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Carol Singing & Carol Events – a practical guide for 2020

INCLUDES UPDATES on 19th December.

We've written for you a Carol Singing & Events practical guide for 2020, based upon the government's 100s of pages of Covid Legislation, Performing Arts Regulations, and the government's Singing and Christmas Guidance for England. But, first...

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Out To Perform's Guide To Carol Singing 2020

version 1.2. updated Sun 20th December 2020

The information below is taken from the following sources:

Government Christmas Guidance

Places of Worship Regulations

Performing Arts Regulations

Government Singing Guidance 


UPDATE: As a result of the new emergency regulations announced on 19th December, the rules have changed, but only very slightly.

Please read the updated Government Christmas Guidance. Carol singing can still take place in Tier 4 under two scenarios:

1. An "act of worship". So, outdoor carol services in which you can demonstrate that they are an act of worship should still be legal, providing they comply with all the other guidance.

2. As an "outdoor performance", where each group consists of no more than 2 people (unless they're in a household group). However, multiple groups can perform the same activity as long as they don't mingle (= space by more than 2m). Given that 2m spacing is our recommendation below anyway, if you adopt the advice below to keep 2m apart between all singers, then little has changed. Each person becomes a group of 1. To comply though, groups must not mingle socially. In practice, if you keep everyone 2m apart, this is not mingling. Audiences should not be *invited*, but if passers by happen to listen, and comply with the 2m spacing on household groups (or non-household groups of no more than 2 people), then it is our reading that it appears to be legal.

Our diagram below still appears to be valid in Tier 4 because of the 2m spacing. However, you may choose to widen the spacing to send a message that you are 6 individual groups, or 3 pairs of 2 rather than a group of 6.

Disclaimer: there may be clarifications to print which we will update as soon as we can, so to make sure you have the most up to date version, Sign up for our newsletter to be updated on the latest advice and news on our wider campaign: to expand the performing arts outdoors during the pandemic. 


Out To Perform has published this guide to help you make the right decisions about Carols this Christmas. It is not a substitute for reading the government documents. 

Previous advice (2nd December)

Carol Singing Made Legal in England! (Details on other nations to follow)

Out To Perform is delighted that the government listened to our Save Carol Singing campaign through our Open Letter to the Secretary of State, our lobbying of MPs and our media campaign. Our wider mission is to get the government to help expand the performing arts opportunities outdoors where the air is Covid-safer, whilst the effects of the pandemic rages, from street performers to outdoor festivals. There is much to be celebrated! From Dec 2nd in England:

  • Group carol singing is allowed outdoors, whether on the High Street, public places or door-to-door

  • For the first time since March, audiences, congregations and passers-by will be able to join in participatory singing outdoors

n.b. Wales, Scotland & Northern Ireland have not yet legislated for or against carol singing as of 2ndDecember. Please check with their administrations directly for details.

Outdoor (Static) Carol Singing Events:

Eg. Outdoor singing event/concert. This can only take place on public land or land owned by a business or charity. It cannot currently take place in the garden of a private house, though door-to-door carol singing is legal provided the rules below are adhered to, and carol singing takes place more than 2m from the threshold of somebody's door. You may wish to increase this distance to build trust!

Number of Performers:

  • Under-18s and Professionals: unlimited number

  • Amateur adults: subject to the (confusing) “Rule of 6” 

This does NOT mean 6 people! The Performing Arts Regulations allow for multiple groups of 6 singing together outdoors, provided that groups do not mingle socially before, during or after. So, you could build up larger choirs by treating them as groups of 6 that don’t mingle socially or get less than 2m from other groups. 


Performer Spacing Within Groups:

Although the Performing Arts regulations do allow performers to use 1m+ spacing with “robust mitigation”, the government’s singing guidance recommends 2m spacing in all dimensions in order to minimise the possibility of Covid transmission through aerosols & droplets. Singing at 2m spacing outdoors is a very challenging activity, so we would advocate using a 2m triangle spacing: 2m side-to-side, with the line ahead staggered so that people sing "in between" the gaps. In this fashion, the rows are 1.73m apart but still keep all singers 2m apart. 

