Socially Distanced Performance Advice

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We strongly suggest you consider the following government guidance when planning your event:

Since 24 September, temporary restrictions were placed on the operating hours of businesses selling food or drink (including cafes, bars, pubs and restaurants), social clubs, casinos, bowling alleys, amusement arcades (and other indoor leisure centres or facilities), funfairs, theme parks, and adventure parks and activities, and bingo halls, which must be closed between 10pm and 5am. Cinemas, theatres and concert halls will normally have to close at 10pm, but will be permitted to stay open to finish a show or performance that started before 10pm; they will not however be permitted to serve food or drink to customers after 10pm.

Objective: To minimise transmission and maintain social distancing before, during and after live performances.

Manage capacity and overcrowding

Objective: To ensure social distancing is possible by limiting the number of people able to access the premises or venue.

Maximum capacity should consider appropriate social distancing given the nature of activities (i.e. if the activity is static vs. requiring a range of movement) and equipment layout and the configuration of space.

Follow the guidance on meeting with others safely. Where you cannot stay 2 metres apart you should stay more than 1 metre apart, as well as taking extra steps to stay safe. For example:

  • wear a face covering: In England, you must wear a face covering in most indoor settings. The latest guidance can be found here.
  • move outdoors, where it is safer and there is more space
  • if indoors, make sure rooms are well ventilated by keeping windows and doors open

Maximum capacity should consider appropriate social distancing given the nature of activities (i.e. if the activity is static vs. requiring a range of movement) and equipment layout and the configuration of space.

Particular attention should be given to ventilation and sufficient circulation space especially around equipment and between groups and any classes and coaches or teachers.

Steps that will usually be needed:

  1. Conducting a specific risk assessment for each premises or venue and the proposed activities to identify:

    – The likely numbers of people that will be in the venue or on the premises at different times of its use
    – The number of people that can reasonably follow social distancing within the venue or premises, taking into account total space, equipment as well as likely constraints (toilets and washrooms) and pinch points
    – The ventilation rates that can be applied to the premises or venue and whether this can be adjusted sufficiently to deliver a safe environment for all those due to attend at any time (performers, producers, support teams and audience combined)
    – Which activities can be undertaken and which spaces can be used with specific measures to ensure social distancing and maintain cleaning

  2. Limiting the number of people in the venue or on the premises, overall and in any particular congestion areas, for example doorways between outside and inside spaces
  3. Enabling a booking system or other approaches to manage demand of spaces, so that no more than the desired number of people are in the building at any one time and records of those attending, including seating position, can be provided for contact tracing purposes in the event of a case of Covid-19 in a participant.
  4. Managing occupancy levels and changeover by reducing class, rehearsal group or audience sizes and amending timetabling
  5. Allowing a sufficient break time between sessions or performances held to prevent waiting in groups.
  6. Where possible, operating on a book-in-advance basis for any spaces available to hire, preferably online or over the phone.

Staging and capacity

Objective: To ensure that the size of audience, the arrangements and performances staged are consistent with ensuring social distancing.

Risk assessments should specifically consider the maximum capacity for a given performance, the ventilation that can be delivered for that capacity and the ability to manage audience behaviour to avoid compromising social distancing.

Steps that will usually be needed:

