Coronavirus (COVID-19): guide to restarting outdoor events

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guide to restarting outdoor events

Hold an outdoor event

Bristol is now part of a nationwide lockdown, the new restrictions (GOV.UK) will apply nationally for four weeks up until 2 December.

No events can take place during this timeframe.

If you want to hold an outdoor event, you need to:

There will need to be significant changes made when planning your event to make sure it can take place safely. 

You must follow the guidance on these pages as well as government guidance for holding events safely. You can read guidance for:

We want to help event organisers as much as possible. If you have further questions, email

COVID-19 safety policy

You should consider developing a specific COVID-19 safety policy to cover your approach to the issues covered in this guidance.

You’ll need to consider how your COVID-19 safety policy sits in the context of your other policies, for example, a COVID-19 safety policy discouraging use of public transport may be at odds with an existing environmental policy encouraging it. 

Your COVID-19 safety policy should be used for:

  • assessing and adjusting your procedures 
  • holding suppliers to account

You should make a public version of the policy available on your event website to inform and reassure customers.

Events that are already planned

If you are due to hold an event and you want to talk to us about how you can make your event COVID-secure, email

Get advice

We're running advice sessions over Zoom where you can:

  • talk to us about your plans
  • get advice for holding an event
  • ask questions about the site permission process

Each session is 30 minutes.

They take place on the:

  • first Monday of every month at 9.30am, 10.15am, 11.00am,and 11.45am
  • third Tuesday of every month at 9.30am, 10.15am, 11.00am and 11.45am

Book a session online

Considerations for COVID-secure outdoor events

You should follow guidance for outdoor events from the Event Industry Forum, which has been agreed by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. This is particularly important where such events are different from how they would usually be run.

Steps that will usually be needed

  • In the case of drive-in performances, only allowing cars to park sufficiently far apart to ensure social distancing is maintained, for example by clearly marking available parking spaces.
  • Considering how people come into and leave the site or venue (ingress and egress management), car parking, public transport, handwashing facilities and areas such as arenas, stages or concessions points where crowding could take place. 
  • Consulting with the relevant authorities and seeking specialist advice to best evaluate the impact of your event on the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), developing strategies for mitigating the risk, and attending Bristol Safety Advisory Group if required. 
  • Consideration should be given to managing larger family groups who may wish to remain closer than the required social distance but who, in doing so, may encourage others to cluster in a similar manner. Note any actions needed in your event management plan and risk assessment.
  • Where items are offered for customer use, such as a picnic blanket or seating, this should be done only where they can be collected or delivered from an appropriate distance and with hygiene measures in place, for example, through the availability of hand sanitiser or items being delivered to the same corner of each social distanced pitch by event staff which limits pedestrian movements and allows us greater control. Items should be thoroughly cleaned before being reused. 
  • Discouraging or managing activities or features that are likely to encourage audience behaviours that increase transmission risk, such as crowding, clustering, communal dancing and physical contact outside of household groups or support bubbles. 
  • You should consider the expected interactions among participants occurring during the event and implement sufficient controls to ensure social distancing is maintained.

You'll need to clearly outline these steps in your risk assessment ( which must include coronavirus (COVID-19) mitigation measures.

Write a COVID-secure risk assessment

All businesses need to assess and manage the risks that coronavirus (COVID-19) can have on:

  • your staff
  • people attending your event

You should also think about the impact on security of the control measures you have in place and what consequences any changes you make can have and record this in a risk assessment.  You should also consider publishing your risk assessment online. 

What a risk assessment is

A risk assessment identifies what measures you should take to control risks and limit the spread of the virus.
Your risks assessment should record:

  • who is at risk at your event
  • what you’re already doing to control the risks
  • what other action you can take to limit the risks and who needs to do that
  • when this needs to be done by

How to write a risk assessment

Health and Safety Executive has published a standard risk assessment guidance and a risk assessment template to help you write a risk assessment.

