Arts Working Group: Open Call Webinar Questions and Answers

09 Jul 2020

The Arts Working Group have collected all questions from the Open Call Webinar and together, compiled a series of answers and recommendations!

Government Guidelines and Queries

Does the panel have any insight to any announcements of Government investment / support?

Kai Aberdeen, General Theatre Manager, Princes Theatre 

Since the webinar, the Culture secretary has announced a fund of £1.57bn. He has stated 'The culture secretary said institutions would have to apply through industry bodies and would be asked to prove how they contributed to wider economic growth.' We are working on discovering which industry bodies and what is the criteria for a theatre to have a successful application. The DCMS announced that "Decisions on awards will be made working alongside expert independent figures from the sector including the Arts Council England and other specialist bodies such as Historic England, National Lottery Heritage Fund and the British Film Institute.

 

Vincent McCann, Theatre Director, Market Place Theatre and Arts Centre

As part of the £1.57 billion investment announced by the UK Government, the devolved Northern Ireland Government will receive £33 million. The Assembly will decide how it is spent. However, the Arts Council of NI have just commenced a consultation process which may inform this too. The deadline for responses is 22nd July. There are 2 consultation documents - one for artists & practitioners and one for venues.

 

Jennifer Huygen,Engagement and Policy Manager, Community Leisure UK 

On July 3rd, the Scottish Governmentannounced £10 million for performing arts venues. As part of the £1.57 billion investment announced by the UK Government, the devolved Scottish Government will receive £97 million. There are no details yet on how the Scottish Government intends to spent this funding.

 

Sarah Ecob, General Manager, Venue Cymru 

As part of the £1.57 billion investment announced by the UK Government, the devolved Welsh Government will receive £59 million. There are no details yet on how the Welsh Government intends to spent this funding; it is reported that the Welsh Government is awaiting the Budget announcement by the Chancellor on June 8 before making spending decisions.

 

I didn't quite understand whether actors can meet for rehearsal. Is England at Stage One of the Road Map?

Kai Aberdeen, General Theatre Manager, Princes Theatre 

Currently England is in Stage 1 of the reopening phases. It has been made clear that those attending the rehearsals must adhere to social distancing guidelines.

 

Sarah Ecob, General Manager, Venue Cymru 

Not allowed under the current Welsh regulations. 

 

Have you had any involvement with the Government cultural taskforce?

Kai Aberdeen, General Theatre Manager, Princes Theatre 

Not yet but we are willing to work with anyone who wants to help the reopening of theatres and other arts and cultural centres.

 

Jennifer Huygen,Engagement and Policy Manager, Community Leisure UK 

We have through our libraries work. We are also updating ACE and LGA on the situation of charitable trusts who in turn update DCMS.

 

Kai mentioned a 50-page document produced by the government - I'm not aware of this. Where can it be accessed?

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/our-plan-to-rebuild-the-uk-governments-covid-19-recovery-strategy

 

Really ambitious question, but has anyone of you had any success negotiating enough financial support from the local authority / your bigger funders to get through the continued uncertainty / avoid redundancies?

 

This depends per Local Authority but yes there are reports of LAs support. Usually it depends on the previous relationship between the organisation and the LA. Successful approaches included open book discussions, focusing on the social value of the organisation's work, and scenario planning of what happens if no further financial support is forthcoming. It is also worth mentioning that Councils themselves are under huge financial pressure so any alignment with their objectives will probably help discussions e.g. how can the organisation offer up some space while closed for the Council to use for other activities.

 

Social Distancing 

 

Has anyone got any clues / thoughts on art and drama classes being possible? 

Vincent McCann, Theatre Director, Market Place Theatre and Arts Centre

We are working on the basis that when theatres can reopen on 29th July, workshops can take place. These will be creative art workshops and all participants will be socially distanced by 2m.

 

Sarah Ecob, General Manager, Venue Cymru 

Still not allowed in Wales. We are planning to run some outdoor sessions as soon as more than one household can meet up. We are looking at adjustments for indoor activities such as having smaller groups and using larger rooms.




Is anybody else thinking of combining low capacity concerts with high quality multi-cam live streaming to attempt to get that “live buzz”? If so, what’s your pricing strategy?

Kai Aberdeen, General Theatre Manager, Princes Theatre 

Adjusting to the 'new normal' will definitely mean the consideration of new and innovative ideas. This is not something the group has worked on in discussion but would be interested to hear from anyone who has made a model that can be adopted.

