Covid rules in Harrogate: Everything audiences need to know about entry restrictions at big shows in Harrogate

Event-goers in Harrogate looking forward to a packed programme of autumn shows may still face a range of entry requirements, including the possibility of Covid passports, despite the Government’s decision not to make them mandatory.

By Graham Chalmers
Thursday, 16th September 2021, 5:00 pm
Updated Thursday, 16th September 2021, 5:04 pm
Harrogate Convention Centre has signed up to the “All Secure Standard v 2.0” rules for events which has  five different levels of protocol depending on the risks.
Harrogate Convention Centre has signed up to the “All Secure Standard v 2.0” rules for events which has five different levels of protocol depending on the risks.

There may be no mandatory Covid passports for events at the moment as the Government holds its powers in reserve in case of an autumn surge in the virus, it but, as Harrogate looks ahead to an exciting autumn of shows, audiences are well advised to check venues’ rules in advance

Venues in Harrogate remain able - at the moment - to introduce their own restrictions or not as the arts sector comes back to life in a spectacular fashion after lockdown with a welter of famous acts and exciting shows, including Harrogate Comedy Festival and singing legends such as Billy Ocean and Michael Bolton.

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But, even before this week’s warning by Prime Minister Boris Johnson that Covid passports might be needed as part of its ‘Plan B’ aims to prevent the NHS being overwhelmed this winter, arts promoters and venues in Harrogate have been taking a cautious approach, especially when big audiences are involved.

Although the return to stricter measures is only a threat at this point, the experience for audiences in Harrogate, much like in other towns and cities across England with vibrant arts scenes, is that they will not always simply be able to just walk in as in pre-Covid times.

Irrespective of what the Government may or may not do over entry requirements at events and venues in the battle against the virus this winter, Covid-19 health and safely best practices are already being implemented at Harrogate Convention Centre and the Royal Hall.

Some ticket holders arriving at the annual Banff Mountain Film Festival event at the Royal Hall in Harrogate less than two weeks ago were visibly shocked to be asked at the door for proof of Covid status.

But this cautious approach is part of a determination by Harrogate Theatre - the town’s main booker of live events - to ensure the safety of audiences and staff working at the Royal Hall, as well as the theatre itself which is currently closed for a £1 million roof repair.

Covid entry requirements in Harrogate: Policy at Harrogate Theatre

Harrogate Theatre says: "Harrogate Theatre is committed to maintaining a safe environment for all our patrons and staff. Your safety is our highest priority and we have put a number of measures in place so that everyone has a safe and enjoyable experience."

As part the Society Of London Theatre and UK Theatres’ See It Safely campaign, Harrogate Theatre’s policy, which is posted on its website, asks that all audience members bring with them one of the following:

Proof of double-vaccination;

Proof of passing a recent negative lateral flow test;

Proof of a natural immunity via an Antibodies Test.

Audience members are also being asked as part of See It Safely to wear face coverings, unless exempt, whilst entering the theatre’s venues and while moving around the venues, toilets and bars, though face coverings may be removed while seated.

Please note, at the moment, Harrogate Theatre is closed for major roof repairs but it is booking shows at the Royal Hall, as well as at community venues including Cold Bath Brewery, Harrogate Library, Odeon Harrogate and St Wilfrid’s Church.

When Harrogate Theatre reopens later this year, it says it will adopt the following Covid security measures:

Track & Trace system at every entrance, we ask visitors to check into the venue when you arrive at Harrogate Theatre.

Temperature checks for every visitor upon entrance to the Harrogate Theatre building.

Perspex screen dividers will be at our Box Office and Bars with moveable screens at our seating areas too.

All high traffic touch point areas have antimicrobial touch pads.

Anti-viral decontamination units are in operation every day.

Covid entry requirements in Harrogate: Policy at Royal Hall and Harrogate Convention Centre

Harrogate Convention Centre has signed up to the “All Secure Standard v 2.0” rules for events which has five different levels of protocol depending on the risks.

Only events judged to fall into the lowest level of risk, level one (green) where the virus is no longer present in the UK, will Covid status checks at entry not be part of the mix for audience members in Harrogate.