  1. Reducing site, premises or venue capacity and limiting ticket sales to a volume which ensures social distancing can be maintained.
  2. For performances or events where there is no ticketing, considering using other communications approaches, coupled with stewarding, to manage the numbers attending. Free, open, unticketed and unfenced performances or events will need to demonstrate a reasonable approach to control numbers if too many people begin to arrive and to encourage social distancing, as well as fulfilling requirements to support contact tracing in the event of a subsequent case of Covid-19.
  3. Managing performance scheduling so that audiences for different performances are not using the site, premises or venue at the same time in a way that compromises adherence to social distancing, and to allow for adequate cleaning.
  4. Reconfiguring entertainment spaces to enable audience to be seated rather than standing. For example, repurposing ticketed standing areas as ticketed seating areas.
  5. Considering using available spaces outdoors for performances with a live audience in attendance.
  6. Considering the expected interactions amongst audience members and making sure sufficient controls are in place to maintain social distancing, for example providing clear communication, demarcating spaces, using sufficient ushers.
  7. Making sure risk assessments carefully consider worker safety, especially of those working closely with a large number of members of the public or audience.
  8. Discouraging or avoiding gatherings such as performances or screenings that may encourage audience behaviours that increase transmission risk, for example crowding, clustering or physical contact outside of household groups or support bubbles.
  9. Considering where crowding could take place such as at points of ingress and egress, car parking, handwashing and toilet facilities, waiting areas, bars and restaurants and areas in proximity to performance area.
  10. Considering the particular needs of disabled audiences when making adjustments to venues or premises, and communicating these appropriately before any performance as well as when in the venue or premises.
  11. Consulting with relevant authorities and specialist advice to best evaluate impact, develop mitigating strategies and coordinate relevant external agencies if required.

Managing audiences

Objective: To maintain social distancing wherever possible in performing arts environments.

People should continue to socially distance from those they do not live with wherever possible. From 14 September, by law social interactions should be limited to a group of no more than 6 people.

Households and groups up to a maximum of 6 people should always remain socially distanced from each other (your support bubble counts as one household). See guidance on making a support bubble with another household. From 14 September it is against the law for gatherings of more than 6 people to take place in private homes (including gardens and other outdoor spaces).

Organisations and venues must ensure an appropriate COVID-19 risk assessment is carried out and that individuals are socially distanced at all times. Organisations and venues will want to minimise the risk as far as possible and this section of the guidance sets out a number of mitigations that should be considered when doing so.

In particular, those operating venues or running events following COVID-19 Secure guidelines should take additional steps to ensure the safety of the public and prevent large gatherings or mass events from taking place. Venues should take account of this guidance and the outdoor events guidance in organising outdoor performances. Individual businesses or venues should consider the cumulative impact of many venues re-opening in a small area. This means working with local authorities, neighbouring businesses and travel operators to assess this risk and applying additional mitigations. These could include:

▪ Further lowering capacity – even if it is possible to safely seat a number of people inside a venue, it may not be safe for them all to travel or enter that venue.

▪ Staggering entry times with other venues and taking steps to avoid queues building up in surrounding areas.

▪ Arranging one-way travel routes between transport hubs and venues.

▪ Advising patrons to avoid particular forms of transport or routes and to avoid crowded areas when in transit to the venue.

Local authorities should avoid issuing licenses for events that could lead to larger gatherings forming and provide advice to businesses on how to manage events of this type. If appropriate, the government has powers under Schedule 22 of the Coronavirus Act 2020 to close venues hosting large gatherings or prohibit certain events (or types of event) from taking place.

When members of the public are attending performances, organisers should ensure that steps are taken to avoid audiences needing to unduly raise their voices to each other, such as shouting, chanting and singing along. This is because increased volume can increase aerosol transmission.

This includes, but is not limited to, discouraging singing along to music or cheering, refraining from playing music or broadcasts that may encourage shouting, including if played at a volume that makes normal conversation difficult, for example during performance intervals. Organisers can ask performers to help encourage the audience to support the overall safety of the event. You should take similar steps to prevent close contact activities – such as communal dancing in audiences.

This is important to mitigate the potential for increased risk of transmission – particularly from droplets and aerosol transmission. We will develop further guidance, based on scientific evidence, to enable these activities as soon as possible.