Vincent McCann, Theatre Director, Market Place Theatre and Arts Centre

This is something we may consider. However, costs may be prohibitive. Also, responses from the 'After the Interval: Act 2' survey suggests that people may not be willing to pay for these.

 

Has anyone developed any protocols for dealing with people who won't comply with the social distancing constraints?

This will be very contentious in the first months of opening and refusing entry to customers is technically classed as front line, this means there may well be a requirement for additional Security Industry Authority (SIA) licensed operatives to augment the front of house team. There are also conflict management courses that could be beneficial for FOH staff deal with any disgruntlement.

 

Does anyone have any advice for participation activities - ie art classes?

Sarah Ecob, General Manager, Venue Cymru 

1. check that it is permitted under whatever current guidelines are issued both within your devolved country. 2. ensure that everything is correctly risk assessed. 3. that your cleaning and staff training policies and procedures are sufficient. 4. remember, just because it is difficult to get everything in place doesn't mean you shouldn't do it, people need the arts, providing for this need is always worthwhile. Make sure you carry out an Equalities Impact Assessment for any changes that you make to participation sessions

 

We are a 330 seater cinema/theatre. Currently closed since March but have set up a Community Store for people who need food and supplies. I am very much involved with this as well as keeping the admin side of the business going. Also looking at new ideas for day time use and wondering if schools will need larger areas if social distancing remains in place within educational establishments.

Kai Aberdeen, General Theatre Manager, Princes Theatre 

Finding short term use for your venue can only be a great thing. it is imperative that theatres, cinemas and arts venues be conspicuously helpful in these times to keep in the hearts and minds of our customers.  

 

Sarah Ecob, General Manager, Venue Cymru 

Some schools are looking for additional space so it is worth contacting your local authority education department to discuss if you can be of help. 

 

Are Actors Willing to perform with limited audience ?

Kai Aberdeen, General Theatre Manager, Princes Theatre 

This will probably depend on the individual actors/actresses and will probably be dictated by their personal views and the type of show they are performing. It will be hard for all performers/promoters to operate in a financially viable way with much reduced audiences. We are finding that often it's the size/shape of the overall tour that is affecting what is possible.

 

Volunteers

Where is everyone with volunteers – when are you bringing them in, are you? Ages, to do what range of activities, are you considering age, BAME etc.? 

Jennifer Huygen,Engagement and Policy Manager, Community Leisure UK 

Best practice that we have seen in our membership includes first sending out a survey to staff (including volunteers) to get an idea of how people are feeling towards returning to work. This will also help identify any staff/volunteers that are shielding or with caring responsibilities. Then based on this information, as well as on a skills-based approach, most organisations that we work with decide who to return to work first.  

 

Emma Butler Smith, Chief Executive, Marina Theatre

We have just sent out a survey about to gauge their feelings & note any issues.

 

I run a 300 capacity venue with no staff, just volunteers - does anyone have any policies or even information regarding what specific training volunteers should be given before reopening?

Jennifer Huygen,Engagement and Policy Manager, Community Leisure UK 

If this is a consideration for your venue, you should probably be made aware of the Covid19 secure work place guidance: https://www.hse.gov.uk/coronavirus/working-safely/covid-secure.ht

 

Emma Butler Smith, Chief Executive, Marina Theatre

we are planning some work round this this month. We are assuming that volunteers will have to do same trainign as staff, like for evac training. SE: volunteers should be given the same training as staff, covering all aspects of infection control and customer service during the pandemic. Risk assessments and equality impact assessments are a good starting point. Some resources can be found here https://www.volunteerhub.com/blog/volunteer-management-covid-19-resources/

 

Vincent McCann, Theatre Director, Market Place Theatre and Arts Centre

All I can assume is that although they are volunteers, all training and assessment would be as per staff. I imagine one difficulty (which is similar for us as we use a lot of casual staff) is people not being willing to be there. I think it will be so vital for a strong induction for all of your volunteers to ensure that they are made aware of the safety measures that you are putting in place. Also, involve them in the risk assessment process so that they know what to expect - and they can suggest solutions that you may not have thought of.

 

Does allowing 70+ volunteers endanger your insurance?

Emma Butler Smith, Chief Executive, Marina Theatre

It hasn't pre-CV19...

Sarah Ecob, General Manager, Venue Cymru 

I would advise that they contact their insurance company and make sure they have risk assessments in place along with training plans for the volunteers. 

 

Vincent McCann, Theatre Director, Market Place Theatre and Arts Centre

I think only your insurer could answer this. Perhaps a discussion with Age UK could assist you. However, I can't see that it would affect insurance. 

