Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for the performing arts and venues sector

Guidance for the performing arts and venues sector on safe re-opening during the coronavirus pandemic.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for the performing arts and venues sector
People involved in performing, producing, designing and supporting events

People involved in performing, producing, designing and supporting events

This section covers management of performers or participants and their activities. It includes a range of non-exhaustive activities undertaken in the performing arts with guidance on how to adapt activities to reduce transmission and maintain physical distancing. When following this section, legal obligations relating to health and safety, employment or equalities, and particular duties towards high risk people continue to apply.

Please note that any references to audiences are relevant only when venues are permitted and have chosen to reopen to the public.

General guidance during rehearsals, training, pre-production and performance (without audience or with audience when permitted)

Objective: 

To maintain physical distancing between individuals during training, rehearsals, pre-production and performance.

Steps that will usually be needed:

  • providing space for performers and other attendees to be physically distanced from each other, production team members or other individuals wherever possible during training, rehearsal, pre-production and performance and any other form of performing arts activity
  • working outdoors where possible while giving due regard to neighbours, noise and the possibility of a crowd forming. Where this is not possible, ensuring all rehearsal, training and performance areas, with particular regard to indoor and covered areas, have adequate ventilation
  • organising and designing repertoire, rehearsals, training and performance to avoid situations where performers cannot physically distance, wherever feasible. If not feasible, organisations should consider whether that activity needs to continue and, if so, take all mitigating actions possible to reduce the risk of transmission
  • reducing as far as possible any time that individuals are not able to maintain physical distancing
  • reducing group and cast sizes where it helps maintain physical distancing
  • adapting live performing arts to ensure they are safe. If that is not possible, consider the use of technology solutions to reduce interactions and ensure physical distancing (for example for castings, rehearsals, training and performance)
  • removing non-essential common areas such as waiting rooms
  • using floor tape or paint to mark areas to help people maintain physical distance, where possible
  • wearing face coverings is mandatory in communal workplace areas, such as corridors, canteens and social spaces, unless you are exempt for health, disability or other reasons
  • face coverings are mandatory in performing arts venues, including theatres, concert halls and comedy clubs, unless the person is exempt for health, disability or other reasons or is performing, presenting, addressing a public gathering, making a speech or being a panel member, where:
    (i) there is a partition between the person and other persons, or
    (ii) phyiscal distance is maintained between the person and other persons

Dance

Objective:

To minimise the risk of transmission for dancers.

Steps that will usually be needed:

Singing, shouting and physical activity

Objective:

To help minimise the risk of transmission through aerosols.

COVID-19 spreads from person to person through small droplets, aerosols and direct contact. Singing, shouting and physical activity increase the risk of transmission through small droplets and aerosols. If singing does take place, steps should be taken to reduce the risk of transmission, including limiting the number of people participating and increasing ventilation. The cumulative effect of aerosol transmission means the more people involved, the higher the risk of transmission.

Where possible, the use of electronic equipment such as microphones should be considered to avoid raised voices.

Playing music

Objective:

To help minimise the overall risk of transmission when playing or singing in music groups.

Scientific studies indicate that it is the cumulative aerosol transmission from both those performing in and attending events that is likely to create risk. The mitigations detailed in this section should be implemented, particularly as regards physical distancing and ventilation.

Singing, shouting and physical activity increase the risk of transmission through small droplets and aerosols. If singing takes place, steps should be taken to reduce the risk of transmission, including limiting the number of people participating and increasing ventilation. The cumulative effect of aerosol transmission means the more people involved, the higher the risk of transmission.

Steps that will usually be needed:

Conduct a comprehensive risk assessment  which includes but is not limited to:

  • the size of the space
  • the ventilation levels within the space
  • the positioning of musicians within the space, observing the required physical distancing
  • the effectiveness of any booths, barriers or screens in use
  • for professionals, the use of fixed teams to reduce contacts, and ensuring accurate records and contact details are maintained of who is within each fixed team

Make sure that no musicians are participating if suffering with symptoms of COVID-19 or when advised to self-isolate.

