Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): cultural performances and events guidance

Last updated: 14 Jan 2022 - see all updates
Published: 18 Aug 2021

Guidance for the cultural performances and events sector.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): cultural performances and events guidance
Precautionary measures

Precautionary measures

Physical distancing

From 27 December, a requirement to maintain at least 1 metre physical distancing will apply to relevant businesses and events. This is in addition to a the requirement that all business take measures to reduce the incidence and spread of the virus by controlling their layout, and the table service requirement where it applies.

There are a number of precautionary measures which are specific to the culture sector and events or which are particularly relevant:

Wear a face covering 

By law, face coverings must continue to be worn in most indoor public places (including indoor communal spaces, workplaces and public transport) unless you are exempt for specific circumstances. This includes cinemas, dance halls, discotheques, libraries and public reading rooms, museums and galleries, indoor theatres, comedy clubs and concert halls. This means that face coverings must be worn in the majority of indoor cultural settings.

Some exclusions apply, including for those who are exempt from wearing a face covering. Face coverings can be removed when eating or drinking, but must be worn otherwise. There is a requirement that a person must be seated when eating or drinking in premises where alcohol is consumed and it is recommended that table service is used in other settings also.

Face coverings in performance or rehearsing for a performance 

A person who is performing indoors does not need to wear a face covering if there is a partition between that person and other people or if there is at least two metres between that person and other people.

Performers are able to perform or rehearse for a performance without face coverings in situations on stage where the wearing of a face covering is not possible, and two-metre distancing or partitioning is not possible.

This exemption will only apply in situations where there is either a partition or a distance of at least two metres between performers and other people (including the audience) but “other people” does not include those who are performing or rehearsing with the performers or assisting with the performance or rehearsal.

It is important that the people responsible for the performance or rehearsal work with the performers, and those assisting with the performance and rehearsals, or their representatives, on the health and safety aspects of these exemptions.

Because of the continuing risk of transmitting the virus indoors, these exemptions from wearing face coverings without two-metre distancing or partitioning should be the exception rather than the norm. 

People responsible for the rehearsal or performance should, as part of their risk assessments, be able to explain how the wearing of face coverings or two-metre distancing or partitioning would materially impede the performance or rehearsal; for example, that the production would be unable to proceed without fundamentally changing the performance; or that the health and safety of the people concerned would in other ways be at risk.

The exemption relates to “rehearsing for a performance” and not to organisations or groups which might rehearse regularly indoors but without a final performance intended or planned.

There are additional actions to support the safety of performers and those working closely with them, set out in the section on additional precautionary measures later in this guidance. As many of these as are practicable should be considered and implemented.

Other face covering measures

There is a specific exemption from wearing a face covering for a person who is seated at a table in a hospitality setting, such as a café, bar or restaurant; eating or drinking, whether standing or seated; and dancing, whether in a nightclub or music venue. Some cultural venues have more than one function (for example, some music venues also operate as nightclubs) and many will have hospitality facilities. It is vital that the correct restrictions and guidance are followed depending on how a particular venue is being used at a particular time. The Scottish Government guidance on safe workplaces provides advice on this.

The Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Requirements) (Scotland) Regulations 2021 set out the full range of restrictions.


Many cultural venues also provide hospitality offerings (for example, bars and cafes). Mandatory local licensing laws will apply to all hospitality settings, and the mandatory collection of contact details remains in place.

Separate guidance has been published for hospitality.

Other precautionary measures which are not specific to this sector, but which are particularly relevant include:

Continued promotion of good ventilation 

By taking measures to increase the volume of outside air entering a building, such as opening windows, doors or vents, you can help minimise the risk of spreading COVID-19 to colleagues and customers. Reducing the number of workers in a work area at the same time is also an important way to minimise risk. This is not always possible in venues, but ventilation systems should be used to reduce risk. A range of guidance has been developed to help businesses, employers and employees understand what good ventilation is which includes Scottish Government ventilation guidance and the Health and Safety Executive guidance on ventilation and air conditioning during COVID-19.

Good hand hygiene and surface cleaning

Good hygiene measures are key workplace-specific measures to create a safe working environment. These include, for example, providing access to sanitiser and hand-washing facilities, regular cleaning of work equipment, chairs and work stations, and regular cleaning and sanitising of break out areas. These practices should also be extended to public areas.

Self-isolate immediately if you get symptoms 

Everyone must continue to follow Test and Protect rules and guidance

Test and Protect, Scotland’s approach to implementing the 'test, trace, isolate, support strategy', is a public health measure designed to break chains of transmission of COVID-19 in the community. As part of this you will be asked to self-isolate at home for 10 days if you have symptoms of COVID-19 or you have tested positive for it, and you will be asked about your close contacts to help identify others who may need to self-isolate.

Get vaccinated

Support staff to get the COVID-19 vaccine once it’s offered to them and encourage appointment uptake. Support staff if they would prefer to drop-in at a vaccination centre without an appointment, as this option allows more flexibility.

It is essential that precautionary measures are followed, but it may also require additional measures where necessary. Many venues will have already implemented heightened safety processes and adaptations earlier in the pandemic, and these can be retained where appropriate. 

Steps in addition to the precautionary measures might include:

  • requiring customers to pre-book tickets
  • staggering start times where possible
  • putting in place processes to control the flow of people in and out of buildings, as well as within buildings (for example, one-way systems)

There are a number of additional precautionary measures which can address the safety of performers and those closely working with them:

  • a robust testing regime, usually beyond the minimum requirements and including daily lateral flow tests, or a testing facility being available on site and, where possible, a weekly PCR test
  • restaging where necessary and possible. This means avoiding face-to-face interactions or limiting the amount of time face-to-face interactions happen or keeping them above one metre where possible
  • minimising singing and shouting, particularly face to face, where possible, or maintaining at least one metre distancing, back to back singing where possible
  • close cohort working and fixed groups/bubbles, maintaining distancing between backstage and front of house teams and avoiding prolonged contact
  • staggered arrival and departure times to avoid congestion
  • working with participants to refresh their memories on precautionary measures, and discussion of safety concerns
  • tight contact tracing procedures
  • physical distancing of at least one metre when not actively involved in rehearsal
  • face coverings worn at all times when not rehearsing or performing
  • the Federation of Scottish Theatre can provide further good practice guidance on health and safety including in relation to COVID-19 

Each venue and business will need to decide what specific actions should be taken to operate safely, depending on its nature and size, as well as the particular activities that are being carried out. Each setting is different, and each performance may also require separate considerations (for example, the difference between a standing audience and a seated audience). As the situation continues to change, so the level of risk associated with certain activities might change and regular reviews of processes will help ensure they remain robust. Risk assessments remain key to protecting staff and the public from harm.

Our guidance on safer workplaces and businesses sets out comprehensive advice on how precautionary measures and other safety measures can be implemented.

First published: 18 Aug 2021 Last updated: 14 Jan 2022 -