Think tank Out to Perform and the Coalition for Open Air Theatre have delivered a letter to Oliver Dowden to make a request on behalf of performing arts of all kinds, to allow the outdoor performing arts to spearhead the sector’s return at the earliest opportunity.

A number of leading industry names have signed the letter and are hopeful that they will be able to engage in a meaningful dialogue with the government to put plans in place for this to begin. Those who have signed the letter include: Annilese Miskimmon (Artistic Director of the English National Opera), Catherine Mallyon (Executive Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company), Neil Constable (Chief Executive of Shakespeare’s Globe), Oliver Mears (Director of Opera at the Royal Opera House) and Michelle Cawardine- Palmer (Executive Director of Kneehigh).

Last year’s decision to allow live outdoor performance to restart on 11th July, followed the Coalition for Open Air Theatre’s recommendations. Out to Perform estimates the impact of this decision allowed 500k people able to experience the joy of attending small-scale live performances last year, generating seven million pounds in revenue.

The government’s policies also enabled outdoor carol singing in England to take place after 2nd December following Out To Perform’s Save Carol Singing campaign giving an estimated 100k people the pleasure of singing together safely for the first time since March.

In the letter, the collective have requested that as the government continues to manage the difficult balance of unlocking of the economy whilst protecting public health, it should consider allowing the segment of the performing arts with the lowest Covid risks to lead the national cultural revival and reopen after lockdown ends.

It is also argued that while much of the public focus has been on big-ticket outdoor summer festivals, which are unlikely to operate this year due to their scale, style and long lead-times, both Out to Perform and the Coalition for Open Air Theatre believe  focusing on smaller scale and more local outdoor events can more than fill their place.

Those who have signed the letter are wanting to help provide the government with advice and support, which leads to setting out a roadmap which will lead to earlier national revival of performing arts, by focusing on the part of the sector most easy to make safe. To that end it hopes that the government will consider events that are initially:

·         Outdoors: where the air is Covid-safer

·         Local: where audiences will, initially, be primarily from the local area

·         Small-scale: under 500 people

·         Controlled seating: where social distancing can be much more easily managed between bubbles

Talking about the aims, Stuart Barr, Founder/CEO, Out To Perform and past musical director for Dame Shirley Basseysaid: “We believe this is the earliest safe route for the nation to enjoy the uplift that only live entertainment can bring, as well as supporting jobs across the country. Covid is a terrible disease, and the government is right to do everything it can to reduce risk of serious illness. But DCMS guidance already states that outdoor performances are much safer than indoors due to the quick dispersal of aerosols.”

The full letter can be read by visiting: https://www.outtoperform.com/reopening-outdoor-performing-arts