Observe the required physical distancing between each musician and between musicians and any other people such as conductors, accompanists, stage crew or audiences (where permitted) at all times whilst playing.

When seated this distance should be measured from the edge of the performer’s chair.

Use back-to-back or side-to-side positioning (rather than face-to-face) whenever possible.

Operate outdoors wherever possible, with the required physical distancing.

Limit the duration of rehearsals, and performances where permitted, as far as possible

Limit numbers

Avoid exposure of crew, other performers and audiences (where permitted) through using alternative programmes, technology or re-arranging or re-orchestrating for fewer players as the first priority.

Consider using screens or barriers in addition to physical distancing.

When essential for professional activity, if it is not possible to maintain recommended physical distancing whilst playing/singing, use one or multiple fixed teams to manage risk of transmission.

Consider, wherever possible, limiting the number of musicians in any fixed team to the smallest number possible.

Where a very small fixed team means professional work cannot resume, consider a larger fixed team only if a comprehensive risk mitigation plan has been put in place (see Working groups / fixed teams)

Face coverings should be worn wherever possible unless exempt. Where wearing a face covering is not practical, for example, when playing some instruments, other mitigations such as screens, physical distancing, etc should be considered. Since face coverings have been shown to reduce the mass of aerosol expelled during singing, their use should be considered as additional precautionary mitigation. See more in section on face coverings.

Orchestra pits

Objective:

To reduce risk of working in orchestra pits.

Orchestra pits and band areas are often small and tight spaces where physical distancing may be difficult. Particular attention needs to be paid to risk management in these environments.

Steps that will usually be needed:

  • considering reducing the number of musicians using the orchestra pit or band area, for example by moving them to other locations within the performance space to enable physical distancing to be possible
  • marking up the orchestra pit or band area so that all musicians are clear about their spacing and physical distancing
  • positioning musicians side-by-side or back-to-back where feasible and avoiding face-to-face
  • considering using screens or barriers, especially where musicians are facing each other, whilst taking account of health and safety requirements regarding noise exposure
  • maintaining the appropriate distance between players in the orchestra pit or band area and anyone on stage
  • forming fixed teams of regular musicians as included in this guidance

Playing music and singing in different settings

For those performing music live, other guidance may also be relevant in particular settings:

Casting and auditions

Objective:

To reduce transmission and maintain physical distancing where possible whilst casting and auditioning.

Steps that will usually be needed:

  • self-taping or online auditions to reduce numbers on-site. A live feed may help reduce numbers of creative team attending casting and auditions
  • considering the needs of disabled and D/deaf workers and participants in making adjustments to casting and auditions management
  • removing waiting rooms where it is not possible to facilitate physical distancing, asking people not to arrive ahead of their allocated time slot, and providing clear instruction not to congregate in other areas if waiting
  • using screens to create a physical barrier between people, for example between casting team or accompanist and candidates
  • preparing for potential absence of performers due to sickness, for example by increasing number of understudies
  • considering how to appropriately protect any supporting creative team such as musical accompanists, for example by using screens or ensuring physical distancing can be maintained
  • reducing size of cast where possible to reduce the number of contact points, for example by reducing numbers of non-essential extras, players taking dual roles

Training

Objective:

To reduce transmission and maintain physical distancing where possible whilst training.   

Steps that could be taken include:

  • avoiding any training exercises that compromise the physical distancing guidelines set out previously
  • where it is essential for performers in training to breach physical distancing, keeping them in place for the minimum possible time.  Organisations should consider whether that activity needs to continue and, if so, take all mitigating actions possible to reduce the risk of transmission.
  • avoiding face-to-face positions where possible
  • dividing classes and training sessions into small groups

Rehearsals and performance

Objective:

To reduce transmission and maintain physical distancing where possible whilst rehearsing and performing.

