The Pandemic Diaries!

Please note that there is a STRICT MAXIMUM of 28 people allowed to attend each rehearsal.
Therefore, it is essential that you book a place if you wish to attend.


STATEMENT 14th June, 2021

The announcement by government today that lockdown easing in England will be delayed by four weeks means that we are NOT ABLE to hold our rehearsal on 13th July. 

The Prime Minister has said that the delays will remain in place until 19th July and that “he was “confident” the delay would not need to be longer than four weeks.”

However, given all the u-turns and conflicting advice that the Government have offered, I am also going to cancel our other July rehearsal since, if the delay does continue, we won’t get much warning and so I’d rather not waste all our time or explore loopholes to allow us to sing together.

Therefore, the first session back will be Tuesday 7th September and booking is now open for that. 

I hope to see as many of you as possible then and I can’t wait to sing with you all again…

Enjoy the Summer!


STATEMENT 19th May, 2021

I’m (very cautiously!) delighted to announce that we are aiming to recommence rehearsals in July!
My preparation and plans have been dealt a bit of a blow (along with most other choir leaders across the country!) because despite DCMS promising guidance in advance of step 3 (Step 3 being the proposed relaxing of restrictions from 17th May – this being confirmed through a national announcement by the government on 10th May), on 18th May it was announced by DCMS that (despite other groups being able to meet in larger numbers than 6 indoors -Zumba, brass bands and others) “Non-professional singing indoors should only take place in a single group of up to 6 people.” Link to published statement here, section 2.4.
Prior to this, I wasn’t just intending that we would restart choir regardless of everybody’s safety and wellbeing for the sake of getting singing again but I did feel that our previous risk assessment and mitigations were an adequate mitigation against COVID and to allow people to feel encouraged to come along to a safe environment.
So, the next step…. is that we are working towards the government date of 21st June of step four. This is where the Government aims to completely relax social distancing if safe to do so at that point. IF step four happens as per the governments planned roadmap into post-pandemic, then I am proposing that we restart rehearsals on Tuesday 13th July.
However, if the government announce that we cannot move into step four, then I cannot see that they will allow non-professional music groups to meet in numbers higher than six. If that is the case, then we would have to cancel these rehearsals.

I hope that makes sense? In short:

  • We hope to restart on Tuesday 21st July
  • With social distancing in place
  • For up to 28 people
  • If on (or near) 21st June, Government announce that restrictions WILL be eased further (into step four), then we WILL meet (possibly with more than 28 members allowed)
  • If on (or near) 21st June, Government announce that restrictions will NOT be eased (into step four) then, almost certainly, we will have to suspend these rehearsals 

Largely, the control measures and risk assessment from the few sessions when we managed to meet last Autumn will be unchanged but there are a few changes, as follows:

HOW MANY PEOPLE CAN ATTEND?

Currently, the capacity of the Waveney centre while observing social distancing allows for a maximum of 28 people. 
However, Step four of the government plan is that 21st June is when “all legal limits on social contact can be removed.” If this easing of restrictions happens as plans then… we COULD have NO restrictions on how many people can attend but I will still suggest that we observe 1 metre social distancing whilst singing.
For now (as before) bookings are on a first come, first served basis.

SUB-GROUPS

Government guidance states: “At this step, both outdoor and indoor gatherings or events, organised by a business, charity, public body or similar organisation, can be organised, subject to specific conditions: that they comply with COVID-Secure guidance including taking reasonable steps to limit the risk of transmission, complete a related risk assessment; and ensure that those attending do not mix beyond what is permitted by the social contact limits (unless another exemption exists, such as for organised sport or exercise, supervised activities for children or a significant life event).”
The total number of people attending a gathering/rehearsal can be more than the social contact limit (the rule of six) – but those numbers must always remain in sub-groups within social contact limits. Therefore, we CAN meet in a large group size than six (ie: our maximum socially distanced rehearsal of 28 people) but during arrival, breaktime and on leaving, we need to manage numbers safely within social contact limits and so, people should only stay in a maximum sub-group of no more than 6 and with no mixing/switching between the sub-groups.
If you usually would come alone, then please continue to do that. However, I know that some small groups of friends arrive together and chat together during breaktime and this is allowed – as long as we observe the rule of 6.
This means that our own rules are very simple and clear which will make rehearsing much easier to manage and understand.
If you are not sure exactly what this means for you, please feel free to get in touch with me and I can try and verbally explain.

TEST KITS

The test for people without symptoms of COVID-19 is called a rapid lateral flow test.
This usually involves rubbing a long cotton bud (swab) over your tonsils (or where they would have been) and inside your nose.
The tests can give you a result in 30 minutes. 
You can order them free from GOV.uk

PRICE INCREASE

I will be increasing the session price to £5 per person.
It’s the first price increase since 2016 so I hope that’s OK for people but I know it’s been a difficult year for many so if this is more than your household can afford, please don’t stay away – there’ll be a chance to pay the previous lower amount of £4.
I will have a card reader which will enable you to pay by card or phone but for anybody who prefers to use cash, I’m happy to also still take this but (to avoid unnecessary physical touch-points) please bring the correct amount.

FACE COVERINGS

As mentioned below, we will arrive, break and leave wearing face coverings but we will NOT be singing in face coverings…
…UNLESS you prefer to – there will be no atmosphere of judgements or politics about face coverings – if you are exempt, you are welcome to come along and if you feel safer to wear one whilst singing, please JUST DO WEAR ONE!
If the latter is the case, you may find these following links useful. These websites have masks specifically made for singers – which prevent you inhaling your mask when breathing in and still allowing a full range of jaw and facial movement:
Banks Music
Alison Crutchley
Miss Kiddy

This one particularly seems very useful and effective – a silicone spacer which fits underneath a facemask, allowing for more comfortable singing while wearing a mask:
Sing Safe UK  


STATEMENT 10th May, 2021

It has been announced today by the government that the Step three easing of Covid restrictions which were planned for 17th May are going ahead. 

This means that concert halls, theatres and other venues can now open to limited audiences for professional performances but there is no official guidance from the government on whether amateur choirs and music groups can recommence rehearsals.

So, I am exploring what advice and clarity national music organisations and unions such as The Association of British Choral Directors, Making Music UK and The Musicians Union can provide since they are all working closely with DCMS to support choir leaders, choirs and music groups.

The government is currently working towards a date of 21st June (Step four) when “all legal limits on social contact can be removed.” If this happens as plans, then we will be able to recommence from this date but also possibly before – as soon as I am confident that I can make the decision for us to safely and responsibly recommence rehearsals, I will announce it here, let you know and open bookings for rehearsals.


STATEMENT 4th January, 2021

Today, the Prime Minister announced England’s third national lockdown which legally comes into force 0n 6th January.

This means that we cannot meet before 17th May and so… our rehearsals are still suspended. When it is viable, safe and responsible to recommence rehearsals, we will do so.


STATEMENT 2nd December, 2020

In line with the end of the second lockdown, the new Covid tier restrictions came into place today and Suffolk has been placed in Tier 2 (High altert)

This means that we cannot meet before Christmas and so… our rehearsals are still suspended.

When it is viable, safe and responsible to recommence rehearsals, we will do so – this will be in January 2021 or later.


STATEMENT 1st November, 2020

Yesterday, the government announced a second lockdown across England between 5th November – 2nd December.

This means that we cannot meet between these dates and so… our rehearsals are suspended once again.

When it is viable, safe and responsible to recommence rehearsals, we will do so – this may be after 2nd December and before Christmas or in January 2021 or later.

Please watch this space and follow our Facebook page to be kept up to date. Those who have returned for our few wonderful rehearsals – THANK YOU! For your support, your respect of our control measures, your loyalty and your lovely voices!  


STATEMENT 4th September, 2020

The DCMS (Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) updated the Performing Arts guidance on 13th August to confirm that non-professionals can now engage in all performing arts activities, including singing, wind and brass.

As a result of that announcement and because the Waveney Centre is a COVID-secure venue, Beccles Community Choir restarted physical COVID-compliant rehearsals on Tuesday 22nd September!

Please note that there is a STRICT MAXIMUM of 28 people allowed to attend each rehearsal.
Therefore, it is essential that you book a place if you wish to attend.


Please read “Control Measures” underneath this online booking form BEFORE entering your details and clicking SUBMIT.

BOOK YOUR PLACE


CONTROL MEASURES

In addition to the Control Measures that the Waveney Centre has implemented, Beccles Community Choir will be introducing the following additional measures:


FOUR QUESTIONS:

  1. Do you have any of the symptoms: elevated temperature (above 37.8°c), continuous cough, loss of smell and taste?
  2. Have you been in close contact with someone with symptoms?
  3. Have NHS Track & Trace asked you to self-isolate?
  4. Have you returned from abroad and been asked to self-isolate?

