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Coronavirus / Arts agency happy to be guided by public health specialists on reopening venues and holding events

Mareel. Photo: Shetland NewsMareel. Photo: Shetland News

SHETLAND Arts chief executive Graeme Howell says the organisation will reopen its venues “when appropriate” and in line with guidance.

It comes after Scottish culture secretary Fiona Hyslop suggested the islands could potentially play host to “trials” around the return of live events like concerts.

Howell said that “whether Shetland should progress through the later stages [of relaxing lockdown restrictions] faster is something that we will be happy to be guided on by local and national public health specialists”.

Shetland Arts’ venues Mareel, Bonhoga and the Garrison Theatre have been closed since March, and events have been cancelled.

A Scottish Government route map published last week suggested cinemas could return in a third phase of lockdown relaxing, with social distancing and hygiene measures in place.

Live events may also be permitted in this phase but with restricted numbers and physical distancing.

“Understandably the document is light on detail and we look forward to more thorough sector guidance,” Howell said.

“We have been working with colleagues in the industry to lobby for a safe reopening methodology that protects staff and customers.”

The arts chief said the charitable organisation has begun working with some of its suppliers to “update how we work to enable social distancing as required, including the introduction of e-ticketing and social distanced bookable seating plans, though these conversations are at an early stage”.

“We will make public all of the safeguards that we are putting in place before we open and will obviously review and update them as appropriate,” he added.

Shetland Arts, meanwhile, is due to hold a multi-genre festival once restrictions have been lifted.

The Shetland Unlocked festival has so far received over 20 applications to date, including national companies looking to bring their work to Shetland.