Outdoor performances

Organisers of outdoor performances should give particular consideration to:

  • The guidance on delivering outdoor events, particularly where such performances are not typical to their operations.
  • In the case of drive-in performances, only allowing cars to park sufficiently far apart to ensure social distancing is maintained, for example by clearly marking available parking spaces.
  • Ingress and egress management, car parking, public transport, hand washing facilities and areas such as arenas, stages or concessions points where crowding could take place. Requirements for permanent structures will differ from green field sites.
  • Consulting with the relevant authorities and seeking specialist advice to best evaluate impact, developing mitigating strategies and coordinating relevant external agencies if required.
  • Managing family groups who may wish to remain closer than the required social distance but who, in doing so, may encourage others to cluster in a similar manner. Communication is key to this.
  • Where items are offered for customer use, so for example a picnic blanket or seating, this should be done only where they can be collected from an appropriate distance and with hygiene measures in place (for example, through the availability of hand sanitiser). Such items should be thoroughly cleaned before being offered for re-use.
  • Planning car parking to allow sufficient spacing for the social distancing of occupants. This will be particularly important at events where attendees may gather around their vehicles during an event or make frequent visits to their vehicles to collect chairs, coats, drinks etc.
  • People with symptoms of COVID-19, or who have been advised to self-isolate following contact with someone with symptoms of COVID-19, should be asked not to attend.
  • The expected interactions among participants occurring during the event and implementing sufficient controls to ensure social distancing is maintained.
  • Discouraging or avoiding activities or features that are likely to encourage audience behaviours increasing transmission risk, such as crowding, clustering, communal dancing and physical contact outside of household groups or support bubbles.

Coming to and leaving premises or venues

Objective: To maintain social distancing wherever possible, on arrival and departure and to enable handwashing upon arrival.

Steps that will usually be needed:

  1. Walk and cycle if you can. Where this is not possible, use public transport or drive. If using public transport is necessary, wearing a face covering is mandatory, unless you are exempt for health, disability or other reasons.
  2. Staggering arrival and departure times to reduce crowding into and out of the premises or venue, taking account of the impact on those with protected characteristics.
  3. Providing additional parking or facilities such as bike-racks to help people walk, run, or cycle where possible.
  4. Considering a flexible call schedule so that people can avoid travel at peak times.
  5. Limiting passengers in shared vehicles, for example, minibuses. This could include leaving seats empty and sticking to households or constant fixed working bubbles.
  6. Reducing congestion, for example, by having more entry points in larger premises or venues.
  7. Using markings and introducing an accessible one-way flow at entry and exit points, and considering how social distancing markers can be made as accessible as reasonably practicable.
  8. Providing handwashing facilities (or hand sanitiser where not possible) at entry and exit points.
  9. Providing alternatives to touch-based security devices such as keypads.
  10. Defining process alternatives for entry/exit points where appropriate, for example, deactivating pass readers at turnstiles in favour of showing a pass to security personnel at a distance.
  11. Communicating ahead of arrival and on arrival the guidance about who should self-isolate (set out in Section 2.2), for example to attendees at castings, workshops and rehearsals.
  12. Maintaining use of security access devices, such as keypads or passes, and adjusting processes at entry/exit points to reduce risk of transmission. For example, cleaning pass readers regularly and asking staff to hold their passes next to pass readers rather than touching them.
  13. Ensure any changes to entries, exit and queue management take into account reasonable adjustments for those who need them, including disabled individuals, including those with sensory disabilities. For example, maintaining pedestrian and parking access for disabled customers or workers and communicating arrangements effectively.

Moving around buildings

Objective: To maintain social distancing as far as possible while people travel through premises or venues.

Steps that will usually be needed:

  1. Reducing movement by discouraging non-essential trips within buildings and sites, for example, restricting access to some areas, encouraging use of radios or telephones, where permitted. These items require cleaning between users if multi-use.
  2. Introducing more one-way flow through buildings. Providing floor markings and signage should remind workers, participants and visitors to follow to social distancing wherever possible.
  3. Reducing maximum occupancy for lifts, providing hand sanitiser for the operation of lifts and encouraging use of stairs wherever possible.
  4. Making sure that people with disabilities are able to access lifts.
  5. Regulating use of high traffic areas including corridors, lifts, turnstiles and walkways to maintain social distancing.

