Arts and music venues in Northern Ireland may require face masks upon reopening

The measures come as part of a guidance document by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland

Audiences at arts and entertainment venues in Northern Ireland may be asked to wear face masks when they are eventually allowed to reopen.

The measure is among several suggested in guidance produced by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland (ACNI).

Theatres, arts centres, galleries and music venues have been closed since mid-March, and to enable them to reopen to the public again, ACNI has produced a 76-page guidance document called In The Bubble Of Our Making: Reopening The Arts In Northern Ireland.

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“We know that public confidence at returning to indoor events and performances is low – we have all seen the statistics on the low appetite for booking for future arts events, and the alarming time-lag there may be before even bookings are considered,” the document said.

“The Arts Council is keen to see public performance spaces open in towns and cities across Northern Ireland, including sites for outdoor installations and exhibitions.”

Grand Opera House
Grand Opera House, Belfast, Northern Ireland. CREDIT: Peter Thompson/Heritage Images/Getty Images

Venues will need to consider whether audiences will have to wear masks or face coverings when they reopen – as they are “enclosed public spaces.”

“Based on your risk assessment and taking into account audience expectation, you may decide that you will require all visiting public to wear face coverings as part of your new entry conditions,” the ACNI document said.

“Current guidance states that wearing a face covering is recommended in situations where it is difficult to practice social distancing e.g. on public transport or in enclosed public spaces.”

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Other measures suggested include audiences undergoing temperature checks, removing seats to create audience ‘pods’, and holding smaller productions like one-person drama shows, or shorter performances in alternative venues.

Venues are advised to adopt measures like social distancing, enhanced cleaning, one-way signs and hand sanitisers similar to other workplaces, and they will also keep records of anyone entering for 21 days to assist with contact tracing.

Each individual venue can use the ACNI guidance to introduce safety measures for staff, performers and members of the public.

The full guidance document is being published on the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s website.

Meanwhile, figures from the music industry are adding more volume to the #LetTheMusicPlay campaign to demand that the government share arts funding to protect the future live crew, musicians and the individuals working behind the scenes.

Last month, more than 1,500 artists and industry figures came together to call on the government to stop “catastrophic damage” to live music amid the COVID-19 pandemic in the launch of the #LetTheMusicPlay campaign.

After months of campaigning from fans and the world of musicthe UK government revealed plans for an unprecedented cash injection of £1.57 billion to help the arts, culture and heritage industries survive the impact of closures brought on by coronavirus – providing music venues, independent cinemas, museums, galleries, theatres and heritage sites with emergency grants and loans.

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