We have been working with the DCMS to bring you guidance and are providing resources to help you decide how and when you can resume activity safely.
It goes without saying that the decision to begin rehearsing will be different for your organisation than for others, and you will need to look carefully at your facilities and possibly follow a temporary relocation to comply with spacing. The most important thing is to maintain the health and safety of your group, so only proceed when you have a plan in place that makes that possible. It is also beholden on your band not to pressure members to return if they are not yet comfortable with the risk level that rehearsing poses. It is important to note that, although activity in certain circumstances is allowed in the guidance, it is not necessarily 100% safe, even with all measures possible in place.
Brass Bands England (BBE) has been working in conjunction with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to confirm that, from 17 May, brass bands can return to both rehearsing and performing when social distancing is in place. This is in line with Stage 3 of the planned recovery ‘roadmap’ previously announced.
Please see below the latest information relating to brass band activity and the COVID-19 Pandemic. Please take careful notice of all of its contents and take all steps recommended by the DCMS before and during any return to banding that you or your band chooses to undertake. We hope that this provides some light at the end of a very long tunnel and that you and your band members remain safe and healthy at all times.
BBE's latest guidance can be found here
Returning to rehearsal resources
Where do you fit into the guidance?
The guidance has become more clear than was the case under the previous tier system, so BBE has withdrawn the previous decision tree as all bands now fall under the same guidelines. Under the recovery roadmap the stages that affect band activity are as follows.
Stage 3 - 17 May 2021 (Confirmed)
- The performing arts guidance (https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/performing-arts) published on Tuesday 18 May makes it clear that non-professional activity can resume both inside and outside, although participants must remain in groups within the legal gathering limits of 6 indoors and 30 outdoors. However, there is an exemption to allow multiple permitted groups to occupy the same facilities and be directed by a single individual. It is important not to let these permitted groups mix either on arrival, during or when leaving the planned activity. BBE recommends treating each member as a single group of one to help ensure that no unnecessary mixing takes place. This process is the same as in the previously published risk assessments.
Events permitted in Step 3 (which include live performances) should follow all COVID-secure guidance, adhere to all legal requirements and take all reasonable action to mitigate risk to public health.
There are capacity caps which apply to both indoor events (up to 1,000 people or 50% of a site or venue’s capacity, whichever is lower) and outdoor events (up to 4,000 people or 50% of a site or venue’s capacity, whichever is lower). Different capacity caps apply to larger venues and events.
If you are planning a performance, BBE has produced an additional performance risk assessment, which should be used in addition to the relevant rehearsal activity risk assessment. See Performances.
Stage 4 - 21 June 2021 (Provisional)
- Legal social distancing will be removed. Guidance on reducing transmission will be published and its implementation recommended.
- Performance capacity larger than stage 3 will be allowed.
BBE has produced four example Risk Assessments to support the work bands will need to do to make the activity sit within the current DCMS guidance. Bands should refer initially to the support guidance found here and then the Risk Assessment for the relevant type of rehearsal within the current guidance. We have also created a handy guide to show your members.
A PDF version can be downloaded here
Example Risk Assessments
Once you have checked which risk assessment to use, please choose from those below
BBE has designed the published risk assessments to meet the requirements in all stages of the recovery roadmap and recommends that these are followed to maintain a consistent approach, especially when members may attend different organisation. Those who previously used a BBE risk assessment will have these additional requirements in place. The additional requirements are:
A face covering must be used at all times when not playing. This includes percussion while playing and conductors (who may choose to use a face visor for visibility of their face.
Move outdoors where possible.
If indoors, ensure that rooms are ventilated by keeping windows and doors open. This may mean you need to remind members to arrive with suitable clothing as being cold does not remove this requirement.
The requirements for social distancing must be observed. Bands can use the relevant BBE risk assessment as a starting point for their risk assessment. These have been designed to maintain distances between all participants during the activity, which makes them suitable for use in all tiers.
Consider the case for performing (or not) given the wider health context of your area with particular regard if vulnerable individuals are involved.
If you do plan to proceed, you should limit the number of performers as far as possible, which must be in line with the rest of the performing arts guidance.
Due to aerosol transmission it is important to limit the total number of individuals involved as much as possible.
