Risk Assessment

Risk Assessment

Introduction

This article only applies to England as people in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have different guidelines.

This article outlines when real-life impro could legally come back following current government guidelines and what safety guidelines improv would have to follow when coming back.

This article is free for other improv companies and the wider improv scene to use too, we hope it is helpful and please let us know if you think anything needs modifying. If please possible please credit our website (www.hooplaimpro.com) and mention us on social media (@hooplaimpro) if using.

This article does not reflect when Hoopla will actually come back, as to be on the safe side we will be coming back more gradually than current government guidelines suggest and with our own additional safety measures put in place that we are developing over the summer.

We aren’t going to be rushing things, we’ll make sure everything is safe, we’ll be giving people full flexibility with bookings and we are going to make sure everything is still fun!

Please note this article only covers advice based on current UK Government Guidelines and SAGE. It does not cover additional scientific views, news or other sources external to UK Government Guidelines or SAGE.

This article is now going to look in detail at:

  1. When: Current timescales of when real-life impro is legally allowed to reopen following government guidelines.
  2. Safety: What government safety guidelines real-life impro would have to follow and a risk assessment of each scenario common in the improv scene.
  3. Fun: Ideas about how real-life impro could still be fun and spontaneous while following everything above. In fact, we’ll be aiming to make it more fun than it ever was!

The main reference used for government guidelines was The Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s “Guidance for people who work in performing arts, including arts organisations, venue operators and participants”. (6.)

There is also a full list of additional sources at the bottom of this article with references throughout.

 

1. When

Current timescales of when real-life impro is legally allowed to reopen following government guidelines.

Please note this isn’t a statement of when Hoopla will actually be coming back, as to be on the safe side we will be coming back more gradually than current government guidelines suggest and with our own additional safety measures put in place that we are developing over the summer.

1.1 Government Roadmap for the Performing Arts

The government have a five-stage roadmap to bring performing arts back safely, here it is with additional notes from us: (6)

Stage 1:

Rehearsal and training (no audiences) with social distancing – already allowed.

Stage 2:  

Indoor performances for broadcast and recording purposes (no audience) – already allowed.

Stage 3:

Performances outdoors with a limited socially distanced audience – from 11th July.

Pilots for indoor performances with a limited socially distanced audience – from 11th July.

Stage 4:

Performances outdoors – not sure if this is different from stage 3.

Performance indoors but with a limited socially distanced audience – from 1st August. (10)

Stage 5:

Performances outdoors with a fuller audience – no date set.

Performances indoors with a fuller audience – no date set.

1.2     Timescale for impro workshops

1.2.1     Outdoor impro workshops

  • Rehearsal and training (no audiences) with social distancing is already allowed. (6)
  • The public in general can meet outdoors in groups of up to six people from different households, following social distancing guidelines. (16)
  • Hoopla feel outside workshops with social distancing and other risk mitigations in place are low risk, so these are already in place over July and August at Hoopla.
  • It seems possible that rehearsals and workshops outside in public areas can go over 6 people according to reference (6):

“It is against the law for gatherings of more than 30 people to take place in private homes (including gardens and other outdoor spaces).

Businesses and venues following COVID-19 Secure guidelines can host larger groups. This is also the case for events in public outdoor spaces that are organised by businesses, charitable or political organisations, and public bodies, provided they take reasonable steps to mitigate the risk of transmission, in line with COVID-19 Secure guidance and including completion of a risk assessment. Any other gathering in an outdoor space must not be any larger than 30 people.” (6)

  • However, Hoopla is taking the safer option and currently limiting our Parkprov outside workshops to 6 people as per guidance for public, but this may change later in the summer as guidance becomes clearer.

1.2.2     Indoor impro workshops

  • Rehearsal and training (no audiences) with social distancing is already allowed. (6)
  • Dance studios can already reopen for professional dancers and choreographers. (6)
  • Dance studios can fully reopen from 25th (6)
  • Indoor workshops would have to be social distanced with additional risk mitigation in place, as outlined in the Safety section of this document. (6)
  • It is unclear what size workshops should be, just that they are at low enough numbers to maintain social distancing. (6)
  • Hoopla will not be bringing back real-life improv workshops immediately and will instead wait until at least Autumn to spend the summer:
    • Practicing socially distanced improv to make sure workshops are still fun and high quality.
    • Fully developing safety measures and training our teachers.
    • Improving venues following guidelines.
    • Communicating to our students/improvisers/audience.
    • Lowering the overall risk by coming back later when there is a lower overall rate of infection in the UK.

1.3     Timescale for improv shows

1.3.1     Outside improv shows

  • Performances outdoors with a limited socially distanced audience are allowed from 11th (6)
  • Performances outdoors would have to have social distancing and other risk mitigation in place. (6)
  • Guidance on outside audience size from reference (6):

 “It is against the law for gatherings of more than 30 people to take place in private homes (including gardens and other outdoor spaces).

Businesses and venues following COVID-19 Secure guidelines can host larger groups. This is also the case for events in public outdoor spaces that are organised by businesses, charitable or political organisations, and public bodies, provided they take reasonable steps to mitigate the risk of transmission, in line with COVID-19 Secure guidance and including completion of a risk assessment. Any other gathering in an outdoor space must not be any larger than 30 people.”

  • Hoopla doesn’t have any plans to put on outside shows, but it does look like an option for the summer so best of luck to companies that go for this.

1.3.2     Inside improv shows without audience for broadcast or recording

  • These are allowed already, if productions are socially distanced, with suitable risk mitigation in place. (6)
  • Productions should also government guidelines for safe broadcast and film production. (23.) (24.)
  • Hoopla don’t have any plans to do this, but Showstoppers already have this up and running and we highly recommend checking them out!

