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London launches a massive domestic tourism campaign as England progresses to the next stage of the reopening roadmap.

Sadiq Khan at London's Pride Festival, 2016
Sadiq Khan at London Pride, 2016. A new domestic tourism campaign will use culture to attract people back to the capital

Cultural venues in England can reopen with limited capacity and other Covid safety measures from May 17.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has provided the longed-for confirmation that theatres, cinemas and concert halls, as well as hospitality-centred venues, will be able to welcome indoor audiences next week under stage 3 of the Government's roadmapto recovery.

The announcement heralds the first taste of a return to normality for the sector in many months and with more than a third of UK adults fully vaccinated, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.


"We are optimisitc that this announcement paves the way for a full reopening from June 21 and it is hugely encouraging to see audience confidence growing, reflected in increasing ticket sales," SOLT and UK Theatre Chief Executive Julian Bird said.

"Today's announcement... is very good news."

But there are still difficulties ahead: "Most theatres are not financially viable with audiences below 70% capacity," Theatres Trust Director Jon Morgan commented.

They are unlikely to open until the maximum indoor capacity of 50% or 1000 people, whichever is lower, is increased, Morgan said.

"We hope the results of the Government’s Events Research Programme will enable the confident return of full audiences at stage 4."

Let's Do London

Public art installations and late-night events will form part of a new domestic tourism campaign for London.

Newly re-elected Mayor Sadiq Khan launched Let's Do London on Monday, announcing a £6m programme of "one-off special events", starting with a culinary festival later this month before major creative events including London Fashion Week and Frieze London return in autumn.

West End street furniture will be redesigned by Royal Academy artists, David Hockney will create a special artwork at Piccadilly Circus Station, and 'Asphalt Art', a series of streetscape commissions led by designer Yinka Ilori, will turn central London "into a huge outdoor art gallery".

Galleries, museums and music venues and will extend their opening hours, BAFTA and the BFI will host outdoor film screenings, and a series of midnight matinees will take place at Shakespeare's Globe.

Cultural sector partners on the Let's Do London campaign include major venues like the Barbican, Royal Opera House, Sadler's Wells and Southbank Centre.

Khan commented: "My mission over the next three years is to put the dark days of the pandemic behind us and to deliver a better and brighter future for London – creating a fairer, greener and more prosperous city."

Safety first

Events able to restart next week are those that previously presented too much risk because they encourage large groups to congregate and enter or leave venues at the same time. 

The 'rule of six' will soon apply to indoor gatherings, with up to 30 people allowed outdoors. Social distancing must be maintained outside of friend and family bubbles.

Restrictions differ in Scotland, where cultural venues currently face a two-metre social distancing requirement, and in Wales and Northern Ireland, which are yet to provide detailed plans for the sector's reopening.

The Prime Minister has advised people to continue socialising outdoors where possible. Without Walls, a consortium of about 30 festivals and outdoor arts organisations, said it was pleased to have been invited to government roundtable discussions about reopening the sector.

"Public safety at our events is paramount, and Without Walls partners have worked together over the last year to develop a range of resources and guidelines for artists and organisations to have the confidence to present work in outdoor settings," Chair Josephine Burns said.

Bird, of SOLT & UK Theatre, said theatres will follow its DCMS-endorsed See It Safely toolkit, providing venues with a Covid-safe checkmark for audience confidence.