Example steps that could be taken include:

  • reducing cast, orchestra and other performance group sizes wherever possible to enable physical distancing to be maintained
  • maintaining physical distancing wherever possible in rehearsals and performance. If close contact is absolutely essential, minimising this and using fixed teams where possible organisations should consider whether that activity needs to continue and, if so, undertake a risk assessment and take all mitigating actions possible to reduce the risk of transmission.
  • mapping out productions in advance of commencing in-person rehearsals
  • learning lines or parts in advance to avoid carrying scripts in rehearsal
  • displaying scripts onto screens in rehearsal rooms to reduce contact requirements and support accessibility
  • increasing use of technology in rehearsals such as to complete read-throughs, and in performance where feasible. Please consider all reasonable adjustments to enable D/deaf and disabled workers to participate.
  • if performers are likely to spit during their performance, organisers should consider additional mitigations such as the use of face coverings or screens
  • performers attending rehearsals and performance only when required for their part
  • changing the call schedules so that only those required are on-site
  • detailing rotating of performers when entering and exiting the stage trying to minimise the number of people working in the same area at the same time
  • using radio, phone and video links where possible to avoid face-to-face contact

Set design and construction

Objective:

To reduce transmission and maintain physical distancing where possible whilst designing and constructing the set.

Steps that could be taken include:

  • to maintain physical distancing or, where not possible, to minimise close proximity during setup and transportation, consider using additional trucks for transport of equipment and large items and increasing the use of mechanical handling equipment such as forklifts to reduce the number of people required to lift heavy cases and scenery
  • allocating sufficient time and workspace for any off-set prep work to be carried out safely
  • pre-fabricating as much set as possible off-site, only assembling and painting on site, following as necessary any additional published guidance such as manufacturing guidance
  • designing the set to include barriers and screens to encourage physical distancing by cast members
  • designing the set in components that can be carried and installed by a person working alone, or two people working at required physical distance

Sound and lighting

Objective:

To reduce transmission and maintain physical distancing where possible whilst managing sound and lighting.

Steps that could be taken include:

  • creating a screen (e.g. an acoustically transparent gauze screen) around sound and lighting desks to create a barrier between the sound team and other crew or audience (when permitted)
  • where the sound desk is positioned close to audience seating, consider leaving empty the closest row of seats
  • regularly cleaning desks, for example, sound, lighting, mics and battery packs

Stage management and back-stage

Objective:

To reduce transmission and maintain physical distancing where possible whilst managing the stage and back-stage.

Steps that could be taken include:

  • restricting workers allowed back-stage and on-stage to those who are essential
  • not permitting visitors back-stage or at stage door
  • considering how wings can be used to allow for the minimum possible interaction between people, for example one-way systems, dedicated wings for stage managers and dressers
  • reconfiguring back-stage to introduce one-way systems and use of green rooms and crew rooms by fixed teams
  • limiting prop handling to the minimum possible number of people and clean after every performance, and where possible between uses if handled by different people
  • limiting handling of key props on set to a dedicated crew member and relevant cast
  • providing markers on-stage for music groups to adhere to physical distancing
  • marking out a clear route onto the stage for soloists and conductors entering for a performance
  • limiting the staging of the performance to the performance or stage area only and excluding directions for the performers or crew to exit the stage area and move amongst the audience
  • considering cover responsibilities, such as Assistant Stage Manager covering the book, maintaining where possible a separation between those operating front of house and back of house

Costumes and concert dress

Objective:

To reduce transmission and maintain physical distancing where possible whilst managing costumes and concert dress.

Steps that could be taken include:

Some productions may require costume fitting where physical distancing and avoidance of intimate face-to-face contact is impractical. In these instances, consider using fixed teams as outlined earlier, and only where essential and unavoidable. Organisations should consider whether the activity is essential and, if so, undertake a risk assessment and take all mitigating actions possible to reduce the risk of transmission.

Use screened-off cubicles for cast to receive their costume and dress without assistance where possible. Where assistance is unavoidable (for example for quick changes in the wings), where possible avoid face-to-face positioning during fittings.

Staff providing close contact services should wear a visor in addition to a face covering. Visors are recommended but face coverings are mandatory.

Reduce cross-contamination risk by where possible:

  • sanitise and ventilate changing cubicles between use
  • separate individual cast members’ costumes in plastic bag
  • hang cast members’ own clothes inside a clean plastic cover
  • launder costumes between each use and cover individually in plastic covers after cleaning.