1.3.3     Inside improv shows with audience

  • These are allowed from 1st August but with a limited socially distanced audience. (10.)
  • Additional risk mitigation would be needed (6.), as detailed in the safety section of this document.
  • Hoopla will not be bringing back real-life improv shows on 1st August and will instead wait until later in Autumn to spend the summer:
    • Practicing socially distanced improv to make sure shows are still fun and high quality.
    • Fully developing safety measures and train our improvisers and staff.
    • Improving venues following guidelines.
    • Communicating to our improvisers/audience.
    • Lowering the overall risk by coming back later when there is a lower overall rate of infection in the UK.

1.4    Contradictions and the effect on real-life improv come back time

There are currently several contradictions between government advice for the performing arts and government advice for the public, and contradictions between government advice on websites and government announcements in media. (1.)(4.)(6.)

For these reasons there is a still some uncertainty around the best in-real-life workshop and shows comeback dates, and this another reason Hoopla will not be bringing back any real-life indoor improv activities until after the summer. In the meantime, we do have online improv workshops and shows running all summer.

 

2 Safety

What safety guidelines real-life impro would have to follow when coming back and a risk assessment of each scenario.

 2.1     Social Distancing, general government guidelines

On 26th June 2020 general UK Social Distancing guidance was updated to be “2 metres or 1 metre with risk mitigation (where 2m is not viable) are acceptable, and that businesses should set out the mitigations that they will introduce in their risk assessment.” (4)  

Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) performing arts guidance also advises “2 metres, wherever possible, or 1 metre with robust risk mitigation (where 2 metres is not viable), are acceptable. You should consider and set out the mitigations you will introduce in your risk assessment.” (6)

2.1.1     Risk Mitigation, General Advice

Keeping people at 2m distance if possible, or if this is not possible mitigating risk by doing the following general precautions at 1m+ social distancing: (4)

 Please note that not all the below would have to be done if 2m social distancing is in place, but many of them are still recommended.

  • Making sure events aren’t too crowded so that social distancing can take place. (4)
  • Improving ventilation with a good flow of fresh air or going outdoors. (4)
  • Changing room layouts to orientate people better to help social distancing. (4)
  • Increased handwashing and cough etiquette. (4) (6)
  • Increased cleaning of all surfaces and shared areas, including toilets. (4) (6)
  • An unambiguous message to staff/students/performers to stay home when symptomatic and to make sure they know what those symptoms are. (4)
  • Recording contact details and working patterns to support test and trace. (4)
  • Reducing the number of people each person has contact with by using ‘fixed teams or partnering’ (so each person works with only a few others). (6)
  • Direction of people (there is less risk from being people being side-to-side than face-to-face). (4) (6)
  • Lowering the length of time of events. (4) (6)
  • Keeping the activity time of any activity where social distancing cannot be maintained as short as possible. (6)
  • Using screens where feasible to separate individuals or fixed teams from each other where they cannot achieve social distancing. (6)
  • Wearing face coverings when distances of 2m cannot be kept in indoor environments where possible. (4)

Please note that not all the above would have to be done if 2m social distancing is in place, but many of them are still recommended.

 2.1.2     Hoopla’s Preference: 2m instead of 1m distancing, with many of the additional risk mitigation measures in place anyway.

Hoopla’s preference is to stick to a 2m social distance for all workshops and shows, for teachers, performers, students, audience and staff.

We feel that improv would still be possible and still be fun with this distancing in place, as outlined in later sections and blogs.

Many of the risk mitigation factors designed for the closer 1 metre social distance are also easy for us to implement and would not impact on the enjoyment of improv, so we will also be implementing many of the additional risk mitigations even with 2 metre social distance in place.

We feel that currently to go for 1m distance instead of 2m would need some risk mitigation factors in place that would not work with the nature of improv, and would also mean that workshops and shows would have to be too short in duration as the 1 metre distance is really designed for shorter interactions.

We also feel 1m would not feel safe or comfortable to our students at the current time as 2 metres has become so ingrained in behaviour. Also DCMS guidelines state “it is not recommended for non-professionals to consider activities that require social distancing to be compromised”(6.) and while many of our participants are doing improv professionally many are doing it for fun.

In addition to abiding by the upper social distancing limit of 2m we are also able to bring in the additional risk mitigation factors without any loss of the overall quality or fun of the improv:

  • Making sure events aren’t too crowded, (4) for instance by reducing capacity of shows and workshops so people can easily maintain a 2 metre social distance.
  • Improving ventilation or going outdoors, (4) for instance by opening windows and doors across the whole building.
  • Changing room layouts to orientate people better, (4) for instance by setting chairs and tables at a reasonable distance in workshop and show spaces.
  • Increase handwashing and cough etiquette, (4) for instance by making sure hand cleaning and toilet facilities are well stocked and clean and with guidance posters.
  • Thorough and regular cleaning of all surfaces and shared areas, including toilets, (4) by working with our venues and providing our own extra staff to increase cleaning.
  • An unambiguous message to staff/students/performers to stay home when symptomatic and to make sure they know what those symptoms are,(4) by communicating clearly by email and with posters.
  • Recording contact details and working patterns to support test and trace, (4) as detailed in another section of this article.
  • Reducing the number of people each person has contact with by using ‘fixed teams or partnering’ (so each person works with only a few others). (6)
  • Direction (there is less risk from being side-to-side than face-to-face), (4) for instance by modifying games and not having people face to face when closer together.
  • Lowering the length of time of events, (4) for instance making shows ticketed per group instead of the whole night.

By staying at 2 metres instead of going to 1 metre means the following will not have to be followed within show or workshop spaces:

  • Using screens where feasible to separate individuals or fixed teams from each other where they cannot achieve social distancing. (6)
  • Wearing face coverings when distances of 2m cannot be kept in indoor environments where possible. (4)

We feel having mandatory masks or putting screens between performers would not work with most improv exercises so we will not be using these and will therefore be working at 2 metre social distancing guidelines instead.

