What events can I run in the UK? A guide to leaving lockdown

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On 22nd February 2021, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a new four-stage plan for the easing of lockdown in the UK. 

The question on everyone’s lips, of course, is what exactly does this mean for the events we miss so much?  

When can exercise classes start? Do they have to be indoors, or outdoors, and how many people can attend? When can we get back to gigging? And will there be a limit on attendance capacity? What about conferences? Exhibitions? Nightclub events? 

The Government’s roadmap outlines all of this – although there are a fair few caveats to get your head around too. The main one being that:

The dates on the roadmap are the earliest that we can expect each set of restrictions to lift.

These are subject to what the data shows (so if there’s a surge in Covid cases they might change) – although Boris Johnson did say that once each set of restrictions is lifted, there’ll be no going back. 

Let’s take a look at the key dates in the roadmap, and what they mean for events. 

Stage one

From 8th March – one-to-one outdoor sessions and virtual events

Not much is going to change in the way of events from 8th of March – people are still only allowed to meet outdoors with one person outside of their household or support bubble. Things you can do include:

  • One-to-one outdoor fitness sessions, like yoga and personal training

  • Other one-to-one outdoor classes or sessions, like walking therapy

You’d need to be socially distanced for these. And travel restrictions still apply – so you’ll have to travel to your client, not the other way around, as technically they shouldn’t be travelling very far for excercise.

Of course, let’s not forget the almighty virtual event, which will still be largely holding the fort for this period. 

From 29th March – organised outdoor sports and activities (without spectators)

The rule for mixing outdoors: From 29th March we’ll be able to meet outdoors in a group of six or up to two households. Any classes held outdoors will need to be held in line with this rule. So individuals/groups that arrived together will still need to socially distance from individuals/groups they didn’t arrive with. 

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Outdoor organised sports events

29th March should see outdoor sports venues opening, with organised outdoor classes allowed to take place in line with the rule described above. 

Spectators aren’t allowed at any events though. And indoor changing rooms are not allowed to be used. 

Things you’ll be able to do include:

  • Outdoor yoga classes

  • Outdoor swimming classes

  • Outdoor driving and shooting range events

  • Horse riding lessons

  • Outdoor tennis and badminton sessions

A note on group sports: Even though outdoor sports venues will be opened, attendees to the venues will still have to stick to the ‘rule of 6 or 2 households’. That means it won’t be possible for, say, a football game to take place where there are lots of people from different households mixing. On the other hand, activities like tennis and swimming are fine, as they don’t rely on lots of people mixing.

Parent-and-child events

Official childcare businesses will be able to host all outdoor childcare activities, as well as outdoor parent-and-child events of up to 15 people. 

Events could include:

  • Outdoor treasure hunts

  • Events at public parks 

  • Outdoor reading 

  • Outdoor art classes

  • Gardening groups

  • Organised walks and picnics 

Stage 2

From 12th April – outdoor hospitality, fairs & attractions, plus indoor leisure to open

We should be seeing some big changes from 12th of April, with pubs and restaurants allowed to open their outdoor spaces, and other major outdoor attractions opening. Indoor leisure will also be allowed to reopen at this stage. There’ll still be important limits to be aware of on all of the above, though. 

A quick caveat: While the plan is to let a lot of outdoor venues and attractions open at this time, that doesn’t stretch as far as large-scale festivals or elite spectator sports or performances. That kind of stuff isn’t going to be taking place until 17th May at the earliest (and even then at a reduced capacity).

Outdoor hospitality 

Pubs and restaurants will be allowed to open their outdoor areas – but they’ll only be able to offer table service (with groups only attending in a maximum or 6 or 2 households). People can drink without eating a ‘substantial meal’, though, meaning all kinds of events can start up again. These might include:

  • Food and drink markets with live music 

  • Live beer-garden comedy nights 

  • Outdoor pub bingo

  • Beer garden raffles and fundraisers 

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Organised outdoor events – village fetes and grassroots spectator sports

At this stage, smaller scale outdoor events can also be organised by businesses, charities, public bodies and similar organisations, as well as businesses. They’ll have to undergo a thorough risk assessment and stick to social distancing rules – attendees still won’t be allowed to mix in groups of more than 6 or 2 households. 

The Government has also said that spectators will be allowed at smaller/grassroots sporting events – like at a local football match. The same goes for things like outdoor community charity events and village fetes.

Drive-in events

This period should also see drive-in events return – including:

Outdoor attractions

Most mainstream outdoor attractions should also be allowed to open from this date – that’s your theme parks, zoos, heritage sites, funfairs, film studios, skating rinks and the like. Basically – if attraction is outdoors, it’s probably going to be ok to host an event at (as long as social distancing is possible so the rule of 6 or 2 households can be adhered to). 

This should provide a bit more scope for event planners who work in sectors like charity and childcare, who can look to hire some of these outdoor spaces to start hosting events. 

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Indoor leisure

Indoor leisure venues should be able to open their doors again at this stage, but for limited purposes. Indoor exercise classes won’t be allowed to help stave off large groups of people working out in the same room at the same time. So it’ll be one-on-one sessions only for now.

Stage 3

From 17th May – audiences at larger scale events, conferences, indoor hospitality and attractions

All being well, this should be when things start to feel semi-normal again. People will be allowed to attend festivals, concerts, elite sports games and gigs – albeit at half capacity: 

For outdoor events: event organisers will be allowed to run their events at either half capacity or 4000 attendees (whichever number is lower).

For indoor events: event organisers will be allowed to run their events at either half capacity or 1000 attendees (whichever number is lower).

Indoor venues and attractions will be able to open too – including hospitality venues like pubs and restaurants. It’ll be table service only though. 

The rule of 6 / 2 households will still be in place for all of the above.

Here’s a look at some of the events you’ll be able to run from 17th May (all being well):

Bearing the above capacity and social distancing rules in mind, fingers crossed from 17th of May we’ll be seeing these kinds of events taking place: 

  • Festivals – music, arts, culture, food – you name it!

  • Exhibitions 

  • Theatre 

  • Concerts

  • Live comedy 

  • Bingo and games

  • Conferences

  • Elite sports matches and events

Stage 4

From June 21st – nightclubs

Although we hardly dare jinx it… stage 4 should see the dropping of pretty much all restrictions. Of course, only the data will tell whether this will be possible. But if things do go to plan, the government has said this is when we’d be seeing nightclubs reopening. 

There may be a little bit of waiting left to do yet, but finally there really does seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel. Here’s to welcoming our treasured events industry back into the fold with wide-open arms.