Nusrat Ghani, MP for Wealden, was pleased to learn that her recent intervention prompted Government clarification regarding Covid rules for amateur choirs, giving the go ahead for Mayfield Festival Choir to resume.
Nusrat has recently convened a virtual meeting with representatives of various amateur choirs from across Wealden and East Sussex to listen to their concerns regarding the impact of Covid-19 restrictions on restarting their activities. According to Government guidelines, ‘amateur’ choirs were excluded from the easing of restrictions on the culture sector as part of Step 3 of the roadmap and only allowed to meet in groups of no more than six indoors.
Following Nusrat’s representations to the Department of Health and the Department of Culture (DCMS), the Government issued a clarification that “the limits do not apply to activity taking place for work or commercial activity”. This implies that if choirs are rehearsing towards and performing in a concert for which tickets are sold or if they are rehearsing towards and performing at an event for which the group is being paid a fee, they would be permitted to meet in numbers greater than 6 indoors.
As a result, the venue where the Mayfield Festival Choir rehearse and perform are now confident that the choir is not contravening the guidelines and the choir has been given permission to resume its activity.
Nusrat’s letter and further information about the virtual meeting can be found here.
Members and Leaders from Ashdown Singers, Hailsham Voices, Fletching Singers, Crowborough Choral Society, Mayfield Festival Choir, Penshurst Choral Society, Heathfield Choral Society and South Downs Singers were present at the meeting, representing the thousands of musicians across Wealden impacted by these restrictions.
Nusrat Ghani said: “I am pleased that following my representations, the Government issued a clarification of the guidance, allowing ‘amateur’ choirs to resume activities for commercial purposes. This is excellent news for our fabulous choral groups in Wealden, which are key to our local communities and raise valuable contributions to our local charities through their performances. I stressed in my letter that the catch-all label 'amateur' not only failed to understand how these groups function, but also meant that thousands of local professionals were left without income. We have a tremendously successful vaccination programme, with more than half of UK population now fully protected and I trust that many other precautions have been taken to ensure choir activities resume in a Covid-safe way. I am pleased that I secured this change for Mayfield Festival Choir and other Wealden ensembles.”
Jane Bolger, Chair of Mayfield Festival Choir, said: “Thank you so much for listening to our explanations and for the way you responded when I and other local choral societies asked for your help seeking clarification from the DCMS. It was so encouraging to have your interest and support and to read the letter you sent to the secretaries of state as a result of our discussions. We were delighted when the DCMS responded saying that "we would remind you that limits do not apply to activity taking place for work or commercial activity". Because we sell tickets for our concerts, and employ professional musicians, choral societies come under the heading of work or commercial activity. We are resuming our in-person (distanced, masked, cleansed) rehearsals with joy this week."
The Ministerial Response is available below: