As lockdown eases across the UK professional musicians can now perform publicly in some circumstances. In England outdoor and indoor (as of 15 August) performances are allowed, and the possibility of performances in other nations is on the horizon.
This means our promoter member groups who organise performances by professional musicians are now able to plan performances to take place this autumn and beyond. But with social distancing measures and guidance still in place for the foreseeable future, there are extra considerations that 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. Key to this process will be working with your venue to produce a risk assessment (RA), 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.
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 RA themselves or putting practical measures in place on the day.
Appointing someone to head up the COVID-19 RA 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.
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. Also consider local variations to lockdown measures.
England and Northern Ireland have issued guidance about when and how events can take place. Wales and Scotland have not at the time of writing (11 August).
Our resource on what you can and can’t do will help give you a summary of the current situation.
Some general points taken from the DCMS guidance for England (but best practice for all nations):
- ‘‘Organisations have a duty of care to volunteers and non-professionals to ensure as far as reasonably possible they are not exposed to risks to their health and safety’. (Introduction section)
- Failure to complete a risk assessment which takes account of COVID-19, or completing a risk assessment but failing to put in place sufficient measures to manage the risk of COVID-19, could constitute a breach of health and safety law.’’ (section 1.1)
Not following the DCMS 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.
Step three – do some research
To do an effective RA you need to understand the risks you are trying to reduce.
There is some research and government guidance for how professionals can perform music safely:
- England – DCMS guidance for Performing arts
- Northern Ireland - The Arts Council Northern Ireland document: In the Bubble of Our Making: Reopening the Arts in Northern Ireland (based on official guidance)
- Scotland – venues and events guidance is relevant (though at time of writing no live performances yet permitted (14 September)
- Wales - still waiting for specific guidance on when and how to put on events (14 September)
You also need to keep an eye on infection rates and local restrictions in your area at all times – it is more likely, going forward, that this will have an impact on your group. Public Health England publish daily data (and longer-term comparisons) on cases, testing and deaths for UK, nations, regions, local authorities by size.
When doing your RA 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 a cloud for a length of time to yet be established, in quantities which may or may not be sufficient to infect someone else: research yet has to determine this and also who is most at risk
- Mitigations: as knowledge still limited, harder to pin down; agreement on:
- open air carrying fewer risks or large volume spaces with good ventilation;
- keeping at least 1m, preferably more, away from others indoors;
- not spending more than 15mins face to face with someone else in a smallish space
- face-coverings are now mandatory in almost all indoor public spaces, including places of worship and community centres, in all four nations of the UK, frequently used by members for rehearsals; there are some exceptions – check the updated government advice (England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland).
- Step 4 – talk to your stakeholders
- Mitigations: as knowledge still limited, harder to pin down; agreement on:
- 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.
Step four – talk to your stakeholders
Once your committee understand what your options are and you have decided you want to put on a concert, 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.
We anticipate most musicians will be keen to start performing again, but being clear about your plans and COVID 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.
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).
Closing times and table service: there might be local and tier 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 as it could impact your planning. In England, the DCMS Performing Arts guidance is the best place to look.
The venue’s risk assessment: The venue should have done their own RA 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 RA and procedures:
- Are there any risks specific to your event that might not be covered by the venue’s RA? How can these be accommodated?
- Are there parts of your event that might be difficult to fit within their RA? 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 RA 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 RA and is on top of everything, you still need to do your own RA. Some of this might reference the venue’s RA 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 RA 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
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 RA is the only way to do this.
Risk assessment for coronavirus safety has two purposes. Firstly, to reduce to as low as possible the chance that someone infectious with coronavirus is present at the performance. Secondly, 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 RA 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
The sections below looks at the things to think about when doing your RA. Our template RA 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)?
Track and Trace
It is important that you keep a record of who has been at your event for 21 days so they can be tracked if it is later found out that someone who was there has developed symptoms. The venue will probably already have a plan for this, but you will at least need to work with them to help them collect the information. From 18 September this will be mandatory in England. If the venue doesn’t already have this in place, you will need to take responsibility for this yourself.
If you are selling tickets online then you can collect this data easily as part of the booking process, but you still need to keep a register of who actually attends. Remember to include volunteers and performers on your list too. If you are selling tickets on the door you will need a way to collect this data at the point of entry.
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? No – you can just take the details of one person in the group – but make a note of the number of people in the group.
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? From 18 September it is mandatory in England to collect, and therefore to give, this information.
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
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.
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
Ventilation: 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
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
The rules on how many people can meet socially vary from tier to tier, nation to nation and whether you are indoors or outdoors.
Going to a performance is a social activity so these rules will apply to your audience and you will need to manage how your audience members (individuals and groups) interact socially at your event.
We have used ‘the rule of six’ as an example below to highlight the sorts of things you need to consider. You should use our resource to find out what the current rules are where your event is.
Example rule: individuals meeting friends and family must not meet in a group of more than six, indoors or outdoors (households or support bubbles bigger than six they can meet indoors and out). Things to consider:
- Booking: don’t allow group bookings of more than six people (unless they are a single household / support bubble)
- At the event: audience members should not be mingling in groups of more than six. In theory this means 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 in practice the simplest option will be say audience members cannot mingle with anyone other than those on their booking.
- You could have a household / bubble booking of more than six. Others at the event may question why they can mingle in a larger group – so consider how you communicate the rules.
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 can provide them you could potentially fall back on their procedures and be led by them. However, if it would be the group providing them then it might be worth considering not having them. That said there are things you can do such as allowing people to bring their own or having a presale option included as part of the ticket price.
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.
The performers are coming to work and so providing them with a safe working 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.
- Markers to show 2m or 3m distances
- Think about how to minimise contact points and shared surfaces
- Equipment / instrument handling – ask performers to carry their own
- If assistance is needed have a dedicated staff member /volunteer, provided with gloves and cleaning equipment
- Avoid shared equipment (e,g. microphones) – if unavoidable clean between use
- 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.
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 RA 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.
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.