As of spring 2022, COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted in the UK. After extended periods of cancelled and postponed performances, it has no doubt come as a relief to many working in the industry that there are no more COVID-19 restrictions affecting the performing arts. First to drop all restrictions was England, with Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland following suit.

While restrictions have been dropped, COVID-19 still exists. It’s worth considering having a plan B to ensure you’re prepared for the different situations that might arise. Whether that’s audiences or performers becoming ill, managing guests’ concerns about COVID-19, or having to cancel an event, you can use this guide to help you manage your events smoothly. 

What are the COVID-19 rules for events?

There are currently no mandatory COVID-19 rules in place for events in the UK. Although wearing a mask is no longer required, it’s still recommended by the government for indoor settings. As the threat of transmission is a greater risk indoors, you may want to follow the current guidance and invite guests to wear masks to help to keep them, as well as your staff and performers, safe. 

Self-isolating if you test positive for COVID-19 isn’t a legal requirement in England anymore, but if you’re worried that this could deter potential guests, why not think about introducing your own in-house regulations? Ask audience members to consider staying home if they’re displaying any symptoms of COVID-19 or have tested positive, as a courtesy to their fellow theatre-goers.

Unfortunately, support for the arts and events industry was more widely available in 2020 than it is now, despite that the industry is still recovering. That’s not to say you shouldn’t keep your eye out for grants or funding – for example, this Small Grants Programme for not-for-profit theatres and this grant from The Fidelio Trust for opera and dance are still up for grabs. 

For staff and performers, while the furlough system is no longer in place, it’s worth noting that in Wales, the government will continue to pay self-isolation support payments until the end of June.

COVID-19 venue management

Although there are no longer formal restrictions that require venues to consider COVID-19 in their risk management plans, your audience may still have concerns. Think about how to adapt your theatre’s COVID-19 rules to ensure everyone attending your event has a positive experience.

Pre-event guidance

After two years of wearing masks and being told to socially distance, the removal of all restrictions could be a tricky adjustment for some audiences. So your guests know what to expect when they arrive, you could share any changes to your theatre’s previous COVID-19 rules by email in the run-up to the show.

You could include key regulations in the booking confirmation email, plus a follow-up message on the day of the event as a reminder for audience members not to forget a mask or to stay home if they have COVID-19 symptoms. This is also a good way to reassure guests that your venue is up to date with any recent changes to UK COVID-19 guidance. 

At the venue

For audience members who are unsure about how the new theatre rules for COVID-19 may work in practice, why not provide visual markers around the venue to make any nervous attendees feel safer? Signs explaining your venue’s stance on masks may not mean everyone follows your guidance, but it will mean those who do feel reassured by their choice. 

You could also announce any of your theatre’s current rules before the start of the performance and during the interval to keep guests informed of any updated guidance. It’s a good opportunity to mention any extra precautions you have taken to keep guests safe, too, including enhanced cleaning procedures and placing hand sanitiser stations around the venue.

When theatres first reopened their doors, reduced capacity audiences and spaced seating were common-place. This could be something to consider keeping in place to help guests maintain social distancing in the auditorium. A social distancing policy could affect your revenue, so it’s important to weigh up your options before making any decisions.

Managing audiences

There’s a risk that not all of your attendees will be happy with the precautions you have introduced against COVID-19. Remind guests that while the restrictions have been lifted, you remain committed to safety. 

Having clear messaging should hopefully reduce the likelihood of this happening, but some guests might want to take things further. It could be useful to direct them to someone they can contact after the show, and have a designated front-of-house team member on hand to answer questions about COVID-19 rules in UK theatres and ease any concerns.

How to cancel an event

The events industry faced big setbacks during COVID-19, as there was no choice but to cancel events. Now, most event organisers are no strangers to cancelling or postponing a show, but no one wants to have to do this. Unfortunately, sometimes it’s unavoidable – for example, if the lead performer catches COVID-19. Before you cancel an event, make sure you first consider all of your options. Could you broadcast the performance online via a livestream? If a livestream isn’t possible, what about filming the performance and providing audience members with a link to watch a recording of the event at a later date? 

If this doesn’t work for your event and you do have to cancel it, let guests know as soon as possible. Despite audiences becoming used to COVID-19-related cancellations, it can still be disappointing to receive a notification that a performance you have been looking forward to has been postponed. You can prevent any potential damage to your brand reputation by addressing the situation sincerely and providing your audience with clear next steps. Explain to your guests what their options are – can they reschedule their ticket or are they able to request a refund

An effective way to let your audience know that a performance has been cancelled or rescheduled is via email or phone. Another quick method is to get the message out through social media to widen the chance of ticketholders finding out as soon as possible. Don’t forget to add the cancellation information to your website and Eventbrite listing, too. 

Event cancellation template letter

If cancelling your event is your only option, you can use this template letter to communicate the cancellation with your audience. 

Subject line: [Event Name] Cancellation in response to COVID-19

Body copy: 

After much consideration, we have taken the unfortunate decision that, due to [COVID-19], the best course of action to keep yourselves and our performers safe is to cancel [X event].

We hope to provide you with confirmation of new dates for the event as soon as we can.

We understand, however, that your situation may have changed, and if you would like to contact us about a refund you can reach out to [X team] at [email address]. 

We appreciate your understanding and very much look forward to welcoming you back to [venue name] soon.

To stay informed of the latest updates, follow us on [social media hyperlink 1] and [social media hyperlink 2].

[Sign off]

[The team]

Stay on top of the latest information

Don’t be overwhelmed by the information available online about how to manage events post-COVID-19 restrictions – our events industry report summarises all the latest information you need to know. If you’re looking for further advice on how to organise your event after COVID-19, you can find plenty of tips to help you look after your guests (and yourself)

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