Avoid sharing equipment, for example maintain a dedicated sewing machine for one user.

Complete costume fittings as far as possible during prep or off-site to avoid people congregating back-stage.

Reduce the number of quick changes or increase time between changes.

Musicians should arrive at a performance venue in the clothes they will wear for the performance.

Hair and make-up

Objective: 

To reduce transmission and maintain physical distancing where possible whilst managing hair and make-up.

Some productions may require hair and make-up where physical distancing and avoidance of intimate face-to-face contact is impractical. In these instances, consider:

  • in the first instance asking performers to do their own hair and make-up where appropriate. Request cast and supporting artists remove their own make-up where possible
  • where it is not possible for someone to do their own hair or makeup, following the government guidance on working in close contact settings where relevant
  • using fixed teams. It is unlikely that this fixed team approach will be possible in non-professional environments or where professional performers work with more than one group or organisation simultaneously

Other steps that could be taken include:

  • positioning hair and make-up stations to allow appropriate physical distancing or using Perspex screens between stations
  • limiting the time spent in a hair and make-up chair whenever possible
  • allowing extra time for processes to limit cross-contamination risk. For example, allocating own makeup kit, brushes, hair products and equipment to each cast member, to be sterilised each day and only used on them, and supplying pins, disposable brushes for lips and glues where possible
  • increasing equipment and surface hygiene. For example, use air borne sanitising sprays, maintain minimum equipment, sterilise and disinfect equipment and surfaces after each application, use disposable brushes and applicators

Handling props, musical instruments, technical equipment, and other objects

Objective:

To reduce transmission through contact with objects. 

Steps that will usually be needed: 

  • encouraging increased handwashing and introducing more handwashing facilities for workers or providing hand sanitiser where this is not practical
  • avoiding sharing personal items such as phones, chargers, pens, and owners take responsibility for regularly disinfecting their own personal equipment
  • using designated storage for large instrument cases; musicians with smaller instruments keep cases under their seat
  • avoiding sharing professional equipment wherever possible and place name labels on equipment to help identify the designated user, for example cameras, percussionists maintaining their own sticks and mallets
  • handling of music scores, parts and scripts to be limited to the individual using them
  • making available extra radios and headsets or earpieces, dedicating a member of each team to be responsible for them for the duration of the production, and making sure these are appropriately cleaned if not single use
  • if equipment has to be shared, regularly disinfecting it (including any packing cases, handles, props, chairs and music stands) and always between users
  • consider limiting number of suppliers when hiring equipment. Responsibility of cleaning hired instruments should be discussed with the suppliers. Consider options for transporting equipment
  • cleaning hire equipment, tools or other equipment with appropriate cleaning products on arrival and before first use. If receiving deliveries in advance of when required, store in a clean location and clean before first use.
  • cleaning of musical instruments by musicians, where possible
  • cleaning of audio description headsets between use and after handling by staff
  • creating picking-up and dropping-off collection points where possible, rather than passing equipment such as props, scripts, scores and mics hand-to-hand
  • not permitting audience onto the stage or to touch equipment, props, instruments, set or other objects used by performers

Take precautions when handling heavy equipment, including:

  • re-evaluating spaces to avoid workers working in close proximity (e.g. using more trucks for transport of goods)
  • increasing the use of mechanical handling equipment (such as forklifts) to reduce large numbers of workers working in close proximity (e.g. lifting heavy cases and scenery)
  • using a consistent pairing system if people have to work in close proximity, for example, during two-person working, lifting or maintenance activities that cannot be redesigned
  • reducing job and equipment rotation
  • cleaning procedures for the parts of shared equipment you touch after each use, thinking about equipment, tools and vehicles

Managing broadcast performance without a live audience

Objective:

To reduce transmission and maintain physical distancing where possible whilst broadcasting performances without a live audience in attendance at the venue.