However, if people want to wear masks themselves, they will be allowed and in fact masks will be so normal by then that we don’t think it will stop the fun.

Screens might be used at key busy areas like reception desks, bars and box office, but not within the workshop space or on stage. 2 metre social distancing will be used instead so screens between performers don’t have to be used.

Once guidance on social distancing goes down to 1m (without risk mitigation) the improv scene will largely be back to normal.

2.2     Safety measures for outdoor impro workshops.

2.2.1     Participant numbers for outside improv workshops.

From DCMS Performing Arts Guidelines:

“Manage capacity and overcrowding to ensure social distancing is possible by limiting the number of people able to access the premises or venue. (6) Maximum capacity should consider appropriate social distancing given the nature of activities.” (6)

Hoopla will adhere to this for outdoor improv workshops by making the capacity for outside workshops in July and August to be just 6 people including teacher, in alignment with general social gathering guidance for the public, instead of our usual 12-16 people per workshop.

All tickets will be purchased online only, there will be no tickets available on the day. This means we can safely control numbers.

This capacity may increase over late summer as we get used to running them, as according to reference (6) it looks like a larger group size will be allowed:

“It is against the law for gatherings of more than 30 people to take place in private homes (including gardens and other outdoor spaces).

Businesses and venues following COVID-19 Secure guidelines can host larger groups. This is also the case for events in public outdoor spaces that are organised by businesses, charitable or political organisations, and public bodies, provided they take reasonable steps to mitigate the risk of transmission, in line with COVID-19 Secure guidance and including completion of a risk assessment. Any other gathering in an outdoor space must not be any larger than 30 people.” (6)

2.2.2     Social distancing of 2m for participants at an outside improv workshop.

  • Games and scenes to all be performed at minimum of 2m distance, with the teacher helpfully reminding participants if they look likely to break that.
  • Teacher to have a 2m measuring stick so people can see the distance required.
  • On arrival participants could put their coats/bags/picnic blanket down where they plan to sit when in audience, at 2m from each other.
  • Teacher to put down a rope to show limits of stage area to prevent actors in performing area going into audience area.
  • If possible, games and scenes to avoid direct face-to-face direction, but if this can’t be avoided the social distancing to be increased.

2.2.3     Ventilation for an outside improv workshop.

This is largely covered by being outside. As an additional measure the teacher could check prevalent wind direction so that wind is taking air away from stage area without going over the audience and away from the audience without going over the stage.

2.2.4     Singing in an outside improv workshop

Singing and loud talking is still being investigated by government with evidence still developing. (6) Therefore, Hoopla are waiting until later in the process to bring singing back to real-life improv workshops, and they will currently be at normal conversational sound level. We will update this section following new advice later in the summer.

2.2.5     Handwashing for an outside improv workshop

  • Teachers to know where nearest toilet facilities are available.
  • Anti-viral hand sanitiser to be available and students made aware of its location.
  • Staff to be trained in regular handwashing before and after workshops and in breaks.

2.2.6     Preventing overcrowding in shared areas for an outside impro workshop

  • Choose a meeting place that is away from already crowded areas, for instance in the park rather than in a tube station ticket hall.
  • Ask people to spread out bags on arrival rather than put in one pile, so people aren’t going to the same area to pick up water bottles and things.
  • Maintain social distancing during breaks and walks to public transport.
  • All bookings will be online only with paperless tickets. There will be no bookings available on the day and no cash sales or paper tickets.

2.2.7     People with symptoms or self-isolating to not come to outside improv workshops

  • Making sure no-one with symptoms of COVID-19 – a new continuous cough, fever, a high temperature or a recent change in sense of smell or taste – is at the event. Anyone with these symptoms should be sent home immediately and seek a test from NHS 119. (6) People will be asked in advance to not come if they have symptoms, and our staff will refuse entry to people who have symptoms.
  • Individuals self-isolating should also not come to, or near to, performing arts activities. (6) This will also be communicated in emails building up to each event.
  • If one member of a course displays symptoms, we will follow the test and trace guidance for contacts. (6)
  • People at higher risk (elderly, clinically vulnerable, visually impaired or hearing impaired) should be contacted individually for additional support and individual tailor-made guidance so that they can still maintain social distancing and be safe. (6) Higher risk individuals should not attend performing arts events in person at the moment unless essential and for professional purposes. (6)

2.3     Safety measures for an indoor impro workshop.

2.3.1     Participant numbers for indoor improv workshops.

From DCMS Performing Arts Guidelines:

“Manage capacity and overcrowding to ensure social distancing is possible by limiting the number of people able to access the premises or venue. (6) Maximum capacity should consider appropriate social distancing given the nature of activities.” (6)

 Hoopla will adhere to this guidance for indoor improv workshops by decreasing the maximum capacity of indoor workshops from 16 people to 10-12, or even lower if in a smaller room.

Before re-opening we will map out and measure our workshop rooms to make sure social distancing can remain, and adjust suggested capacity per room accordingly.

If available we will also try to use the largest rooms available, but this is limited to room availability as rehearsal rooms in Central London were already in short supply – so reduction in class sizes is the more likely approach to achieve social distancing. Rooms will also have any unessential furniture and items removed to provide as much space as possible.

All tickets will be purchased online only, there will be no tickets available on the day. This means we can safely control numbers.

As this will put us under severe financial pressure we will have to raise prices temporarily or run at an increased financial risk until we are allowed to increase workshop capacity again.

As the year progresses we will increase or decrease workshop capacity following any new guidance.

2.3.2     Ventilation for an inside improv workshop.

  • All venues should be contacted in advance to ensure outside windows in rooms can be opened as well as outside doors throughout the building to ensure a good circulation of fresh air.
  • Air conditioning should be checked to ensure it uses a fresh air intake instead of just recirculating stale air, that air has an exit to prevent it becoming stale, and that filters and all units have been correctly maintained.
  • Also improve ventilation of toilets and shared areas with windows and doors held open.

2.3.3     Social distancing for an inside improv workshop.

To achieve social distance of 2m of audience members within an inside improv workshop at Hoopla:

  • The teacher getting there early to put chairs in position at 2m distance from each other.
  • Audience chairs to put on the edges of the room to maximise floor space.
  • Audience chairs to be up sides of the room as well as along length of room to maximise distance between audience members.
  • Ask students not to move audience chairs as they arrive.
  • Taping of stage area so that performers don’t accidentally cross into audience space.

To achieve social distance of 2m of performers within an inside improv workshop at Hoopla:

  • Teacher to explain boundaries at the start of the class (teacher trained in how to do this).
  • Scenes and games to maintain a 2 metre social distancing, with help from the teacher to still maintain a playful and emotional connection and keep things fun.
  • Most of the time limiting people on stage to 2-3 people at a time (depending on room size) so their space is maximised. This suggests socially distanced improv would be based around 2-3 person scenes/games in front of the workshop audience, rather than groups doing thing simultaneously around the room. As the total number of the participants in the workshop would also be smaller people would still get a lot of quality improv time in.
  • Multiple person long-form formats would be possible, as long as off-stage performers maintained social distancing along the back and sides and the actual scenes were limited to 2-3 people each time.
  • In long-form a different method of tags would have to be worked out, probably just audibly saying “we cut to this character in this place” or similar.
  • Scenes over 3 people on stage would have to be stopped by the teacher as it would break social distancing, unless in a much larger room.
  • Whole group warm up games in a circle would be possible if the circle circumference is spread around the edges of the whole room. Whole group games where people regularly swap positions would not currently be possible.
  • Simultaneous pair games and group games with everyone in the workshop up on their feet and improvising all at once around the room should be minimised as it would be hard to maintain social distancing. This rule may be modified after testing, for instance using the audience chairs as markers of where to stand when doing pair games.
  • Pair games and general catch up conversations in pairs could be possible if seated using the audience seats, as that would maintain social distancing.
  • Games that involve actual physical contact (for instance Dutch Clapping) to redesigned to be played at a distance. For instance, clapping hands could be replaced by air claps or thumbs up.
  • If possible, games and scenes to avoid direct face-to-face direction, but if this can’t be avoided then social distancing to be increased.

2.3.4     Suggested room layout for an inside improv workshop.

Based on one of the smallest rooms at Theatre Delicatessen (6.1m X 9.1m). In larger rooms there could be more people and a larger performing area.

Workshop Room Layout

2.3.5     Singing in an inside improv workshop

Singing and loud talking is still being investigated by government with evidence still developing. (6) Therefore, Hoopla are waiting until later in the process to bring singing back to real-life improv workshops, and they will currently be at normal conversational sound level. We will update this section following new advice later in the summer.

2.3.6     Working groups in an indoor impro workshop

From DCMS Performing Arts Guidance:

Objective: To change the way work is organised to create distinct groups and reduce the number of contacts each worker or participant has.” (6)

  •  Each workshop could be split into set groups of 3-4 each night, with each group staying together for each warmup, exercise, scene and show format over that night but changing groups again the week after. This minimises contact with other people over the night.
  • We often use this technique anyway, to help people get to know different people each week, so we don’t see this as a problem and it will actually create great teams over each night.

2.3.7     Handwashing for an inside improv workshop

  • Soap to be always available in toilet areas along with NHS posters about handwashing and cough etiquette.
  • Anti-viral hand sanitiser to be available at entry to venue but positioned away from areas where it would cause crowding.
  • Anti-viral hand sanitiser to be available inside each workshop venue too. Teachers to be equipped with their own supply so they can bring to venue for each class.
  • Staff to be trained in regular hand-washing before and after workshops and in breaks.

2.3.8     Preventing overcrowding in shared areas for an inside improv workshop

  • Workshop start times to be staggered to prevent overcrowding at reception area and on stairs.
  • Workshop break times to be staggered, and decided in advance, to prevent overcrowding of toilets and shared areas.
  • Workshop end times to be staggered to prevent overcrowding on stairs and exits.
  • Venues to leave sufficient gaps between other room bookings so that classes aren’t overlapping with groups of people waiting around in communal areas for one class to finish. Venues will be contacted about this in advance.
  • Groups to know their room number in advance, and ideally have the same room number each week, so they don’t have to stop and ask at reception.
  • Reception process to be streamlined with additional help from Hoopla staff to prevent queues and overcrowding forming at reception.
  • Reception areas to be repositioned, if possible, to be away from areas that are likely to cause overcrowding.
  • Where possible reducing congestion by having multiple entry and exit points into the building.
  • Social distance markings to be placed on any likely queuing or busy areas.
  • Arrows, maps and signage to be used to help people find the correct room and toilets and to keep a smooth flow of people through building without bottlenecks and overcrowding.
  • One way flow will be taken care of by workshop start and end timings and gaps between other classes, as people will be either entering the building to start a class or exiting to leave a class. We don’t think there will have to be a one-way flow system marked in the building.
  • Signs on lifts to limit their use to one person. Hand sanitiser available near lift at a suitable height for wheelchair users.
  • All bookings will be online only with paperless tickets. There will be no bookings available on the day and no cash sales or paper tickets.

2.3.9     Cleaning for an inside improv workshop

  • Venue to provide an increased cleaning schedule including all surfaces, especially areas and objects regularly touched.
  • Venue surfaces to also be cleaned by Hoopla staff on arrival.
  • Rehearsal rooms to be cleaned in between each class.
  • Additional cleaning of toilet areas especially any hand touched surfaces.
  • Provide more waste facilities and more frequent waste removal.
  • Cleaning schedule to be kept up to date and visible.