Social distancing should be maintained at 2m. In particular, non-professionals should not engage in activities that may lead to social distancing being compromised.
When it becomes possible for performances to take place there are significant additional measures that need to be taken into account in this case. BBE has published an additional risk assessment template for use when planning a performance, which should be used in addition to the rehearsal risk assessments previously published.
Covid-19 Frequently Asked Questions
See below to find answers to frequently asked questions relating to Covid-19 and its impact on playing and returning to banding. This information will be updated as new guidelines are published by the DCMS.
Returning to band
Can we return to normal band activity?
It is now possible for all bands to organise socially distanced rehearsals both indoors and outdoors. It is important that rehearsals are structured to take into account the legal limits on gatherings where multiple groups can be led by a single indevidual conductor although measures must be made to ensure different groups don't mix. BBE recomends treating everyone in attendance as groups of 1 to make coordinating participants simpler. Please see our published risk assesments for advice on how to plan your specific activity.
How many people can play together inside or outside?
Bands can meet outdoors in groups of 30 with social distancing and indoors in 6 although miltiple groups who don't mix can be in the same venue and conducted by a single indevidual.
According to guidance, what is classed as a venue?
Anywhere a band meets to play. There is no specific definition, but all venues must follow COVID-secure guidelines. This might include community facilities, owned bandrooms, local concert halls etc.
What difference does it make whether we own our bandroom or venue we are renting?
There is no difference.
What difference does it make whether we are a charity or business, or neither?
There is now no difference in terms of Covid guidance. This was in an early version of the DCMS guidelines and has now been clarified to include any formal organisation (i.e. has a committee or a constitution etc. including non registered charities or community groups).
Do we need to do a risk assessment and are templates available?
Yes. All activity must have a risk assessment in place to ensure COVID-secure guidelines are followed
Risk assessment templates are available here: https://www.bbe.org.uk/what-we-do/covid-19-advice-guidance-and-resources
Can different groups play together or one after another? For example, a youth band followed by a senior band.
It is best practice not to mix groups of players between different bands if this is feasible but there is no legislation preventing a member playing with another group. Spaces should be sufficiently ventilated and cleaning of the space should take place between groups rehearsing.
If a member gets COVID-19, do we all need to quarantine and for how long?
If a member should fall ill, they should seek medical advice and get tested. During this time, you should consider stopping gatherings. In the event of a positive test, individuals should follow the advice of the test and trace service. This may include members of the band being asked to self-isolate at home for a period of time as a result of the track and trace data you must collect.
Does the band have to stop rehearsing until that member receives a negative test result?
No, but the advice of the track and trace service should be followed and members of the band might have been asked to self isolate for a period of time. You should not operate a rehearsal if you think it is dangerous to do so.
Is there special guidance for the over 70s or those ‘at risk’?
Players ‘at risk’ should make their own judgement about whether it is safe for them to attend, but there is no specific additional guidance for 70-plus members or those at risk.
Who has liability if a COVID-19 infection breaks out amongst the band? Is this the band trustees/committee or the owners of the venue?
The liability lies with the trustees or the chair of the band in the way it normally would for any other health and safety matter. Provided everything has been done to mitigate risk and guidelines have been followed, there should be no additional liability. The band also has a duty of care to any employees, for example, the conductor. In the case of a space that you rent, the building management is responsible for ensuring the space is COVID-secure, although this does mean you must follow their requirements you have agreed to when booking the space.
Do we need to take a register of attendees?
A record needs to be maintained of who has attended each rehearsal, along with contact details. This is to facilitate test and trace if required. GDPR rules should be applied to keeping data, but information can be passed on for test and trace purposes as safeguarding is exempt from GDPR. It is a good idea to find out who is attending rehearsals in advance and, to minimise risks of contact, not to have people turn up unexpectedly. You can use the governments track and Trace app to display a QR code for your venue from this link https://www.gov.uk/create-coronavirus-qr-poster
Do we need to wear masks, and what protection does the conductor need?
Current guidance is that face masks should be used in all enclosed spaces. Players should wear masks when entering and departing, and whenever they are not actually playing. Percussion players should ware a mask throughout rehearsals. The conductor should wear a mask or visor at all times, in which case a screen is not compulsory for the conductor.