 

Programming

What is the likelihood / feasibility that venues will start taking their programmes outdoors in some shape or form?

Kai Aberdeen, General Theatre Manager, Princes Theatre 

This is likely for some venues although there are many negative factors to consider. Increased overheads, additional insurance, security, maintaining social distancing, inclement weather, additional equipment hire, permissions with local authority etc.

 

Vincent McCann, Theatre Director, Market Place Theatre and Arts Centre

We already are responsible for outdoor events within the Tourism Department. Within the context of the theatre, it's unlikely that we would do much outside. Anything that we did do is likely to be free.

 

How do you feel about hybrid events (live & digital)? Do you think that’s an income stream to be tapped into for the longer term and is there an audience appetite for digital performances/screenings?

Kai Aberdeen, General Theatre Manager, Princes Theatre 

Anything is possible and everything should be considered. However this may not generate sufficient return to make the expense and resources expended worthwhile. 

 

Emma Butler Smith, Chief Executive, Marina Theatre

We have some promoters now pushing this. We were a bit concerned that it would detract from 'real' tx sales, but are now thinking it may work as part of a kind of menu of ways to attend.

 

Has there been any thought of improvisation or other low preparation artforms to support theatres without time for extensive rehearsal?

Sarah Ecob, General Manager, Venue Cymru 

Not within the group as a whole, although this could potentially be a short term way forward. Please consider the reputational damage that could occur if the low preparation performances do not meet customer expectations.

 

Vincent McCann, Theatre Director, Market Place Theatre and Arts Centre

Instead of considering elements such as improv, we are looking at elements such as smaller numbers in the events - e.g. one or two-piece music, one-person plays etc. When possible, we're also looking at offering our spaces (e.g our main stage) out for rehearsals free of charge to groups that haven't been able to rehearse and while we can't use them.

 

Has anyone got any clues / thoughts on art and drama classes being possible? 

Vincent McCann, Theatre Director, Market Place Theatre and Arts Centre

We are working on the basis that when theatres can reopen on 29th July, workshops can take place. These will be creative art workshops and all participants will be socially distanced by 2m.

 

Sarah Ecob, General Manager, Venue Cymru 

Still not allowed in Wales. We are planning to run some outdoor sessions as soon as more than one household can meet up. We are looking at adjustments for indoor activities such as having smaller groups and using larger rooms.

 

Also has anyone got information about choir rehearsals?

The group think it fair to assume that choirs can rehearse the same as actors whilst following social distancing guidelines. 

 

Hello, I’m Director of a small classical music agency so all my musicians (and myself) are earning nothing and therefore keen to get performing and working again! We are also very mindful of the difficulties venues are facing and don't want to bombard with enquiries as to whether they can take bookings. Is the general rule that cancelled bookings from 2020 will be moved into 2021? Can we approach venues now about possible future bookings?

Kai Aberdeen, General Theatre Manager, Princes Theatre 

Yes and Yes! theatres are postponing to 2021 but that certainly shouldn't stop touring companies contacting the theatres booking department. it would be advisable to consider splits over guarantees for this aspect as we are all in this together.

 

Vincent McCann, Theatre Director, Market Place Theatre and Arts Centre

Yes please. Our industry relies on symbiotic relationships - we need to work together to ensure that things can progress. 

 

Is there any guidance on social distancing rehearsals? didn't realise this was allowed?

Kai Aberdeen, General Theatre Manager, Princes Theatre 

Yes, basically the current rules are to follow social distancing guidelines and to inform people prior to attending not to if they have any symptoms. this is available on the .gov website in the UK.

 

Is anyone in the working group working regularly with children and young people whether as audience or project/activity participants? How different are your risk assessments (or your thinking) around social distancing if children/YP are involved? Harder to distance children - that's the point!

Sarah Ecob, General Manager, Venue Cymru 

It is worth looking at guidance for schools: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/actions-for-schools-during-the-coronavirus-outbreak/guidance-for-full-opening-schools Key elements will be setting out clear guidelines for children / YP & their parents or guardians before sessions, having cleaning materials on hand and used during sessions, plenty of hand washing before & during sessions, not accepting any child or YP that feels ill & having a plan for what to do if a child or YP becomes ill during a session, planning activities around social distancing, informing parents or guardians that contact information may be used for Test, Track, Protect if someone in the group later finds out that they have Covid. 




Arts Working Group 

Have you set a timeline for the generation of the tool kit

It has been agreed by the group that we will release this in module form prioritising in a methodical chronological order. Work has commenced already and we hope to bring the next module available as soon as we can.