2.3.10     People with symptoms or self-isolating to not come to inside improv workshops

  • Making sure no-one with symptoms of COVID-19 – a new continuous cough, fever, a high temperature or a recent change in sense of smell or taste – is at the event. Anyone with these symptoms should be sent home immediately and seek a test from NHS 119. (6) People will be asked in advance to not come if they have symptoms, and our staff will refuse entry to people who have symptoms.
  • Individuals self-isolating should also not come to, or near to, performing arts activities. (6) This will be communicated in emails building up to each event.
  • Posters around venue will also advise on this.
  • If one member of a course displays symptoms, we will follow the test and trace guidance for contacts. (6)
  • People at higher risk (elderly, clinically vulnerable, visually impaired or hearing impaired) should be contacted individually for additional support and individual tailor-made guidance so that they can still maintain social distancing and be safe. (6) Higher risk individuals should not attend performing arts events in person at the moment unless essential and for professional purposes. (6)

2.4     Safety measures for a live outdoor impro show.

Hoopla aren’t currently planning to run outside improv shows but we will update this section if this changes.

2.5     Safety measures for a live indoor impro show.

2.5.1     Audience numbers for indoor live improv shows.

From DCMS Performing Arts Guidelines:

“Manage capacity and overcrowding to ensure social distancing is possible by limiting the number of people able to access the premises or venue. (6) Maximum capacity should consider appropriate social distancing given the nature of activities.” (6)

 Hoopla will adhere to this for our live indoor improv shows by doing the following:

  • Once shows re-open we will at first run at under 1/3rd of our normal capacity, 25 people instead of 75, for at least 2 months.
  • Before re-opening we will map out and measure the venue to make sure social distancing can remain with the above suggested capacity, and then re-adjust audience capacity if needed.
  • We will also make sure that the number of performers and staff in the performing space don’t accidentally send the overall room capacity too high, by checking group sizes before the night.
  • All tickets will be purchased online only, there will be no tickets available on the night. This means we can safely control audience numbers.
  • Hoopla will also regularly check with pub management to check downstairs bar capacity isn’t too big.

2.5.2     Ventilation for an inside improv show.

  • The Miller (our show venue) to be contacted in advance to ensure outside windows in rooms can be opened as well as outside doors throughout the building to ensure a good circulation of fresh air.
  • Show venue outside doors to be open, providing fresh air throughout the show.
  • Air conditioning should be checked to ensure it uses a fresh air intake instead of just recirculating stale air, that air has an exit to prevent it becoming stale, and that filters and all units have been correctly maintained. Alternatively, the air conditioning units to be on fan mode only (bringing fresh air in).
  • Airflow test to be carried out before opening to ensure fresh air in the venue is safely circulating and has a clear flow to the outside.
  • Also improve ventilation of toilets and shared areas with windows and doors held open.

2.5.3     Social distancing for an inside improv show.

To achieve social distance of 2m of audience members within an inside improv show Hoopla advises:

  • Front of house team to arrive 1 hour before performers to set up measured audience seating and safety check space.
  • Seating to be arranged cabaret style rather than theatre style rows.
  • Audiences should be seated as individuals or groups from the same household or support bubble.
  • 2 metre gaps between different household groups/social bubbles to be achieved by measured chair placement.
  • Gaps between chairs filled with candlelit tables so the venue still maintains atmosphere and…..people have somewhere to put a pint! The surprise benefit of social distancing!
  • Front row of chairs to be further back from stage than previously so performer don’t accidentally get too close to audience.
  • 2 metre gaps around back and sides of audience seating area to ensure safe entry and exit of audience members.
  • Gaps between and possibly screening between audience and box office and sound desk.
  • As mentioned in previous section audience numbers to be capped to prevent overcrowding.
  • Chairs not for use could be occupied by teddy bears. Teddy bears could be removed if a household group/social bubble wants to sit together.
  • Front of house to guide people in from box office to help them find appropriate places to sit. Audience seated table by table.
  • Front of house to guide exit at the end of the show. Audience exit table by table.
  • There won’t have to be a screen between performers and audience as we are going for 2m social distancing instead of 1m.
  • Once guidance on social distancing goes down to 1m (without risk mitigation) the improv scene will largely be back to normal.

To achieve social distance of 2m of performers within an inside improv show Hoopla advises:

  • Scenes and games to maintain a 2 metre social distancing.
  • Cast sizes to be reduced so that social distancing can be achieved on stage.
  • Scenes and games of 1-4 people to be favoured over whole cast group games.
  • Long-form formats are still possible by checking off stage positioning, coming up with alternatives for tags, and favouring scenes of 1-4 people over whole cast scenes.
  • Only 1-2 groups to be performing per ticketed show, to prevent overcrowding of off-stage areas and shared performer spaces.
  • Performers to only perform with the same team all evening instead of guesting in the other group.
  • Cast to arrive before doors open to audience to check off-stage positions and staging.
  • If possible, games and scenes to avoid direct face-to-face direction, but if this can’t be avoided then social distancing to be increased.
  • Warming up to done outside instead of the small green room. Green room to be only used for coat/bad storage and dressing of one performer at a time.
  • Performance to take place on stage only, audience space not to be used for shows.
  • Also please look at our section on social distancing in an improv workshop for other guidance.

2.5.4     Suggested layout for an inside improv show

We don’t have floor plans of our venue so we’ll be update this section when we’re next there and have measured everything up.

2.5.5     Singing in an inside improv show

Singing is still being investigated by government with evidence still developing. (6) At the moment the recommendation for professional singers in front of an audience is to increase social distancing (between each singer and singer and audience) to 3 metres along with a number of other recommendations.