Steps to mitigate risk when considering coronavirus (COVID-19)

  • Implement one way systems for queues
  • Put test and trace measures (GOV.UK) in place
  • Have seats available for all tables there should be no standing
  • Make sure tables are at least two metres apart from each other
  • No more than six people per table, with room for social distancing as they may be from different households
  • No more than one group booking per table
  • Do not allow customers to approach or mingle with other groups
  • Use an app for customers to order food or for staff to take orders at tables
  • Tell your customers to read the guidance on safer travel (GOV.UK) to reduce the risks of mixing before and after your event
  • Stop customers from local lockdowns areas from buying tickets if you can, for example by making sure they can only be booked online
  • Have extra stewards to monitor social distancing measures at your event, especially around toilet facilities
  • Clean all facilities regularly
  • Provide more handwashing, hand sanitiser and toilet facilities
  • Download and display clear signs and posters with COVID-19 information
  • Make sure staff and customers wear a face covering, except when sitting at a table to eat or drink
  • Send your COVID-19 policy to your customers and staff before the event
  • Have maps with different areas clearly marked out for information either on tables or sent out in advance
  • Have regular meetings with staff about your COVID-19 policies
  • Have staggered arrival times for customers, staff and deliveries

Your responsibilities as an employer

You must reduce workplace risk to the lowest reasonably practicable level by taking preventative measures. You must work with any other employers, organisations or contractors sharing the workplace so that everybody’s health and safety is protected. In the context of COVID-19, this means protecting the health and safety of your workers, participants and any audience by working through these steps in order:

  1.  2 metre distancing wherever possible, or 1 metre plus with robust risk mitigation where 2 metres is not viable, such as those in point 4 below. You should consider and set out the mitigations you will introduce in your risk assessment. Mitigation doesn’t include basic measures, such as good hand and respiratory hygiene or the use of face coverings.
  2. Businesses and workplaces should make every reasonable effort to ensure their employees can work safely. When in the workplace, everyone should make every reasonable effort to comply with the social distancing guidelines set out by the government (2m, or 1m with risk mitigation where 2m is not viable).
  3. You should consider whether a particular activity is essential to the whole event if social distancing can’t be followed in full, and if so, take all the mitigating actions possible to reduce the risk of transmission between their staff, participants and visitors.
  4. Further mitigating actions include: 
    • increasing the frequency of hand washing and surface cleaning, including disinfection of high footfall areas or common touchpoints with particular attention to toilets
    • keeping the time of any activity where social distancing can’t be maintained as short as possible
    • using screens or barriers to separate people from each other where appropriate.
    • using back-to-back or side-to-side working rather than face-to-face whenever possible
    • 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
    • implementing Test and Trace measures, including keeping a temporary record of your customers and visitors for 21 days, and assist NHS Test and Trace with requests for that data if needed. This will help contain clusters or outbreaks.

Find more information on Working safely during coronnavirus (GOV.UK).

Staging and capacity

You must make sure the capacity of your event or activity, the arrangements and performances staged are consistent with ensuring social distancing.

Your risk assessments should specifically consider the maximum capacity for a given performance, the ventilation that can be delivered for that capacity and the ability to manage audience behaviour to avoid compromising social distancing.

People living in different households and groups should always remain socially distanced from each other. Your support bubble counts as one household.

When seated in rows this means that social distancing should always be observed between households side-to-side with space left between households and groups up to a maximum of six people. Social distancing should also be applied nose-to-nose, meaning maintaining 1 metre between seats front and behind.