Example steps that could be taken include:

Managing front of house and back of house during a performance

Objective:

To maintain physical 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 could be taken include:

  • creating front of house and back of house zones with people operating exclusively within each zone, where possible
  • ensuring that members of fixed teams are particularly careful to maintain physical distancing when interacting with audience members and others front of house and minimise time spent doing so
  • identifying any roles that typically operate both front of house and back of house, and minimising these where possible
  • identifying any roles that interact with audience and manage transmission risk appropriately
  • minimising interaction of back of house staff with the audience

Creative learning for school age children

Objective:

To highlight further reading and guidelines for working with school age children.

Those providing organised activities for children and young people which are not overseen by a regulator should follow guidance for organised activities for children and young people. This includes private tuition for children and young people.

Those providing organised activities for children and young people in a school setting should follow Education Scotland guidance, and liaise with their usual schools’ contacts.

Private tuition

Where pupils are aged 18 or over, private tuition is not covered by the organised children’s activities guidance (above). Private music tuition is permitted in people’s homes and other settings with relevant mitigations in Levels 0-3. Remote or online tuition is recommended as the lowest risk option at all levels. If this is not possible, meetings can be carried out in households or other suitable premises. Tutors should carry out their work in line with the returning to work safely guidance and, importantly, provided the tutor is well and is not showing coronavirus symptoms or is required to self-isolate. They should carry out their own appropriate risk assessments and ensure face to face contact is minimised and appropriate risk mitigations put in place such as maintaining the required physical distancing, hand and respiratory hygiene and use of face coverings where appropriate. 

Where your work place is also your own home, or another setting, these activities should be considered referring to COVID-19 guidance on small and micro businesses.

Tutors should follow this and other published guidance as listed below. They should follow Test and Protect guidance on the collection of customer/client details with a view to sharing their contact information if required. This should be discussed in advance to ensure the client agrees to have their contact details recorded for this purpose.
There is a range of guidance available to support people undertaking work in people’s homes, their own homes and other settings. This includes:

Tutors should also consult the following guidance:

Travel

Objective:

To avoid unnecessary work and other non-essential travel and keep people safe when they do need to travel between locations.

Steps that will usually be needed:

  • minimising non-essential travel – consider remote options first
  • minimising the number of people travelling together in any one vehicle - see advice on travelling safely and car and vehicle sharing
  • cleaning shared vehicles between shifts or on handover
  • where workers are required to stay away from their home, centrally logging the stay and making sure any overnight accommodation meets physical distancing guidelines

Communications and training

Objective:

To make sure all workers and participants understand COVID-19 related safety procedures and are kept up to date with how safety measures are being implemented or updated.

Every workplace should look and feel substantially different for workers. Physical distancing and enhanced hygiene will change how workplaces operate. Training will therefore be essential to build a common understanding of requirements within the new working norm and instil confidence that changes put in place will contribute to a safe working environment. Issues such as ensuring staff are aware that some audience members attending an event may have disabilities that are not immediately visible will be important in ensuring fair treatment of customers in these difficult circumstances.

Steps that will usually be needed:

  • providing clear, consistent and regular communication to improve understanding and consistency of ways of working
  • engaging with workers, worker representatives and participants through existing communication routes to explain and agree any changes in working arrangements
  • developing communication and training materials for workers and participants prior to returning to site, especially around new procedures for arrival
  • ongoing engagement with workers and participants (including through trade unions or worker representative groups) to monitor and understand any unforeseen impacts of changes to working environments
  • awareness and focus on the importance of mental health at times of uncertainty. The government has published guidance on the mental health and wellbeing aspects of coronavirus (COVID-19)
  • using simple, clear messaging to explain guidelines using images and clear language, with consideration of groups for whom English may not be their first language
  • using visual communications, for example whiteboards or signage, to explain changes to production schedules, breakdowns or materials shortages to reduce the need for face-to-face communications
  • communicating approaches and operational procedures to suppliers, visitors or trade bodies to help their adoption and to share experience
  • 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
  • ensure that communications with the workforce are provided in a range of ways, workers are able to ask questions, and that workforce representatives are fully involved

First published: 10 Nov 2020 Last updated: 23 Jul 2021 -