As for the Royal Hall, that is slightly different in that the Covid protocols for events in the Royal Hall and main auditorium are decided by either the event promoter or venue hirer, typically Harrogate Theatre.

Harrogate Convention Centre says all events are slightly different in requirement, and specific protocols for entertainment events in the Royal Hall and main auditorium are being implemented by either the event promoter or venue hirer, typically Harrogate Theatre.

The theatre, in recognition of the ticket holder's desire for Covid-19 safety, requires all visitors to provide proof of vaccination or a negative lateral flow test taken 48 hours before the event

Harrogate Convention Centre shows: The five Covid levels

The 'All Secure Standard' guidelines as set out by the Association of Event Venues (AEV), Association of Event Organisers (AEO), Events Supplier and Services Association (ESSA). which have been approved by UK government

Level five (red) - a "material risk of healthcare services being overwhelmed"

Level four - a high or rising level of transmission.

Level three - the virus is in general circulation.

Level two - the number of cases and transmission are low.

Level one (green) - Covid-19 is no longer present in the UK.

Please note, the current level 2 and 3 require Covid-19 status checks at entry, but relevant to the event risk profile. Levels 4 and 5 require mandatory Covid-19 status checks at entry.

Covid entry requirements in Harrogate: Harrogate International Festivals events

Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival was a great success in July with a straightforward element of social distancing.

But, as a promoter rather than a venue owner, HIF takes care to follow events industry Covid safety guidelines.

Sharon Canavar, the chief executive of Harrogate International Festivals said: "As we don’t have our own venue we generally fall in with the guidelines and infrastructure of whatever venue we have hired as our events space.

"In the common areas we will fall in with their guidelines but when it becomes our space within an auditorium we will follow the guidelines set by government at the time and where possible increase safety to ensure the event can continue for our performers and audiences.

"For the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Festival, this was delivered in Stage 4 with no guidelines but we kept the Stage 3 limits and space to ensure safety and provide reassurance for our guests.

"In terms of Covid passports, this isn’t something we have in place at this time, although we know our larger partner events that often fall under ‘mass gatherings’ are requesting proof under their own Event Management Plans.

"We will, of course, keep the situation under review and follow all relevant guidelines as appropriate in place at the time.

Covid entry requirements in Harrogate: What smaller venues in Harrogate think

When it comes to smaller events and venues in Harrogate, there is little apparent appetite as yet for any official introduction for the return of tighter rules or on Covid passports.

In fact, just the reverse.

Rooster's independent brewery and taproom in Harrogate

The promoters and owners the Harrogate Advertiser spoke to said they were happy to work within the existing Government guidance and respected customers’ wishes on safety.

Ian Fozard, director of Harrogate independent craft beer brewery Rooster’s, whose tap room is part of Harrogate Beer Week which launches next Monday, said he was against Covid passports.

Mr Fozard said: “I do not think that Covid passports are the way to go.

“They are potentially discriminatory and also would be time consuming for staff and, potentially, involve them in a conflict situation which we would wish to avoid.

“In terms of Covid safety, it is very much a case of each venue applying their own rules and/or standards and it is very much down to individual responsibility and/or choice.

“Many people, myself included are wary of very crowded situations.

“We are fortunate in that our Rooster’s Taproom is spacious, our staff are responsible and try to maintain high standards of hygiene.

“We simply ask our customers to respect other people’s space if at all possible.”

The Blues Bar in Harrogate

Simon Colgan, co-owner of Harrogate’s small but well-renowned Blues Bar - the town’s only seven days a week live venue - also said Covid passports were not the way forward for smaller venues.

Mr Colgan said: “From my point of view, it’s absolutely lovely being back to normal after such a long time of lockdown restrictions and no gigs.

“The vast part of my customer base is older. I don’t know anyone who isn’t double-jabbed.

"They tell me they feel immensely comfortable being back in the bar as normal.

"There is such a feeling in the general public to “let’s get on with it”. What I am hearing is “don’t restrict us when it’s not necessary”.