Steps that will usually be needed

  • Reducing site, premises or venue capacity and limiting ticket sales to a volume which ensures social distancing can be maintained.
  • For performances or events without ticketing, considering using other communications approaches, coupled with stewarding, to manage the numbers attending. Free, open, un-ticketed and unfenced performances or events will need to demonstrate a reasonable approach to Track and Trace measures to ensure the control numbers if too many people begin to arrive and breech social distancing requirements.
  • Managing performance scheduling so that audiences for different performances are not using the site, premises or venue at the same time in a way that compromises adherence to social distancing, and to allow for adequate cleaning.
  • Reconfiguring entertainment spaces to enable audience to be seated rather than standing. For example, repurposing ticketed standing areas as ticketed seating areas.
  • Considering using available spaces outdoors for performances with a live audience in attendance.
  • Considering the expected interactions amongst audience members and making sure sufficient controls are in place to maintain social distancing, for example providing clear communication, demarcating spaces, using sufficient ushers.
  • Discouraging or avoiding gatherings such as performances or screenings that may encourage audience behaviours that increase transmission risk, for example crowding, clustering or physical contact outside of household groups or support bubbles. 
  • Making sure risk assessments carefully consider worker safety, especially of those working closely with a large number of members of the public or audience.
  • Considering where crowding could take place such as at points of entry and exit, car parking, handwashing and toilet facilities, waiting areas, bars and restaurants and areas in proximity to performance area. This should be acknowledged in your event management plan and risk assessment.
  • Considering the particular needs of disabled audiences when making adjustments to venues or premises, and communicating these appropriately before any performance as well as when in the venue or premises.

Ticketing and payments

You must maintain social distancing when managing ticketing and payments. You should limit ticket sales to a volume which allows for social distancing to be achieved, both in auditoria and other parts of the site, premises or venue.

Steps that will usually be needed

  • Encouraging guests to buy tickets online and to use e-ticketing. The booking system can help your track and trace system through the collection of your guests’ contact details.. 
  • Allowing for contactless payment and other technology solutions on all purchases made on site.
  • Frequent cleaning of any payment points or ticketing equipment that are touched regularly.
  • Maintaining social distancing as far as possible when checking tickets.

Food, drink and retail purchases or consumption

You must risk assess and manage food, drink and other retail purchases at your event and consumption to maintain social distancing.

Steps that will usually be needed

  • Considering allowing guests to pre-order and collect refreshments and other retail merchandise at designated points throughout the site, premises or venue to maximise social distancing and reduce pinch points. For example, avoid selling programmes or ice-cream inside or outside the auditoria, or at entry and exit points where crowds and queues may form and make social distancing harder to observe.

  • All venues should make sure that steps are taken to avoid customers needing to unduly raise their voices to each other. This includes, but is not limited to, refraining from playing music or broadcasts that may encourage shouting, including if played at a volume that makes normal conversation difficult. This is because of the potential for increased risk of transmission, particularly from aerosol and droplet transmission.

  • Removing ‘pick and mix’ or self-service food and drink facilities to reduce the risk of transmission.

  • Using screens to create a physical barrier between staff and customers at concessions points.

  • Considering adopting seat service at intervals in order to reduce pinch points at bars.

  • Considering providing programmes and other performance materials in digital format.

Entrances, exits and managing people flow

You must maintain social distancing wherever possible when people move around the site, premises or venue during events.

Steps that will usually be needed

  • Adapting performance scheduling to support social distancing and good hygiene. For example, scheduling sufficient time between performances to reduce the possibility of different audiences coming into close proximity and to allow time for cleaning.
  • Using space outside the site, premises or venue for queuing where available and safe. Outside queues should be managed to make sure they don’t cause a risk to individuals, other businesses or additional security risks, for example by introducing queuing systems, having staff direct visitors or audience, and protecting queues from traffic by routing them behind permanent physical structures such as street furniture, bike racks, bollards or putting up barriers.
  • Ensuring your queuing plans consider social distancing guidelines and any changes needed for hostile vehicle mitigation or other anti terrorist measures.
  • Working with your local authority or land owner to take into account the impact of your processes, for example queues, on public spaces such as high streets and public car parks.
  • Reducing instances where people might be required to queue. For example, at:
    • entrances and exits 
    • ticket and concessions kiosks and ticket validation points
    • toilets 
  • Where possible, designating staff to manage queues and regulate guest access between areas.
  • Encouraging visitors to use hand sanitiser or handwashing facilities as they enter and leave the site, premises or venue, or taking visitors' temperatures on arrival
  • Using queue management and marking out one-way flow systems through the site, premises or venue to reduce contact points. For example, introduce one-way systems through the common areas, using auditorium fire exits as the standard so that guests are not required to pass each other when entering and exiting these spaces.
  • Helping visitors maintain social distancing by placing clearly visible markers along the ground, floor or walls, advising on appropriate spacing.
  • Considering how social distancing markers can be made clearly visible and as accessible as reasonably practicable.
  • Ensuring any changes to entry, exit and queue management take into account reasonable adjustments for those who need them, including disabled visitors. For example, maintaining pedestrian and parking access for disabled customers.
  • Extra stewarding or marshalling may be needed at key pinch points and care should be taken to remove any barriers at exits that might cause crowding. This should be considered as part of the event’s crowd management plan, in consultation with those responsible for managing security and marshalling.
  • Management of crowd density points, such as where people stop to watch displays, must be considered as part of this planning to ensure social distancing can be maintained.
  • Limiting the potential for guest contact with performers and support staff by, for example:
    • using security to keep backstage areas clear before and after a performance to allow performers and other staff to enter and exit safely
    • not permitting visitors backstage
    • not permitting autograph signing or photographs with performers

