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Culture Secretary says outdoor performances may be able to begin 'shortly' with news coming in mid-July

Theatre al fresco this summer?

The Minack Theatre, one of the most iconic outdoor spaces in the UK
© Nilfanion / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

Following his unveiling of a roadmap last month, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has elaborated on when exactly outdoor performances may be able to begin again.

Speaking to LBC yesterday about the possibility of reopening venues, Dowden said that: "I am desperate for these institutions to return as quickly as possible but it has to be done in a safe way, that's why we've said already they can rehearse and they can have performances behind closed doors. I hope that shortly they will be able to have outside performances."

Dowden has been criticised for not providing firmer timelines for the phased return of performances, robbing venues of the opportunity to plan for productions, hire staff for future projects or stage outdoor shows, even as pubs reopen and air travel is permitted. Many outdoor venues, including Regent's Park Open Air Theatre, have postponed their entire 2020 seasons.

The MP continued: "I hope by … mid-July we will be able to make that announcement in respect of outdoor performances and we are working with institutions to understand how they are doing that...The primary criteria will be outdoor and socially distanced."

The Culture Secretary has repeatedly stated his wish to find a way to stage pantomimes this Christmas, though has said that this will be both challenging and depend largely on the state of the pandemic and what safety provisions may have to be put in place.

On Sunday the government unveiled a warmly-received £1.57 billion package to support the arts sector throughout the ongoing crisis, though many criticised the tardiness of the announcement (with dozens of venues already making staff redundant or closing until 2021) and the lack of clarity provided around who exactly may benefit.

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