Managing front of house and back of house during a performance

Objective:To maintain social distancing as far as possible between front of house and back of house teams during live performances, and between performers, crew members and audience members.

Steps that will usually be needed:

  1. Creating front of house and back of house zones with people operating exclusively within each zone, where possible.
  2. Ensuring that members of fixed teams are particularly careful to maintain social distancing when interacting with audience members and others front of house and minimise time spent doing so.
  3. Identifying any roles that typically operate both front of house and back of house, and minimising these where possible.
  4. Identifying any roles that interact with audiences and manage transmission risk appropriately.
  5. Minimising interaction of back of house staff with the audience.

Ticketing and payments

Objective: To maintain social distancing when managing ticketing and payments.

Ticket sales should be limited to a volume which allows for social distancing to be achieved, both in auditoria and other parts of the site, premises or venue. Organisers should ensure that audience members are provided with suitable communication prior to the events, setting out the safety procedures in place and how they can support these. This should include advising that people with symptoms of COVID-19 or who have been advised to self-isolate following contact with someone with symptoms of COVID-19 should not attend.

Steps that will usually be needed:

  1. Where possible, encouraging guests to purchase tickets online and to use e-ticketing. Where this is not the case, encouraging contactless payment.
  2. Allowing for contactless payment and other technology solutions on all purchases made in the premises or venue or on-site.
  3. Frequent cleaning of any payment points or ticketing equipment that are touched regularly.
  4. Maintaining social distancing as far as possible when checking tickets.


Objective: To minimise the risk of transmission in the operation of cloakrooms.

Performance venues and premises and events will need to review whether and how they operate cloakrooms, in particular:

  • Closing cloakrooms wherever possible given the challenges in operating them safely.
  • Cleaning them very frequently.
  • Considering using no contact procedures where applicable, such as lockers.
  • Suggesting to audience they limit items carried to the site, premises or venue.

Managing food, drink and retail purchases, and food and drink consumption

Objective: To risk assess and manage food, drink and other retail purchases and consumption to maintain social distancing.

Risk assessment of the preparation, handling, purchase and consumption of all food and drink, and other retail purchases such as programmes and merchandise should be undertaken to identify the need for any necessary changes to procedures.

From Thursday 24 September, a business that sells alcohol for consumption on the premises must only provide table service. This means all food and drink (whether or not alcoholic) must be ordered from, served to and consumed by seated customers. A business that does not sell alcohol, but sells food and drink for consumption on or near the premises, does not need to provide table service. However, food and drink must be consumed by customers while they are seated.

For example, in a theatre or a cinema, a bar selling alcohol must only provide table service, and customers must be seated. A kiosk or counter that does not sell alcohol can sell food or drink over the counter, as long as they take reasonable steps to ensure customers will only consume the food or drink once seated.

In some cases, both types of business or service may be offered separately within a single venue; for example, a theatre that has a bar selling alcohol on one floor and a kiosk on another floor that does not. In those circumstances, a kiosk which does not sell or supply alcoholic drinks will be able to sell food and soft drinks over the counter, provided it is wholly separate and distant from any place at which alcoholic drinks are sold or supplied. This includes offering the services from separate locations, using stewards and signs to ensure customers know the different rules, and ensuring the services are placed sufficiently far apart to enable staff to implement the rules and to avoid a breakdown of social distancing.

Please refer to the guidance for Restaurants and Bars, and for Shops and Branches published by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy for further guidance and considerations for the operation of retail areas, food and drink concessions.

