposed to COVID-19. This might include backstage, onstage and separate toilets for the performers where possible
- Ideally performers will have their own entry and exit points to the performers’ area
- If the performers have to enter and exit through the public area, they should do this before the audience arrives and after they have left.
- Have dedicated staff / volunteers for the performers’ area who do not leave that area
- Make sure the area is well equipped with provisions to reduce the need for people to leave the area
- Make sure the performers’ area allows for effective social distancing
- Limit the number of performers taking part to allow for effective distancing
- Wind and brass players and singers to be 3 metres apart on stage
- Front of stage 3m from front row of audience
- Encourage performers to perform side by side or back to back (i.e. not face to face) . You can leave the decision with them, as long as they are happy they are safe.
- For a small choir having the singers in one line may work; for larger groups you could consider staggered rows, with each person, of course, having a radius of 2m around them.
- Consider MD/accompanist position in relation to singers/players; there should be 3m-5m distance between the front row of singers/players and the MD
- Markers to show 2m or 3m distances
- Think about how to minimise contact points and shared surfaces
- Can you ask performers to arrive dressed and bring their own refreshments?
- Provide single-use pre-packed refreshments e.g. bottled water, packaged food
- Give each individual musician a clearly marked area backstage for them and their belongings. Consider what equipment they might need in that area (chair, table etc)
- If you are having multiple performers can you arrange the running order so they don’t have to cross / share backstage? And clean key contact points (door handles etc) in between.
- Also see musical equipment below.
Ideally individuals will bring their own instruments / equipment and there is no sharing (e.g. of music stands, mutes, roisin etc.). If equipment is being shared (e.g band or venue instruments or microphones), create a handling and cleaning regime (this talks about guitars, but also includes links to cleaning tips for all different kinds of instruments by many organisations).
Where possible individuals should move their own instruments but if assistance is needed have a restricted number of named and registered staff members /volunteers, provided with disposable gloves (to be disposed safely after single use) and cleaning equipment.
Instruments where spit accumulates: in the tubing and needs to be emptied ask performers to bring a towel and plastic bag to take it away in, for this purpose; or perhaps an old takeaway carton. As a back-up provide lots of paper towels.
Wind/brass instruments: these appear in some tests to push out aerosols over quite a distance (especially flutes and trombones). Consider a greater radius around them (e.g. 3m); and/or bell coverings (‘shower cap for the trumpet’). For flutes you might consider a flute shield as most the air is lost at the mouth rather that the end of the instrument.
Performing groups who have been using bell covers in rehearsals need to consider whether to use them for performances. For thin cotton covers there will probably be a perceptible difference in the sound, but it won't be huge. Most trials have shown that sound is not impacted a great deal and it will be the response of the instrument to the player where the biggest difference is felt. If you decide not to use bell covers for the performance, then definitely keep at least a 3m radius around each player.
Making Music Corporate member, Moisture Guard have bell covers for wind and brass instruments available. Consider also now face coverings with mouth slits as a possible mitigation.
Percussion: bring own drumsticks or be issued a disinfected set in a sealed plastic bag
Keyboard/piano: these should be disinfected before use and ideally only used by one designated player. If sharing is required disinfect before and after use. Page turning for pianist is not encouraged as it necessitates proximity and touching the music. Singers / soloists should not face the pianist, it is better to face in the same direction as pianist and keep 3m distance between singer and pianist.
Sheet music: new evidence shows that the virus can linger on paper for at least 3 days. Performing groups should have established protocols for sheet music during the rehearsals process. This should continue into the performance. The key principles are:
- No sharing.
- Each person to have their own set they bring with them.
If you are collecting sheet music back in after a performance make sure it is in sealed plastic folders that remain sealed for 72 hours.
Singing does seem to present greater risks, the louder the voice and the more consonants used, the more aerosols are produced. As such extra mitigations need to be considered:
- Programme the event to limit:
- the number or people singing together– can some hum instead?
- the length of time people are singing for in one go.
- More than 2m distance between singers.
- Don’t have singers standing face to face.
- As much space as possible between singers and audience (at least 3m).[BS2]
- Don’t sing too loudly and use microphones if possible.
- Use well ventilated venues.
- Don’t allow the audience to join in singing.
There is specific Government guidance on singing which is worth reading.
You may well find yourself needing more volunteers than normal to run the event and their safety is obviously paramount too. You should spend some time thinking about how you will manage them on the day.
- Don’t have more people than you need – they will be putting themselves at some level of risk, this should not be for no reason
- Coordinate with the venue and make sure you have clarity over roles and responsibilities for venue staff and your volunteers
- Make sure they have the right equipment to do their jobs
- Give them dedicated tasks and areas to work in – so they can limit where they go and who they interact with
- Be clear about what is expected of them in their role and the personal risks they are not expected to take
- Organise a briefing and walk round for your volunteers before everyone arrives, if this is possible and it is safe to do so.
- If you have a break room make sure times are well managed to minimise contact with each other
Step six - communication
Good communication is going to be central to the whole process.
Selling the event: potential audiences, volunteers and performers will all want to support you, but might be hesitant about attending an event. Clear information that shows you are taking it seriously and doing all you can to make it safe will give them more confidence to buy a ticket and support you. Clarity and simplicity are key here: clear statements and well explained plans. You should make your risk assessment available on your website and draw attention to it in your written communications. By their nature RAs can be big and detailed, so consider producing a ‘user-friendly’ list of the measures and procedures you are putting in place, to go alongside it.
Once you have buy-in: Once someone has bought a ticket, or agrees to help or perform at the event, that communication should continue.
- Keep them updated with any changes
- Reinforce key safety messages and measures
- Make it clear how these will affect and how they can prepare to help the event run smoothly (e.g. no cash payments, no refreshments available, performer come dressed etc.)
At the event: back up your measures and procedures with clear communication. This is not just verbal information given by staff/volunteers, also consider signage / posters and remember the value of clear visual communication. It is also important to explain why something is the way it is. For example, individuals from one household do not have to socially distance, but it might appear to others that they are not following rules.
Template risk assessments
We have two template RAs, one is an 'example' document with suggestions of the sorts of things you might include. You can use this document as starting point and adapt it as you see fit. The other is a blank version of the example document that you can populate yourself, if you prefer to start from scratch.
Download the template Risk Assessment (example)
Download the template Risk Assessment (blank )
Note: both documents are Excel spread sheets
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.