17th May 2021
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Let’s Go Outside: Outdoor Theatres Underway For Summer In The UK

Let’s Go Outside_ Outdoor Theatres Underway For Summer In The UK
By Michelle Sciarrotta

Outdoor theatres could be the latest solution to reopening the Arts and entertainment industry in time for summer 2021. Following a string of creative and pioneering ideas that have taken shape in the last year including Zorbing balls, drive-in shows, and good old social distancing indoors, it could well be that the ancient Greeks and Romans held the key to putting on shows throughout a pandemic all along – minus the cup of tea in one hand and umbrella in the other, of course.

Why now?

The move outdoors is one that seems logical when looking at the bigger picture and the lasting effects the ever-changing government guidance has had on venues and companies in the UK over the last year; the endless flip-flopping on allowing shows to open, only to ultimately have the doors close once more at short notice has been a recurring theme over the last 12 months.

While many endeavoured to strictly follow procedures such as keeping audiences 2 metres apart, taking temperature readings, enforcing mask wearing, introducing one-way systems, and the training of staff to implement these measures, some have decided that making the move to outdoor theatres has a better chance of success in 2021.

New Construction

Speaking with The Guardian, the Arcola Theatre outlined their plans for Arcola Outside, which will be a specially built outdoor theatre area with a capacity for approximately 80. Arcola’s executive director Ben Todd explained:

“That need to move outside was a way of saying, ‘Let’s do something proactive towards taking some control of our destiny rather than sitting there praying for Covid to improve, or the government to allow us, and to hope that we can then suddenly move back indoors.”

In collaboration with the 2012 Paralympic games opening ceremony creator Jon Bausor, the plans for Arcola Outside implement many of the Covid features that we know to be integral after this year of trial and error: the spacing for audience members factors in social distancing and has been drawn up with Imperial College scientists in order to implement a gap between the roof and the walls so that natural air circulation will flow.

Health Passports

Other attempts to reopen are also happening in the UK music industry, whereby the Music Venue Trust is in the process of creating a series of trial events as experiments. Building on the previous incarnation of an app called You Check that had the initial function of preventing ticket touts, the app has potential to be implemented as part of the ‘test and trace’ concept.

Music Venue Trust in collaboration with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport is set to run experiments in March at the 100 Club in London, and The Exchange in Bristol. While several trial gigs were undertaken across music venues and theatres across the UK in 2020, the new measures being trialled next month with MVT include testing a newly installed ventilation system, improved mask designs, and experimenting with UV light radiation.

Speaking to Event Industry News, Music Venue Trust’s CEO Mark Davyd said:

“You Check’s identity first solution has a lot of potential to help venues and promoters manage risk. It has a fast and thorough authentication process which enables health information to be stored against portable digital identity and Music Venue Trust is pleased to be working with You Check to explore how this technology might form part of a comprehensive process which enables us to reopen every venue safely and revive live.”

Whether we need to wrap up extra warm in order to enjoy outdoor theatres in the great British summer, or we need to make a few technological developments before we get gigging again, the future has potential to bring culture, jobs, and pleasure back to the UK in 2021.

Also by Michelle Sciarrotta:

Accessibility At The Smith Center Series: Part One

James “Fitz” FitzSimmons Interview: The Boys In The Band On Netflix

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