Steps that will usually be needed:

  1. Considering allowing guests to pre-order and collect refreshments and other retail merchandise at designated points throughout the site, premises or venue to maximise social distancing and reduce pinch points. For example, avoid selling programmes or ice-cream inside or outside the auditoria, or at points of site of ingress or egress where crowds and queues may form and make social distancing harder to observe.
  2. Removing “pick and mix” or self-service food and drink facilities to reduce the risk of transmission.
  3. Using screens to create a physical barrier between staff and customers at concessions points.
  4. Considering adopting seat service at intervals in order to reduce pinch points at bars.
  5. Considering providing programmes and other performance materials in digital format.
  6. All venues should ensure that steps are taken to avoid customers needing to unduly raise their voices to each other. This includes – but is not limited to – refraining from playing music or broadcasts that may encourage shouting, including if played at a volume that makes normal conversation difficult. This is because of the potential for increased risk of transmission – particularly from aerosol and droplet transmission.

Entrances, exits and managing people flow

Objective: To maintain social distancing wherever possible when people move around the site, premises or venue during performances.

Steps that will usually be needed:

  1. Adapting performance scheduling to support social distancing and good hygiene. For example, scheduling sufficient time between performances to reduce the possibility of different audiences coming into close proximity and to allow time for cleaning.
  2. Using space outside the site, premises or venue for queuing where available and safe. Outside queues should be managed to make sure they do not cause a risk to individuals, other businesses or additional security risks, for example by introducing queuing systems, having staff direct visitors or audience, and protecting queues from traffic by routing them behind permanent physical structures such as street furniture, bike racks, bollards or putting up barriers.
  3. Working with your local authority or landlord to take into account the impact of your processes, for example queues, on public spaces such as high streets and public car parks.
  4. Reducing instances where people might be required to queue. For example, at:

    – Entrances and exits to the building
    – Escalators, stairs and lifts
    – Ticket and concessions kiosks and ticket validation points
    – Entrances and exits to auditoria, and
    – Toilets and washrooms.

  5. Where possible, designating staff to manage queues and regulate guest access between areas.
  6. Encouraging visitors to use hand sanitiser or handwashing facilities as they enter the site, premises or venue.
  7. Using queue management and marking out one-way flow systems through the site, premises or venue to reduce contact points. For example, introduce one-way systems through the common areas, using auditorium fire exits as the standard so that guests are not required to pass each other when entering and exiting these spaces.
  8. Helping visitors maintain social distancing by placing clearly visible markers along the ground, floor or walls, advising on appropriate spacing.
  9. Considering how social distancing markers can be made as accessible as reasonably practicable.
  10. Ensuring any changes to entry, exit and queue management take into account reasonable adjustments for those who need them, including disabled visitors. For example, maintaining pedestrian and parking access for disabled customers.
  11. Extra stewarding/marshalling may be needed at key pinch points and care should be taken to remove any barriers at exits that might cause crowding. This should be considered as part of the event’s crowd management plan, in consultation with those responsible for managing security and marshalling etc.
  12. Management of crowd density points, such as where people stop to watch displays, must be considered as part of this planning to ensure social distancing can be maintained.
  13. Limiting the potential for guest contact with performers and support staff by, for example:

    – Using theatre security to keep stage door areas clear before and after a performance to allow performers and other staff to enter and exit safely
    – Not permitting visitors backstage
    – Not permitting autograph signing or photographs with performers

Seating arrangements and use of common areas

Objective: To maintain social distancing wherever possible when audience use common areas and the performance area or auditorium.

Each auditorium or performance site, premises or venue should be managed to ensure the maintenance of social distancing. Key principles to follow for seating include:

  • Audiences should be seated as individuals or groups of no more than 6 (with groups following guidance on meeting with others safely
  • These individuals and groups should maintain social distancing
  • Seating and space for those requiring disabled seating or wheelchair space should be considered within the social distancing arrangements with due regard to accessibility responsibilities under the Equality Act 2010

Steps that will usually be needed:

  1. Providing seating in a way which ensures social distancing between individuals or groups of no more than 6 (with groups following guidance on meeting with others safely. You should consider measures such as:

    – Providing allocated seating and managing seating plans through ticketing systems or manually to ensure social distancing is maintained
    – If unallocated seating is provided, installing seat separation or labelling seats which should not be used, or deploying staff to support the audience in adhering to social distanced seating
    – It is expected that guests will take responsibility for their own and others’ welfare and abide by social distancing in the auditorium. Staff should nevertheless be deployed to ensure that these measures are being observed. This may include increased checks and supervision, in particular before and at the end of each performance.

