Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has revealed that his officials are working on Operation Sleeping Beauty, a plan to bring performances back in time for Christmas.
“In recent weeks, we’ve all been thinking and talking about the Proms. I for one can’t wait to be back in the Royal Albert Hall next year, singing Land Of Hope And Glory at full voice,” said Dowden. “I have very fond childhood memories of watching at home every year with my grandma, and hope to be one of the first through the doors next year.
“To get audiences back into our venues in much larger numbers though, we’re going to have to innovate and be bold to save the things we love.
While the focus of the plan is on the return of live theatre for family audiences in time for Christmas, Dowden has made clear that he is aiming to bring back music performances too.
“Mass indoor events are now in my sights,” wrote Dowden in the Mail On Sunday. “Socially-distanced audiences have been allowed since mid-August, and it’s great to see organisations like the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, and musicals like Sleepless – A Musical Romance, back up and running again.
“But we need to start filling seats in much larger numbers – not just for the audiences, not just for the venues and livelihoods who depend on them, but for the entire urban economy, too. Theatre is a lynchpin of London’s West End and its absence is painfully reflected in its deserted streets.”
The DCMS Culture Recovery Fund has so far helped 135 grassroots venues to stay open.
A study commissioned by the government found that singing does not produce substantially more respiratory particles than speaking at a similar volume.
Dowden suggested venues could use technology to improve ventilation in venues, as used in the pilots at the London Palladium and other theatres.
Other countries have already experiments with busier venues. Germany is holding scientific studies and has hosted three events with 1,500 participants.
“We cannot guarantee plain sailing, and as with any part of reopening after lockdown, we cannot guarantee zero risk,” added Dowden.