Public fears over returning to indoor events in Scotland revealed in opinion poll

Public fears over the prospect of returning to live music, theatre and comedy events have been revealed by an opinion poll which found two thirds of Scots have been put off going to indoor venues during the pandemic due to concerns over the health risks.

A full house at the recently reborn Leith Theatre. Picture: David Wilkinson
A full house at the recently reborn Leith Theatre. Picture: David Wilkinson

Three quarters of those surveyed for a recent opinion poll said they were ether in “no hurry” or would not contemplate going back to a play, gig or show for the foreseeable future.

Nearly two thirds of Scots said they were reluctant to return to cinemas anytime soon, according to research carried out in November, before a new strain of coronavirus forced the closure of shops, hotels, bars and restaurants across mainland Scotland.

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Key factors putting people off going back to indoor venues include concerns over how rules on social distancing and mask-wearing would be enforced, and the prospect of encountering busy crowds. Country parks and scenic areas were seen as far more attractive alternatives.

Just over two thirds of those polled admitted they were worried about the “potential health impacts of Covid-19” for them and their family if they went back to cultural events.

In addition, more than half said they were more worried about their household finances than a year ago.

The research, drawn from interviews with 1100 Scots, found interest dwindling in online shows created to “substitute” for live performances – with respondents citing “a lack of atmosphere, no real audience interaction and a feeling that events would be no better than watching existing content on television” as the biggest drawbacks.

Less than a fifth said they would be prepared to pay for online arts content online in future.

The Usher Hall is one of Edinburgh's main concert venues. Picture: Clark James

However there was much more appetite for attending outdoor events – with the prospect of drive-in cinema screenings and gigs, open-air concerts and plays, and “park festivals” holding the most appeal.

More than half of Scots said they would be uncomfortable going to indoor venues if they were allowed to reduce social distancing to one metre, as previously happened in bars and restaurants. Many venue operators have previously warned that reopening would not be viable for them if two metre social distancing is kept in place.

The research found that one in 10 Scots were content to wait for the vaccine roll-out before they “seriously considered” going back to live events.

The research, carried out by consultants 56 Degree Insight, states: “Levels of desire to attend arts and cultural venues remain polarised – while some are keen to attend when they can, others are wary.

The Enchanted Forest is one of Scotland's most popular outdoor events. Picture: VisitScotland/Kenny Lam

"As things stand, most people feel that they will take their time or are altogether reluctant to return to arts venues.""While enforcement of restrictions at venues remain important, an increasing percentage will wait for the vaccine before attending again.”

Iain Munro, Creative Scotland’s chief executive, said: The impact on Scotland’s art and culture sector by the pandemic has been severe.

"This important and ongoing research helps us understand that impact from a public perspective and is helping inform our ongoing discussions with partners, including the Scottish Government, regarding current and future support.

“The research also provides invaluable insight that will help shape our collaborative work with the sector, in terms of recovery and renewal, as we emerge from the impacts of the pandemic through 2021.”

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