  2. Encouraging audience members not to bring bags and coats into auditoria where possible to reduce clutter at seats.
  3. Reminding guests who are accompanied by children that they are responsible for supervising them at all times and should follow social distancing guidelines.
  4. Having clearly designated positions from which site, premises or venue staff can provide advice or assistance to guests whilst maintaining social distance.
  5. Considering the needs of disabled audience members, for example access to captioning or audio description services, when managing seating.
  6. Cleaning auditoria very frequently and scheduling performances to allow sufficient time to undertake necessary cleaning before the next audience arrives.


Objective: To ensure that toilets are kept open and to ensure/promote good hygiene, social distancing, and cleanliness in toilet facilities.

Public toilets, portable toilets and toilets inside premises should be kept open and carefully managed to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19.

Steps that will usually be needed:

  1. Using signs and posters to build awareness of good handwashing technique, the need to increase handwashing frequency and to avoid touching your face, and to cough or sneeze into a tissue which is binned safely, or into your arm if a tissue is not available.
  2. Consider the use of social distancing marking in areas where queues normally form, and the adoption of a limited entry approach e.g one in one out, and reducing the number of facilities available (whilst avoiding the creation of additional bottlenecks).
  3. To enable good hand hygiene consider making hand sanitiser available on entry to toilets where safe and practical, and ensure suitable handwashing facilities including running water and liquid soap and suitable options for drying (either paper towels or hand dryers) are available.
  4. Setting clear use and cleaning guidance for toilets, with increased frequency of cleaning in line with usage. Use normal cleaning products, paying attention to frequently hand touched surfaces, and consider use of disposable cloths or paper roll to clean all hard surfaces.
  5. Keep the facilities well ventilated, for example by fixing doors open where appropriate.
  6. Special care should be taken for cleaning of portable toilets and larger toilet blocks.
  7. Putting up a visible cleaning schedule can keep it up to date and visible.
  8. Providing more waste facilities and more frequent rubbish collection.
  9. Considering the likely patterns of use during a performance, for example during intervals, and modifying any requirements or restrictions to reduce likelihood of these areas becoming pinch points.

Providing and explaining available guidance

Objective: To minimise the contact resulting from visits to performance sites, premises or venues by providing adequate guidance.

Steps that will usually be needed:

  1. Providing clear guidance on social distancing and hygiene to visitors before arrival, for example by email when purchasing tickets, and on any digital marketing and websites.
  2. Providing written or spoken communication of the latest guidelines to both workers and customers inside and outside the venue, including clear guidance on social distancing and hygiene to people on arrival and throughout the site, premises or venue, for example, signage and visual aids. You should display posters or information setting out how audience members should behave at your venue to keep everyone safe and consider accessible ways of communicating information.
  3. Reviewing external messaging to visitors and audience to make sure it does not provide information that may present a security risk, such as the location of queues or the number of people permitted in a queue.
  4. Considering the equalities impacts of the changes made and what advice or guidance you will need to provide for users who might be adversely impacted.

Managing broadcast performance without a live audience

Objective: To reduce transmission and maintain social distancing where possible whilst broadcasting performances without a live audience in attendance at the premises or venue.

Steps that will usually be needed:

  1. Film or other broadcast crews not mixing with performers in the performance area if to do so would breach social distancing, unless they are part of a fixed group with the performers.
  2. Following the guidance on broadcastfilm, and music production where relevant.


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