Easing the lockdown: Government announces new measures

As lockdown continues to ease across the UK, we provide regularly updated guidance on the restrictions in place in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, and their effect on musicians and the music sector.

Page updated 17 September 2020


Be aware, from 31 July, some of England will have localised restrictions.

Social distancing

The two-metre social distancing rule has been changed to a ‘one metre plus’ policy in England. This means people are encouraged to maintain two metres apart ‘wherever feasible and mitigating the risks at one metre where not’, by taking precautions to reduce the risk of transmission.

Places of worship

Places of worship are able to open for prayers and services in England, including weddings with a maximum of 30 people and subject to social distancing. See our guidance for music professionals working in places of worship.

What about music and live performance?

On 25 June, the government announced a five-stage roadmap to get music, theatre, and other live performance venues back to full operation.

The five stages are:

Stage one
: Rehearsal and training (no audiences and adhering to social distancing guidelines)

Stage two
: Performances for broadcast and recording purposes (adhering to social distancing guidelines)

Stage three
: Performances outdoors with an audience plus pilots for indoor performances with a limited distance audience

Stage four
: Performances allowed indoors/outdoors (but with a limited distanced audience indoors)

Stage five
: Performances allowed indoors/outdoors (with a fuller audience indoors)

Stage four began on 15 August, and socially distanced indoor live performances can now reopen.

There is no fixed date for the return of full indoor live performances (stage five). Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden stated that he would not be able to give a date for stage five until November 'at the earliest'.

DCMS have published guidance for people who work in performing arts in England. You can read more about this in our guidance for performers.

What about musicians who work from home or who visit other people’s homes?

The government has confirmed that face-to-face instrumental tuition can take place in England, provided that you have undertaken a risk assessment and taken all steps to make your place of work COVID-secure, with all necessary steps to minimise the risk of infection. This includes the teaching of singing, woodwind instruments, and brass instruments, which the government has confirmed is allowed.

Please see our more detailed guidance for private music teachers and our health and safety and risk assessment guidance.

Northern Ireland

Social distancing was reduced from two metres to one metre in Northern Ireland on 29 June, with some restrictions. The Stormont Executive agreed that people should keep two metres distance where possible, but can come within no less than one metre where appropriate mitigations can be made.

Weddings in Northern Ireland can take place indoors from 10 July in line with social distancing, the Stormont Executive has agreed. Guidance will be provided that says sizes of venues will determine how many people can safely attend weddings.

On 5 August Arts Council of Northern Ireland published a guidance manual, providing practical measures to support the safe reopening of arts performance venues in NI. It includes guidance on performing, singing and playing wind and brass instruments, touring, cleaning and the opening of venues. For more detail, please read our guidance for performers.

The start of term was 24 August for primary 7, year 12 and year 14 pupils and for vulnerable children across all year groups. Read our schools and private teaching guidance for more information.


The social distancing minimum of two metres is still in force in Scotland.

Scotland remains in phase 3 of the route map out of lockdown. The Scottish government provided an update on 10 September.

From 24 August live outdoor events can resume subject to physical distancing, enhanced hygiene measures, restricted numbers and adherence to the guidance for the performing arts and venues.

The indicative date for the return of indoor live events, theatres, live music/concert halls and other indoor entertainment venues is now Monday 5 October. Again, this will be conditional on physical distancing, restricted numbers and following the requisite guidance.

Schools in Scotland reopened full time from 11 August. Further information on private teaching and schools is available.


Social distancing in Wales remains unchanged for adults at present: the two metre rule is still in force, but there are some differences for children in schools.

Children under 11 no longer have to social distance from each other. Older children and young adults have to maintain social distancing of 2m from each other in line with advice for adults.

Wedding ceremonies at licenced venues can resume. From 22 August, wedding, civil partnership or funeral receptions are allowed for up to 30 people indoors if social distancing can be maintained.

Pubs and bars are able to re-open indoor spaces.

Theatres and concert halls remain closed in Wales. Some pilots are taking place to test the viability of large scale outdoor events. On 15 September, the Welsh Government published Rehearsing, performing and taking part in the performing arts: guidance for a phased return. For more information, see our performing guidance.

On 14 August, the Welsh government announced that it is still not possible for people to meet indoors with other people who aren’t part of their household or extended household. Our advice for private music teachers remains that those who have moved to teaching online should continue to do so.

Individual legal advice

ISM members can contact the legal team on [email protected] is to seek clarification on specific circumstances.

Next steps

We have produced health and safety and risk assessment guidance for private music teachers, as well as guidance for performers, musicians working in places of worship and musicians working in schools.

We will update members as new information emerges.

As COVID-19 restrictions continue to lift, the ISM is working with the sector, Government, and our members to fight for the future of music and get the best deal for music professionals. Find out more about our campaigning, including how you can help.