There are many other additional recommendations in reference (6) but as the evidence is still developing, we will update this section later in the year and won’t be bringing back singing shows this summer.

2.5.6     Handwashing for an inside improv show

  • Soap to be always available in toilet areas along with running water and drying equipment.
  • NHS posters about handwashing and cough etiquette displayed.
  • Anti-viral hand sanitiser to be available at entry to shows but positioned away from areas where it would cause crowding. Best place in corner near box office but not on box office.
  • Anti-viral hand sanitiser to be available at bar.
  • Staff to be trained in regular handwashing before and after shows.

2.5.7     Preventing overcrowding in shared areas for an inside improv show

Show timings:

  • Show tickets to be for one show only (40 minutes – 1 hour) rather than the whole night, so that there isn’t an interval of people moving in different directions and no accidental overcrowding. This also enables one-way flow to and from the show venue at all times.
  • Gaps between shows to be long enough to prevent audiences overlapping and to allow recleaning of the venue to take place.
  • Front of house to prevent people waiting on the stairs before the previous show has finished.

Box Office and Stairs:

  • Doors opening and show start times to be clearly communicated and adhered too so that people aren’t queuing down the stairs, instead we aim to have no queue and people entering straight away.
  • Front of house to be trained how to have people quickly checked in with tickets.
  • Front of house staff to direct audience to seating to prevent crowding at the back of the room.
  • Tickets to all be booked online only and paperless, to prevent waiting too long at box office and so audience numbers can be safely controlled. There will be no tickets available on the day and no cash transactions.
  • Area around box office to be kept clear of staff, performers, and audience members so there is clear path from box office to seating.
  • Arrows and signs to be used around box office to keep audience movement and stop overcrowding. We could have a massive arrow on the wall that changes direction depending on if it is start or end of show.
  • Social distance markings to be placed on stairs and any likely queuing areas.
  • Additional front of house staff, especially in the first 2 months of reopening, to help move people into the correct areas and away from pinch points.
  • All bookings will be online only with paperless tickets. There will be no bookings available on the day and no cash sales or paper tickets.

Warm Up Areas:

  • Actors to warm up outside instead of in the small green room at the back of the venue.
  • The green room will just be for the storage of coats and bags and should not be used as a warm up space.
  • If actors need to get changed the green room can be used but one at a time, but groups will be notified to turn up in costume if possible.

Other Areas:

  • Having multiple entry and exit points into the building to prevent congestion, for instance at The Miller having front door but also side door (beer garden) and upstairs (table tennis area) doors all open and signposted.
  • All doors to be unlocked and held open to give wider access points.
  • Additional temporary outside loos to be added if possible, to prevent overcrowding of toilets.
  • Additional signs/arrows/social distance markers to be added near toilets and other possible queuing areas to prevent overcrowding and help people find rooms.
  • Audience encouraged to drink outside after the show instead of inside if possible.
  • Inside bar area has been made more spacious with bigger gaps between tables.
  • Audience capacity and general pub capacity reduced to prevent overcrowding of bar, toilets and other shared areas before and after shows.
  • One-way flow will be taken care of by show start and end timings and gaps between shows, as people will be either entering the venue at start of show or exiting at end. We don’t think there will have to be a one-way flow system marked for shows.
  • Helping visitors maintain social distancing by placing clearly visible markers along the ground, floor or walls, advising on appropriate spacing.

2.5.8     Cleaning for an inside improv show

  • Venue to provide an increased cleaning schedule including all surfaces, especially areas and objects that are touched regularly.
  • Venue surfaces to also be cleaned by front of house staff on arrival and in between shows, especially surfaces that are touched like doors and seat arms.
  • Additional cleaning of toilet areas especially any hand touched surfaces.
  • Provide more waste facilities and more frequent waste removal.
  • Cleaning schedule to be kept up to date and visible.

2.5.9     People with symptoms or self-isolating to not come to inside improv shows

  • Making sure no-one with symptoms of COVID-19 – a new continuous cough, fever, a high temperature or a recent change in sense of smell or taste – is at the event. Anyone with these symptoms should be sent home immediately and seek a test from NHS 119. (6) People will be asked in advance to not come if they have symptoms, and our staff will refuse entry to people who have symptoms.
  • Individuals self-isolating should also not come to, or near to, performing arts activities. (6) This will be communicated in emails building up to each event.
  • Posters around venue will also advise on this.
  • If one member of a course displays symptoms, we will follow the test and trace guidance for contacts. (6)
  • People at higher risk (elderly, clinically vulnerable, visually impaired or hearing impaired) should be contacted individually for additional support and individual tailor-made guidance so that they can still maintain social distancing and be safe. (6) Higher risk individuals should not attend performing arts events in person at the moment unless essential and for professional purposes. (6)

2.5.10   The Hoopla Improv Marathon and other Festivals

Unfortunately due to the long duration of shows and audience contact, the increased number of performers and audience, and the highly social nature of our Improv Marathon and other Festivals, we will not be bringing these events back until much later, until at least the final stage of the government performing arts roadmap and definitely not this year.

2.6     Additional safety measures for administration and support staff.

  • People who can work from home should continue to do so. (6)
  • Every reasonable effort should be made to enable working from home as a first option. (6)
  • Where it is decided that workers should come into their place of work then this will need to be reflected in the risk assessment and actions taken to manage the risks of transmission in line with this guidance. (6)
  • Hoopla’s training manager, shows producer, front of house manager, teachers and other staff will stay working at home over the summer months. Meetings will take place over phone or zoom.
  • Once our real-life shows and workshops are restarting our staff will also be back in real-life venues and this risk is covered as part of the risk assessment of each area of Hoopla above.
  • When support staff are working in a shared office space we will make sure that there is a 2m distance between work stations and that people are working side to side rather than face to face.

