Following today’s Executive meeting it was announced that Theatres and Concert Halls can re-open from 8 August.
The Department for Communities has worked closely with other administrations, including the Arts Council NI (ACNI), to put forward proposals to the Department of Health and the Executive to bring forward these dates.
The Department recognises that theatre and concert hall staff will need time to prepare for the safe return of their audiences, therefore, they will initially re-open on a restricted basis. During August staff will be able to return to work to make preparations for the return of live audiences and performers can start rehearsals.
It is hoped that audiences will be able to return to venues on 1 September, as long as the appropriate social distancing measures are in place. The Arts Council NI have published a manual for the safe reopening of performance venues which should give audiences the confidence to return to our theatres and concert halls to once again enjoy the performances and support the sector.
Welcoming the announcement, Communities Minister Carál Ní Chuilín said:
“Covid-19 has had a devastating impact on all those who work in the creative industries. Our theatres and concert halls are at the heart of our cultural life and the safe reopening of these venues is a welcome step towards a return to live performances.
“There is nothing quite like the buzz of live performance, over the past few months audiences have missed the opportunity to support our artists and enjoy the rich, eclectic and unique arts experiences they share with us.
“It is hoped that some venues can return to hosting live performances at the beginning of September, although we remain mindful of the ongoing challenges we face in dealing with the restrictions of Covid-19. The final decision to reopen will be dependent upon the safety of our theatre staff and the public”
In April, Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey launched the £1.5m Creative Support Fund to support individuals and organisations in the Arts Sector in response to COVID-19. The fund reopened on 31 July with a further £4m support package for the arts, creative industries and cultural sector.