Theatre News

Boris Johnson announces plans to ease lockdown but live performances are not allowed

Johnson’s announcements will not be well received by an industry desperately in need of help

Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson
© UK Prime Minister's Office / OGL 3 (

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced a variety of ways in which the lockdown will be eased over the coming weeks in England. However, he also said that live performances will not yet be permitted.

Johnson has said that the two-metre social-distancing rule will be relaxed from 4 July, with pubs, restaurants, hotels, hairdressers, cinemas, art galleries and museums able to reopen. Theatres and music halls will be able to open to the public, but live performances will not be allowed.

Speaking about the two-metre rule, Johnson said: "I know this rule makes life impossible for large parts of our economy, even without other restrictions – it prevents all but a fraction of our hospitality industry from operating…where it is possible to keep two metres apart, people should. Where it is not, we will advise people to keep a social distance of one metre plus taking mitigations to reduce the risk of transmission".

However, in much less promising news, the Prime Minister did not give any specific dates for the resumption of live performances or announce any further schemes to help the sector. Mentioning Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden's continued work with task forces, Johnson added that: "We will also work with the arts industry to provide specific guidance to enable to choirs, orchestras to resume live performances as soon as possible". He also said that many will have to rely on "ingenuity" and technological innovation to thrive.

The news will infuriate many within the theatre world, with organisations receiving little by way of financial aid during the lockdown and there are still no concrete plan in place for reopening. Today Theatre Royal Plymouth joined dozens of other venues in announcing that a large portion of its workforce is in danger of being made redundant.

Over the last month an increasing number of figures have warned the Prime Minister that the arts are on "the brink of ruin", with an open letter being sent from the Olivier Awards nominees.

This week, the Government will issue guidance on how to help businesses prevent the spread of infection in the workplace.