Government Guidance on Singing – Update 1 June

Please see update as of 1 June 2021:

There is another joint industry letter gone to Professor Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer, and copied to Dr Jenny Harries OBE at Public Health England. You can view a summary of the key points and signatories on Making Music’s website here.

In relation to the recent Government Guidance on singing we have been working with Making Music, The Association of British Choral Directors, The Incorporated Society of Musicians and all our Partner Organisations in the Singing Network to shape a response and to help everyone involved in singing play their part in this campaign.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) updated its Performing Arts Guidance with regard to step 3 of the England roadmap on 18 May.

Without warning, it diverges from what we had been led to believe, that non-professional music activity would return, outdoors and indoors in England from 17 May, without limits on numbers other than those dictated by the size of a venue (to allow for social distancing).

Instead, it says indoors only 6 people are allowed to sing together, making it impossible for choirs to rehearse indoors at this step. This guidance was only released after some choirs had already rehearsed, and after hundreds of choirs had spent many hours preparing their risk assessments and planning their rehearsals in a safe way.

Many thanks to our colleagues at Making Music for putting together many of the action points below.

What we are asking for

That indoor singing activity be brought in line with the guidance for other non-professional music activity and indoor organised sports activity, as was the case between August and December 2020.

What we, Making Music, ISM and SNUK are doing:

  • Writing to the minister, on behalf of Singing Network UK (SNUK) which represents the 2.2 million singers and 40,000 choirs in the UK
  • Working with others in SNUK on press releases
  • Developed a parliamentary question to be asked by any MP or peer selected to ask such a question, with accompanying briefing
  • In dialogue and working with DCMS on creating the confidence in their team that SNUK is supporting choirs with the right protocols to operate safely

What can everyone do?

You and your choir members can write to your MP – this is more effective than writing to the minister. They are your MP, whatever their party, representing you and they should respond to your concerns.

Not just one person should write – every single person in the choir should write and make it personal: tell their MP what being in a choir means to them, to their community, for the constituency, tell their own story.

Write to members of the House of Lords – any and all of them! They do not represent a geographical area but you might have a special connection to some of them, perhaps because they come from your region or sing in a choir.

Sign the Petition – Let Choirs Start Singing Again here.

Points you might like to consider

The more personal your letter, the better, but here are some extra points to those above which might help you frame it:

  • The guidance was issued more than a week after Step 3 was announced; your choir probably spent many hours finding a suitable COVID-secure venue, liaising with them, setting up risk assessments and protocols
  • The current guidelines for singing do not allow choirs to rehearse indoors in any meaningful way
  • Government funded research into singing was undertaken last summer, resulting in singing being allowed again in August. Many choirs rehearsed safely in the autumn under strict guidelines – no infections were reported.
  • the financial consequences of continuing inactivity for your choir
  • the financial consequences for you as a professional conductor, particularly if this is the way you earn your living
  • if you are a church choir leader, this is a step back from the guidance issued on 29 March
  • the continuing emotional impact on choirs who have not rehearsed for many months. There is an extensive body of research proving the benefits for singers’ mental and physical wellbeing.

What to ask

  • Can they ask a parliamentary question? (MPs and Peers in the House of Lords can do this – it is a lottery, they can apply and may be picked or not)
  • If they are Conservatives, can they take your concerns to the relevant minister directly? (Caroline Dinenage, Minister of State for Digital and Culture)

This is about and for all singers and choirs – please share this information and page far and wide with your singing contacts.