Seating arrangements and use of common areas in temporary structures

You must maintain social distancing wherever possible when audiences use common areas and the performance area or auditorium.

Steps that will usually be needed

  • Providing seating in a way which ensures social distancing between individuals or groups from the same household or support bubble can be maintained. 
  • Consider measures such as:
    • providing allocated seating and managing seating plans through ticketing systems or manually to ensure social distancing is maintained
    • if unallocated seating is provided, installing seat separation or labelling seats which should not be used, or deploying staff to support the audience in adhering to social distanced seating
    • customer information should include a code of conduct for customers for example, it is expected that guests will take responsibility for their own and others’ welfare and abide by social distancing. Staff should nevertheless be deployed to ensure that these measures are being observed. This may include
    • increased checks and supervision, in particular before and at the end of each performance.
  • Reminding guests who are accompanied by children that they are responsible for supervising them at all times and should follow social distancing guidelines.
  • Having clearly designated positions from which site, premises or venue staff can provide advice or assistance to guests whilst maintaining social distance.
  • Considering the needs of disabled audience members, for example access to captioning or audio description services, when managing seating.


You must make sure toilets are kept open and promote good hygiene, social distancing, and cleanliness in toilet facilities.

Steps that will usually be needed

  • Using signs and posters to build awareness of good handwashing technique, the need to increase handwashing frequency and to avoid touching your face, and to cough or sneeze into a tissue which is binned safely, or into your arm if a tissue is not available.

  • Consider the use of social distancing marking in areas where queues normally form. Where capacity does not exist to manage foreseeable crowds, consider the adoption of a limited entry approach, with one in, one out, while avoiding the creation of bottlenecks.

  • Consider making hand sanitiser available on entry and exit to toilets where safe and practical, and ensure suitable handwashing facilities including running water and liquid soap and suitable options for drying, either paper towels or hand driers, are available.

  • Setting clear use and cleaning guidance for toilets, with increased frequency of cleaning in line with usage. Use normal cleaning products, paying attention to frequently hand touched surfaces, and consider use of disposable cloths or paper roll to clean all hard surfaces.

  • Keep the facilities well ventilated, for example by fixing doors open where appropriate.

  • Special care should be taken for cleaning of portable toilets and larger toilet blocks.

  • Putting up a visible cleaning schedule can keep it up to date and visible.

  • Providing more waste facilities and more frequent rubbish collection.

  • Considering the likely patterns of use during a performance, for example during intervals, and modifying any requirements or restrictions to reduce likelihood of these areas becoming pinch points.

Providing and explaining guidance

You must minimise the contact between people during visits to event sites, premises or venues by providing adequate guidance.

Steps that will usually be needed

  • Providing clear guidance on social distancing and hygiene to visitors before arrival, for example by email when purchasing tickets, and on any digital marketing and websites.
  • Providing written or spoken communication of the latest guidelines to both workers and customers inside and outside the venue, including clear guidance on social distancing and hygiene to people on arrival and throughout the site, premises or venue, for example, signage and visual aids. 
  • Display posters or information setting out how audience members should behave at your event to keep everyone safe 
  • Consider accessible ways of communicating information.
  • Considering the equalities impacts of the changes made and what advice or guidance you will need to provide for users who might be adversely impacted.