2.7     Track and Trace Records

  • The opening up of the economy following the COVID-19 outbreak is being supported by NHS Test and Trace, which will be undertaking the routine health protection practice of tracing and contacting those who have been in close contact with someone who has an infectious disease. You should assist this service by keeping a temporary record of your audience when applicable and other visitors for 21 days, in a way that is manageable for your business or organisation. (6.)
  • At Hoopla this will be taken care of by online bookings for all workshops and shows, you will not have to re-enter these details at the venue. This data is not passed on to anyone else and is protected by our data protection policy following GDPR guidelines. Hoopla will not be able to accept on the day purchases for shows or classes, all bookings will have to be made in advance online.

2.8     Risk Assessment

  • To help you decide which actions to take, you need to carry out an appropriate COVID-19 risk assessment, just as you would for other health and safety related hazards. (6.)
  • As part of this risk assessment, you should understand and take into account the particular circumstances of those with different protected characteristics, such as those who are hearing or visually impaired. (6.)
  • This risk assessment must be done in consultation with unions or workers. Employers and organisations have a duty to consult their people on health and safety. (6.)
  • Businesses should demonstrate to their workers and attendees that they have properly assessed their risk and taken appropriate measures to mitigate it, for example by publishing their risk assessment online or making it available at the premises/event. (6.)

Please note this whole article is also Hoopla’s risk assessment and will stay online on this page and be linked to from our resources page, home page and covid-19 guidance pages. We will also be communicating out this page via our social media and on email.

Before writing this risk assessment we had earlier this summer spoken to our teachers and staff directly for them to log safety requirements and also sent out a questionnaire to our students, teachers and performers.

After publication, this document will again be open to feedback and additional input from our improvisers, teachers, staff, students and performers.

2.9     In event of accident, fire or other emergency

  • Social distancing does not need to be followed in the event of accident, fire or other emergency at any of our workshops and shows if it would be unsafe.(6.)
  • People involved in the provision of assistance to others should pay particular attention to sanitation measures immediately afterwards including washing hands. (6.)

2.10     Communications and training

Hoopla is planning to do the following:

  1. Share this article in its current 1st draft format.
  2. Get feedback on this article from teachers, students and performers.
  3. Convert this article into simpler, graphical messages so that we can regularly communicate this out to our staff, teachers, performers and students over email and social media.
  4. Create posters of key messages to put up in key workshop and show areas.
  5. Train all of our teachers, front of house staff and other staff before they recommence real-life shows and workshops
  6. Maintain ongoing communication.

 

3     Fun

 

Wow! That was a lot of guidelines!

With all those safety changes do you think improv can still be fun?

We think YES!

In fact Hoopla’s aim will be to actually make things MORE FUN after lockdown than they ever were before!

We’re improvisers, we can adapt, and there is no reason why safety and fun have to be mutually exclusive.

We believe it’s possible to still emotionally, playfully and socially connect at a distance and in fact that could be one of improv’s major new purposes after lockdown!

We are going to write more blogs about this and also run some practice workshops over the summer about how to keep socially distanced improv fun but in the meantime here’s some initial ideas:

2 metres is not that far!

Measure it out, put it on the floor, take a look. It’s really not that far and you’ve probably done loads of improv at over 2 metres already. Most stages are loads bigger than 2 metres. I’m writing at a table that is bigger than 2 metres. If someone was at the end of my dining table talking to me, I wouldn’t struggle to understand them.

Improvisers often didn’t get that close anyway 

Our teachers had to really encourage people to get close previously. At workshops people would often default to a set social distance anyway if they didn’t a specific exercise to break personal space. It was quite an unusual for someone to turn up to improv and break personal space without permission.

We’ve always been socially distancing, we just didn’t realise it 

It’s not a new thing. It’s just a new conscious thing. When we’re born we don’t socially distance. Babies and toddlers climb over anybody. But as we get older we learn at school, work and at home what is appropriate and what is inappropriate. So, in the improv scene before lockdown we did indeed have a social distance and a concept of what personal space was, we were just so used to it we weren’t consciously thinking about it all the time.

With practice it will become natural 

Improvisers are used to playing with space all the time. Loads of our original warm ups were about people breaking habits and looking at space in new ways. We can do the same again. By using games again we can get used to being relaxed at 2 metres or more. We had a subconscious social distance for all of our lives, and this year that has changed. Through practice we will be able to stay playful while keeping the new distance.

Playing with space is fun!

There’s a long history of playing with space between people in improv, all the way back to it’s origins with Viola Spolin and Keith Johnstone and even further back to Commedia dell’Arte.

Some example games:

Two people playing lovers (from Commedia) see each other from across a room, they walk toward each other as if they are going to passionately embrace, but at 4 metres from each other they stop. It’s too much. They can’t handle it and run away from each other talking poetry about how much they love the other person but their love is not allowed.

Two people playing master and servant (from Commedia). Wherever the master goes the servant stays a set 3 metres behind, no matter what the speed. He has to stay that exact same distance. If the master stops, he stops. If the master walks towards him furious the servant scurries away terrified, climbing behind things.

Keith Johnstone’s status work uses loads of status at a distance. A servant will walk towards a King or Queen and get lower as they get towards them and be very conscious of not stepping into their space. With status the whole room becomes alive. How would you feel standing 2 metres away from The Queen?

Two people walk together into the room but stop at 3 metres from each other. They both say I love you, I miss you, I hate you, I need you (or other emotional phrases). Turn, and walk away. Breaking down the moments into deciding to enter the room, seeing each other, walking toward each other, eye contact etc can unveil how much emotional connection can be made at a distance.

In a nutshell, if you play as if the space is important, it is. If you decide you have emotional connection at 5m and make it matter, you do.