Do we need to use bell covers and screens?
Research shows one of the biggest risks when playing is the accumulation of aerosols in the air so you should take all possible steps to reduce this accumulation. Research also shows that bell covers do limit the spread of aerosols in the air, in the same way that a mask does on a person. The DCMS guidance (which is not activity specific) says shields or mitigating measures should be used to minimise the accumulation of aerosols in enclosed spaces; it is therefore our recommendation to either use bell covers or erect screens between players. A distance of 2m still needs to be applied as the guidance says non-professionals must not compromise social distancing when in groups. Tested bell covers have been made of high density poly-cotton weave material. These must be washed by the player. The louder the playing the more aerosols will potentially be produced! We advise against the use of mutes, which are hard to clean and often get shared. Keeping the bell-cover on at all times is the safest option.
How can music and stands be handled safely?
Music should not be given out in rehearsals. Ideally, everyone should be sent electronic music and bring it on an electronic device, but failing that each member should look after their own music and bring it to the rehearsal. Alternatively, a couple of volunteers can set out the music on everyone’s chairs prior to the rehearsal and then have players retain it. Laminating or the use of plastic wallets is a good way of keeping music so that it can be wiped clean if necessary. Unless the same players are using the same stands and they are left in place from one rehearsal to the next, everyone should bring and take away their own one.
Do I need to ventilate the room and how?
Windows and doors should be open to bring in as much fresh air as possible. Mechanical ventilation is acceptable if it is bringing in fresh air and should be used. It is suggested that you have breaks in playing for everyone to leave the room (still distancing) to allow the air to refresh. Our recommendation is to have a 10-minute break in a standard 2-hour band rehearsal.
How should we be seated?
Players need to be 2 metres apart and not facing or playing at someone else. In non-professional settings this spacing must not be compromised.
Can parents or spectators attend the rehearsal?
This is not advisable unless needed for safeguarding reasons, in which case this should be kept to a minimum number. Distancing of 2 metres should also apply.
How should we arrive and depart safely?
Players should arrive, sanitise and register before taking a seat. You might need to lay out markers to ensure 2m spacing is observed as people arrive. Cases might need to be left outside if their presence limits social distancing. Seats should be laid out in advance with players moving directly to them. Players should set up their own stand, equipment and music. At the end of the session, players should pack up their own personal equipment and leave, maintaining distances of 2m. Organisers might need to ask members to stagger leaving by section to ensure 2m distancing while leaving. Chairs should be cleaned and packed away by a nominated individual if they cannot be left out.
How often does cleaning need to take place?
Cleaning needs to take place every time different groups use the venue. Ideally 72 hours should be left between different groups using a venue to avoid surface contamination, but this can be lowered with sufficient cleaning. It may be advisable to use plastic coverings on fabric seating if alternative hard seats are not available. Toilets and communal areas need to be cleaned. Toilets should operate on a one in, one out basis. Hand sanitisers should be available for everyone to use as they enter the venue.
How should we empty water keys?
Each player should bring a towel onto which they should empty the water from their instrument, taking it home to wash.
Research and Guidance
Where can I find a link to the latest DCMS Guidance?
Where can I find a link to BBE’s laboratory research results?
Where can I find more guidance and templates from BBE?
As always, if you have questions on restarting activities then please contact us on 01226 771015 or email@example.com. We are currently experiencing a high volume of calls so please be assured we will get back to you but it may take us some time. Our web resources might be able to help you sooner.
- Brass Band Emergency Fund is available to support bands in crisis - https://www.bbe.org.uk/brass-band-emergency-fund
- Watch some of our Development Programme Online Workshops- https://www.facebook.com/watch/551849244861772/1114881452180663/
- Our free Brass for Brass competition can help you win your band's membership each month as well as individual prizes - https://www.bbe.org.uk/what-we-do/brass-brass-free-monthly-competition
- Apply for funding - https://www.bbe.org.uk/what-we-do/access-funding
- Get BandFit! Check out our guide from the start of lockdown for some ideas you might not have got round to yet - https://www.bbe.org.uk/member/resource/bbe-guide-getting-your-band-ready-survive-the-covid-19-isolation-and-come-out