Phase 3 re-opening: Outdoor performance pilots for audiences of 250, indoor audience limit raised to 250

The new limit will benefit only larger spaces such as the Esplanade Concert Hall (above) and Star theatres.
The new limit will benefit only larger spaces such as the Esplanade Concert Hall (above) and Star theatres.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The National Arts Council and the Singapore Tourism Board will be accepting pilot applications for outdoor live performances for up to 250 audience members in zones of 50 each.

Under Phase 3 of Singapore's re-opening, audiences of up to 250 in groups of 50 are also allowed in indoor venues, the NAC added in a statement in response to Straits Times queries. This is up from audiences of 100.

Ms Rachelle Tan, 42, the Esplanade's director of venues and planning, says the first performance at the arts centre with 250 audience members will be Rock 21 at the Esplanade Concert Hall on Friday (Jan 1).

The venue has been conducting pilot trials for up to 100 people at the Outdoor Theatre. Ms Tan adds: "We will also increase audience capacity from 100 pax (in two zones) to 150 pax (in three zones) at the Esplanade Outdoor Theatre from Jan 1 in line with the safe management measures. "

While the capacity cap has been raised, Singapore Chinese Orchestra (SCO) executive director Terence Ho, 50, points out that with safe management measures still in place, the new limit will benefit only larger spaces such as the Esplanade and Star theatres.

These venues, with seating capacities of more than 1,000, can accommodate the bubblewrap seating which necessitates 1m distances within groups of 50 and a 3m distance between groups of 50 as well as separate entrances and exits for each group. The SCO's Singapore Conference Hall venue, with 833, can accommodate only a maximum of 125 audience members.

Mr Ho is hoping instead to expand the audiences for SCO's outdoor performances, starting with an upcoming gig at the Botanic Gardens in January.

"We hope we can do up to 250 audience members. But it's also up to NParks (National Parks Board). We are also talking to partners for our community series. I hope NParks, community venues and schools can think about how to accommodate arts groups outdoors."

Concert promoters that the Straits Times approached, such as IMC Live Global, AEG and Collective Minds, say they have no plans yet to organise any outdoor shows under the pilot. IMC Live Global is focusing on an upcoming series of indoor concerts at Capitol Theatre in January and February which can take up 250 live audience. AEG and Collective Minds organised a two-night indoor concert at the Sands Theatre at Marina Bay Sands on Dec 18 and 19, with mandatory pre-event testing, that had 400 in the audience.

Singapore has trialled pre-event testing for Mice events and live music concerts. The Esplanade has also run a pilot trial for pre-event testing for one of its Voices - A Festival Of Song shows. The Singapore Symphony Orchestra conducted a similar pilot, with mandatory testing for an audience of 400 at the Esplanade Concert Hall for its Christmas fundraising concert on Dec 16.

Mr Ho says there have been discussions about conducting antigen tests for SCO musicians and crew as a preventive measure. But the prohibitive costs, several thousand dollars for each performance involving 50 to 70 staff members, as well as the infrastructural demand are a deterrent.

The Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth will also be extending the existing 80 per cent subsidy for venue hire and in-house production cost until March 31. The subsidy is for arts and culture activities at venues in the Esplanade, National Gallery Singapore, National Heritage Board museums and heritage institutions, STPI Creative Workshop & Gallery, Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre, Singapore Conference Hall, as well as those managed by Arts House Limited. The subsidy has also been extended to select arts centres with shared facilities under NAC.

Live performances for the arts resumed cautiously with small scale trials for audience groups of 50 in September. Audience capacity was expanded to 100, in two groups of 50, on Nov 1.

- Additional reporting by Eddino Abdul Hadi