Home   Whats On   Article

Choirs and singing groups say new coronavirus guidelines from Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport are 'unworkable'




Amateur singers have launched a scathing attack on the government over what they describe as a sudden and unexpected change in coronavirus rules.

Thousands of choirs, singing groups and choral societies are all expressing their frustration at a decision to suddenly amend the restrictions around meetings alterations they describe as 'unreasonable and unworkable'.

Millions of singers were preparing to meet in person for the first time this week after the May 17 roadmap step initially suggested amateur singing groups could resume gatherings inside.

The last minute change has left choirs angry
The last minute change has left choirs angry

Alongside other indoor activities permitted to go ahead last Monday - such as meeting in pubs and restaurants, going to indoor fitness classes and the gym - singing groups say they were also led to believe that they'd be able to ditch online classes and get back together in groups of 30 or less.

But 36 hours later, without warning, government guidance was updated again to limit indoor singing to just six people and outdoor meetings to a maximum of 30.

The move has prompted a huge outcry from organisations across the country, which say they are now being subjected to more stringent rules than were in place last autumn when cases were higher and there was no vaccination programme in place.

The Association of British Choral Directors has launched a strongly-worded campaign on its website to try and resolve the problem with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

In a message it says: "We sympathise with the frustrations felt by everyone who had planned their return to singing. We're extremely concerned that amateur singing has been singled out by DCMS for such unreasonable and unworkable restrictions."

During the pandemic's peak singers regularly got together online. Pictured: The Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust staff choir singing Stay At Home
During the pandemic's peak singers regularly got together online. Pictured: The Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust staff choir singing Stay At Home

While an online petition also directed at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and culture secretary Oliver Dowden is calling for choirs to be able to resume meetings in person, with all the necessary precautions in place, particularly in order to support those who benefit for health and well-being reasons. More than 26,000 people have signed the plea at change.org.

It reads: "We, vocal leaders and choir members, wish to complain in the strongest terms about the attitude that has been shown to the professional and amateur directors of these 42,000 choirs, whose livelihood this affects enormously, and millions of non-professional singers that have been left waiting even longer to return to an activity that provides vital health and well-being benefits. We feel truly let down and strongly implore DCMS to address this as an urgent matter."

An estimated two million people regularly singing in more than 70,000 groups across the UK.

Prior to the pandemic, millions of people sang in thousands of choir groups across the country
Prior to the pandemic, millions of people sang in thousands of choir groups across the country

The government says the decision has been made based on public health guidance and according to its website 'singing, shouting and physical activity increases the risk of transmission through small droplets and aerosols."

But with other heavy breathing activities still taking place like indoor fitness classes, those affected say they are being 'unfairly penalised'.