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Theatres and arts centres are currently trying to navigate various sets of guidelines and restrictions that apply to performances and activities. Added to this discussion are the complexities of admission criteria ranging from the socially distanced controlled environment regime that currently allows theatres to open to a higher %capacity approach with a vaccination passport, test or immunity admission criteria.

Here’s a summary of some of the considerations for arts centres.

Advantages Disadvantages
2m Social distancing Currently in place and workable for performances in controlled environments/auditoria. Not viable if Covid restrictions persist.

Caps capacity at between 10%-20% in venue.

Only relevant in auditoria.

Difficult/impossible to implement for activities other than performances, especially classes and workshops.

1m Social Distancing Workable for performances in most controlled environments/auditoria. Not viable in long term either.

Still caps capacity at between 15%-25% in venue.

Only relevant in auditoria.

More difficult to implement in some venues with limited circulation space.

HVAC systems a bigger consideration.

Change to % capacity Increases capacity and number of tickets on sale as levels of vaccination increase.

% can be amended in line with epidemiology.

Audience discomfort with reduced social distancing.

Requires box office and programming flexibility for both increases as well as any decreases.

Vaccination certs for admission Seen as responsive to the public demand for indoor activities to open up.

Could dramatically increase capacity.

People (unlike in indoor dining) will always wear masks and are seated in controlled environments.

Makes online box office sales, ticketing, admission, verification, seating, circulation difficult to manage.

Audience discomfort with lack of distances and safety measures.

Theatres become aligned with hospitality sector without benefitting from being controlled environments which allows them to be open under current legislation.

Seen as discriminatory, especially on age and health grounds/violating rights.

PCR, Antigen and Antibody testing Testing when accepted as well as a vaccination passport minimises the discriminatory approach of admission by passport only.

Allows theatres and arts centres to reopen and especially larger capacity venues to increase % capacities and box office in line with entertainment and sport events.

Admission by test results is likely to become essential for some arts centres and theatres, especially the larger capacity ones, if Covid conditions persist through the coming autumn and winter.

Increased cost and complexity for implementation and administration of any checking system may not be suited to all arts centres and theatres..

Responsibilities of FOH team for admission/refusal based on test results.

Segregation in venue Seen to be accommodating all members of the public. Discriminatory, especially on age and health grounds/violating rights.

Do the vaccinated and unvaccinated experience different conditions, including social distancing? Mixed vaccination status groups or pods?

Impossibility of managing segregation throughout time spent at venue.

Issues about vulnerability of/responsibilities of foh team to enforce segregation.


Issues of disabled access could arise as not all areas of all theatres are accessible to patrons who might have a physical disability.

Livestreamed options Seen to be accommodating all members of the public.

Live option available to audiences depending on the prevailing conditions.

Access for people living in geographically remote areas as well as option of season-long streamed programme to groups in schools, colleges, care homes and other group settings.

Screen/digital fatigue is increasingly a big issue.

Limited income, uneven quality, ability to mix live/streaming.

Whenever possible, streamed or VOD option available to individuals and groups who cannot or choose not to attend live performance.

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