Infographic still.png


The only exception to the spacing rule would be where people are in the same household/support bubble. In which case, those performers could stand closely together, as long as they’re 2m from every other performer.

Practical advice

As outlined in the Performing Arts regulations, organisers should think about how to minimise the risk of Covid transmission at every point. Aside from the listed advice, there are practical things to do:

• Don’t share music (unless with someone in your household unit or support bubble)! 

• Get singers to print out their own music/words, or else the organiser print it and only handle it with gloves & mask on, and get singers to take the music/words without you handling it again.

• Whilst rehearsals could take place indoors in a Covid-safe business/charity venue (Tier 2), or a private house (max 6, Tier 1), the logical place to rehearse is outside, where the air is safer – and allows you to practise singing with 2m spacing!

• If you're collecting money in a bucket, then the contents should be treated as potentially carrying the virus on the surface of the money, and to take precautions of washing hands after handling the money at the end of the session.



A big win for Out To Perform has been that or the first time since March, audience and congregations may join in outdoors. Huzzah! However, whilst there is no limit to the total amount of audience, spacing is important to minimise risk:


Whilst the regulations mandate a 2m gap between singers and audience, Out To Perform advocates expanding this to 2.5m to eliminate the possibility of any droplets reaching the audience.

Arranging your audience

It’s a requirement of the performance group to comply with the Performing Arts regulations, which include the need for Risk Assessments etc., and place a legal requirement to manage audiences safely, Although the Tier regulations allow groups of up to 6 to meet outside in Tiers 1/2, the government's Carol Singing Outdoor Performances guidelines recommend maintaining 2m between households/support bubbles at all times whilst singing.

Whilst it’s beyond the boundaries of this guide to provide full guidance on organising large events, here is a useful rule of thumb when calculating maximum capacity in an outdoor space :

• 4m2 for a one-person bubble

• 5m2 for a two-person bubble standing close side-by-side 

• 6.25m2 for a four-person bubble standing in a close 2+2 formation 

The rule is that each person must be at least 2m away in every direction from anyone else not in their group, thus we recommend increasing bubble sizes.

There are also rules around arriving / entering which, the need to do Risk Assessments, use Track & Trace, and provide a range of protocols to minimise transmission. These can be found at: Performing Arts Regulations. Advance free ticketing (e.g. Eventbrite and other platforms) allow for easy capture of attendees' records for Track & Trace purposes.


Whilst there is no requirement for audiences to wear masks whilst arriving/leaving outside, we would recommend mandating this to avoid problems if people have to walk past others at 1m+ distance. Likewise, there is no legal requirement for audiences to wear masks whilst singing outdoors as long as 2m spacing is maintained. Although there is no scientific evidence to suggest that asking correctly-spaced audiences to "Mask On to Sing Along" will reduce transmission of the virus outdoors where aerosols dissipate rapidly, the government has suggested this as an additional mitigation you might consider. 

Door to door carol singing

Group size

The same rules apply as for static events: if there are more than 6 performers, they must not "mingle" socially, and spacing between singers is recommended as 2m for those you don't live with. (Same-household groups may of course get much closer!).

Distance to threshold

The distance between singers and the threshold must be no less than 2m, but you may choose to increase this to build trust.

Collecting money

Remember that coins and notes carry the small risk potential of the virus being transmitted on the surface. Therefore, it's recommend not to give change, and to take precautions of washing hands after handling the money at the end of the session.

Practical advice

• Don’t share music (unless with someone in your household unit or support bubble)! 

• Get singers to print out their own music/words, or else the organiser print it and only handle it with gloves & mask on, and get singers to take the music/words without you handling it again.

Further steps: 

1. Sign up now so we can alert you of any clarifications or changes to these regulations!

2. Share this on social media with friends so we can help as much carol singing as possible

3. Please support our kick-starter campaign to help more performances to happen outdoors:

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