Safety and fun aren’t mutually exclusive

In fact in improv you can’t have one without the other. It’s hard to improvise with someone you don’t physically trust. By creating a safe environment where people trust each other they can relax and connect and be spontaneous together.

Lots of the safety guidelines actually make improv better not worse

Workshops are going to have smaller class sizes, which is great for the participants as they get more time on stage and with the teacher.

The focus is going to be on scenes and games with 2-3 people on stage, which was one of the most popular things anyway.

Having a set smaller team for each workshop that you do all the games and exercises with was also something we already did sometimes and proved popular, as you get to know someone better over the session.

The busy days of shows with people standing along the sides and at the back might be gone for now, but in the meantime it’s going to be a more sophisticated cabaret experience.

You can emotionally connect at a distance

In fact this is brilliant acting training! The improv scene has grown used to small stages but actually actors on the West End have to emotionally connect across huge spaces.

We aren’t going to be just emotionally connecting at 2 metres, we’re going to be emotionally connecting at 5 metres, 10 metres, across the road. Let’s emotionally connect to people a mile away!

People on river banks wave at boats and a boat load of strangers wave back. People love connecting at a distance.

In fact this may end up being an amazing new purpose of improv after lockdown.

Eye contact at a distance, body shape, posture, body language, facial expression, movement – all of these are possible and offer endless possibilities of emotional connection and playfulness.

Real-life is full of emotional connections at a distance, like your heart racing when you see someone across the room at a party.

Safety can be communicated in a warm friendly way

Audiences chairs can be separated by candlelit tables to put your pint on.

Empty chairs can be occupied by teddy bears.

Hand sanitisers can be decorated with glitter.

Teachers can flag up proximity with a friendly playful bell.

2 metres on the floor can be represented by a giant picture of Pickle Rick.

Teachers and front of staff can be warm and friendly while letting people know how things work.

 

The new job of the improv scene will be to follow safety guidelines while devising new ways to make things fun. We’re sure the improv scene will rise to the challenge.

Yes improv at a distance is possible.

Yes it will be fun!

 

More Info:

>> Safety in classes

>> Safety in shows

>> Full booking flexibility

>> Improv at 2m is still fun!

>> Hoopla’s full risk assessment

>> Government guidelines for performing arts

 

Top Level Sources

 

(1.) Government website:

https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus

 

(2.) Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport:

https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-for-digital-culture-media-sport

 

(3.) Guidance for DCMS sectors in relation to coronavirus (COVID-19):

https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/guidance-for-dcms-sectors-in-relation-to-coronavirus-covid-19

 

(4.) Review of two metre social distancing guidance:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/review-of-two-metre-social-distancing-guidance/review-of-two-metre-social-distancing-guidance

 

(5.) Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and Mitigating Measures. EMG-SAGE 4th June 2020.

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/892043/S0484_Transmission_of_SARS-CoV-2_and_Mitigating_Measures.pdf

 

Sources most relevant to impro

 

(6.) Performing arts, Guidance for people who work in performing arts, including arts organisations, venue operators and participants:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/performing-arts

 

(7.) Performing Arts given green light to resume outdoors on July 11:

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/performing-arts-given-green-light-to-resume-outdoors-on-july-11

 

(8.) Government publishes roadmap for England’s theatres:

https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2020/jun/25/government-publishes-roadmap-for-englands-theatres

 

(9.) New planning rules to protect our cultural heritage:

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-planning-rules-to-protect-our-cultural-heritage

 

(10.) Audiences back in theatres from 1 August:

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/audiences-back-in-theatres-from-1-august

 

General coronavirus safety advice for businesses

 

(11.) Reopen your business safely during coronavirus (COVID‑19):

https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus-business-reopening

 

(12.) Guidance on what businesses can be open and what remain closed:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/further-businesses-and-premises-to-close/further-businesses-and-premises-to-close-guidance

 

(13.) Working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19):

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19

 

(14.) 5 steps to working safely:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/5-steps-to-working-safely

 

(15.) Check if you should go back into work:

https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus-employee-risk-assessment

 

General coronavirus safety advice for individuals

 

(16.) Coronavirus FAQs: what you can and can’t do:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-outbreak-faqs-what-you-can-and-cant-do/coronavirus-outbreak-faqs-what-you-can-and-cant-do

 

(17.) Staying alert and safe (social distancing):

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/staying-alert-and-safe-social-distancing/staying-alert-and-safe-social-distancing-after-4-july

 

(18.) Staying safe outside your home:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/staying-safe-outside-your-home/staying-safe-outside-your-home

 

(19.) Meeting people from outside your household:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/meeting-people-from-outside-your-household-from-4-july

 

1.5     Similar Industries

 

(20.) Restaurants, pubs, bars and takeaway services. Guidance for people who work in or run restaurants, pubs, bars, cafes or takeaways:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/restaurants-offering-takeaway-or-delivery

 

(21.) The visitor economy. Guidance for people who work in hotels and guest accommodation, indoor and outdoor attractions, and business events and consumer shows:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/the-visitor-economy

 

(22.) Education and childcare:

https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus/education-and-childcare

 

(23.) British Film Commission guidance:

http://britishfilmcommission.org.uk/guidance/regarding-covid-19-coronavirus/

 

(24.) TV Production Guidance:

https://downloads.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/tv-production-guidance-managing-the-risk-of-coronavirus-in-production-making-v1.pdf

 

(25.) Covid Guidance for Cinemas:

https://www.cinemauk.org.uk/coronavirus-covid-19/guidance-for-cinemas/

 

(26.) COVID-19: Guidance for the safe use of multi-purpose community facilities:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-guidance-for-the-safe-use-of-multi-purpose-community-facilities

 

(27.) Guidance for people who work in grassroots sport and gym/leisure facilities.

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/providers-of-grassroots-sport-and-gym-leisure-facilities

 

Share this article