…If the answer to any of these is yes, you will need to stay away.

Link to the current guidance on self-isolation HERE


PRIOR TO CHOIR:

  • Since we will have fire exits and doors open throughout the entire session (to ensure that the centre is “well ventilated”), you may want to bring a coat or jumper along to wear (although I’d hope that in July – we shouldn’t need to!)
  • Please bring your own lyrics and music sheets to each session. 
    There is a link at the bottom of this page to access the list of songs that we will be covering and to download and print any lyrics that you do not have. 
    If you are unable to print lyrics at home, please let me know – I can supply lyrics for you but will distribute them wearing gloves (in line with our COVID-19 risk assessment).
  • Please bring a mask with you and wear it for arrival at the Waveney Centre, during break-time, for toilet visits and when you leave. (we will not wear masks whilst singing).
    If you cannot wear a mask due to a health condition, please advise Stephen.
  • No drinking water will be available at rehearsal – please bring your own bottle.
  • Please bring your own pen or pencil if you wish to make notes on your lyric sheets.
  • If you have booked a place and find that you are unable to attend, please make sure that you contact Stephen so that your place can be made available for somebody else.

ARRIVING AT CHOIR:

  • There is a one-way system in place at the Waveney Centre. Upon arrival, please turn right after you pass the metal gate near the front door and follow the alleyway round where you can enter through the patio doors at the rear of the centre.
  • After rehearsals have finished, all choir members are to exit via the usual main entrance.
  • We can now take payment by card or phone! To avoid anybody having to handle cash, we have a machine which can take either contactless payment by Phone or Debit Card or Chip & Pin.
  • If you do want to by cash, please deposit correct attendance fee (£5) into the payment tub on the main table by the entrance, making payment with correct amount of cash (no change can be given).
  • Hand sanitising stations are placed around the Waveney Centre – please use them upon arrival, during break-time, before departure and after any visit to the toilets.

WHILST AT CHOIR:

  • Chairs will be situated with spacing of 1-metre width and 3-metre depth. Please do not move or re-position chairs.
  • Singing may only happen whilst facing forward. 
  • Please try to avoid touching any shared surfaces. All chairs, door handles, toilets and touchpoints will be disinfected prior to and after rehearsal.
  • The Waveney centre will be kept well ventilated with patio doors remaining open throughout the session.
  • To ensure that we keep as ventilated as we can, the sessions will comprise 2x 30-minutes of singing separated by a break-time.
  • …which will take place within the gardens outside. During the break, please wear a mask and observe social distancing of 2-metres. 
  • I will take a register as part of the Track & Trace procedure, keeping details for 21 days and then shredding them.

AFTER CHOIR:

  • If you fall ill after attending a rehearsal, contact your GP to arrange to get tested for COVID and contact Stephen immediately.
  • If NHS Track & Trace contact you and ask you to self-isolate, please advise Stephen immediately.

YOUR DECISION:

Please make your own decision about whether you are happy to return – there is no pressure for you to do so if you have any health concerns about being in public. 
The aim of these measures are to keep us all safe whilst singing together and to supply you with the information about how we will conduct our rehearsals so that you have the confidence to make an informed decision about whether it is appropriate for you to return to choir yet.
However, measures cannot reduce the risk to zero – if you book a space and click SUBMIT you confirm that you understand this. 


COMPLIANCE:

Human beings are instinctively tactile and sociable – we are all sure to have a very steep learning curve as we try and remain mindful and respectful of these mitigation procedures. 
These measures are not something intended to embarrass anybody if we breach them. We won’t have an atmosphere of finger-pointing or whistle blowing if anybody accidentally forgets themselves momentarily – we are likely to all need to encourage each other to build new habits. 
However, in order to give confidence for people to return as well as to try and ensure the safety of all members, all attendees must be willing to comply with the measures above and those on our COVID-19 risk assessment. 
By booking a space and clicking SUBMIT, you confirm that you are willing to follow these steps.


WHAT RISK CATEGORY ARE YOU?:
Prior to the first rehearsal you come to, please advise Stephen whether you are a: 

  • High risk individual
  • Moderate risk individual
  • Low risk individual (those who do not fall within the high or moderate risk category)

Link to the definition of High and Moderate risk individuals HERE


CONTACT:

Stephen 07909 510976
info@beccleschoir.co.uk


FURTHER READING:

Beccles Community Choir COVID-19 Risk Assessment
Link to local Coronavirus data HERE
Link to Government guidance on local lockdowns HERE