 

As a student about to graduate in Arts and Cultural Management, what is the realistic job market that I will be graduating into? Where should I be focusing my efforts?

Kai Aberdeen, General Theatre Manager, Princes Theatre 

Good question,I will answer from my perspective rather than speak for the group as there may be different requirements nationally and in individual establishments. Currently I will not be looking for additional staff as I need to ensure I can, to the best of my abilities, provide support for the existing staff. My advice would be to get a good CV together and distribute it as far as your travel capabilities allow. Also, be prepared to accept an entry level job if offered as at least it is a foot in the door. 

 

Sarah Ecob, General Manager, Venue Cymru 

I would suggest that this person tries to get some experience working with a venue if they haven't already. It's difficult at the moment but there might be theatres looking for help with social media or administration around planning.

 

Vincent McCann, Theatre Director, Market Place Theatre and Arts Centre

First of all, don't be disheartened by the current situation. Try to obtain some work experience if you don't have it already. All venues are going to have to adapt and new thinking from the younger generation will be something of value.

 

It would be interesting to hear examples of how any other venues have repurposed themselves for alternative uses whilst it hasn't been possible to operate as a theatre/concert venue.

Kai Aberdeen, General Theatre Manager, Princes Theatre 

As discussed in the webinar, theatres have done what they do best improvised and adapted for the good of all. whether this has been as a food distribution centre, hospital, using the box office system for isolated and vulnerable people to buy food shopping and have it delivered (this was pre supermarkets increasing capacity to cope with the sudden demand), training rooms for back to work i.e. Health and Safety training, first aid, new s procedures etc.

 

Has anyone found a useful approach to scenario planning? Any tools/resources that are available?

Jennifer Huygen,Engagement and Policy Manager, Community Leisure UK 

Risk assessments from the health and social care department might be worth considering: https://www.hse.gov.uk/simple-health-safety/risk/index.htm

 

Getting Operational and Reopening

It might be worthwhile talking to outdoor venues such as Chester Zoo to find out how they have reopened successfully and invite them to share best practice. Great to hear so many different voices in the session

Kai Aberdeen, General Theatre Manager, Princes Theatre 

Great idea we are open to listen to any organisation that has already negotiated their way round the pitfalls of reopening. learning what has worked for them and what they got wrong may prove invaluable.

 

What are your concerns about losing physical audiences, and will virtual provision remain part of your strategy when we return to 'normal'

Kai Aberdeen, General Theatre Manager, Princes Theatre 

Apart from the obvious financial concerns, there is a risk that the short term virtual solution be adopted into a longer term level of normality. This could damage the concept of traditional theatre post Covid-19.

 

Vincent McCann, Theatre Director, Market Place Theatre and Arts Centre

Financial concerns are huge. Equally big is the existential question - if we can't have audiences, what are we there for? ALthough virtual provision may feature, I can only see it as an addendum, not the central function.

 

Are there any general views on ticketing policies and finding a way to encourage audiences to book when people may be feeling nervous about booking in advance but then not being able to attend on the day due to needing to self isolate?

Kai Aberdeen, General Theatre Manager, Princes Theatre 

Ticketing policies will need to be looked at including terms and conditions. suggested inclusions be, non liability for any customer contracting, despite the venue making every effort to ensure customer safety, customers responsible for their own health and well being, refund policies. suggested addendums will be included in the next toolkit.

 

Vincent McCann, Theatre Director, Market Place Theatre and Arts Centre

I think this will need to be carefully managed. It is clear that customers want a no-risk booking policy. We'll have to find a way that protects the customer while not going so far that it could be detrimental to the venue & company. It is also a discussion that needs to take place between the venue and companies that are hiring the venue or if we're splitting door income.

 

What sort of lead time are venues thinking about between from getting a green light to open, putting together a programme and then realising that programme

Kai Aberdeen, General Theatre Manager, Princes Theatre 

There are many variables to be considered in this including, the type of show, customer confidence and sufficient marketing time to ensure adequate sales. 

 

For those who operate membership schemes for your audience, how have you found the response from your members so far and are you finding ways to encourage them to renew/stay with you?

Emma Butler Smith, Chief Executive, Marina Theatre

We have had good responses from our members. We are keeping them up-to-date via emails & their renewal rate is pretty good (though the biggest renewal period is October, so who knows where we'll be then). Some are asking what else they can do, we are thanking & pointing towards donate-donate-donate.

 

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