The Penang State Exco for Tourism, Arts, Culture and Heritage (Petach) has released a standard operating procedure (SOP) template to assist in the reopening of arts and cultural spaces in Penang based on the public health guidelines issued by the Federal Government.
In light of the new normal, Penang is the first state in Malaysia to initiate such a framework, with the working document titled “Public Health Safety Operations Guidelines For Arts And Culture Spaces”. It will be updated to reflect the changes in the conditional movement control order (CMCO) guidelines by Malaysian National Security Council (MKN) after June 9.
“The arts and culture sector are among the most affected by the Covid-19 crisis, with many public events and activities cancelled or postponed due to the national movement control order (MCO)," says Yeoh Soon Hin, Petach chairman, in a media statement.
"These guidelines are not intended to be exhaustive or comprehensive in scope and not every consideration will apply to every organisation. We encourage arts and culture organisations and practitioners to use these guidelines as a foundation for their plans and adapt to their specific needs in implementing mandatory public health guidelines, ” he adds.
The guidelines provide information on visitor safety, staff safety, space/facility management, and public communication.
“This is a working document that will be updated regularly to reflect changes in state and federal guidelines related to the Covid-19 pandemic change," says Yeoh.
"I urge arts and cultural organisations to prioritise the health and safety of their employees, artists, contractors, volunteers and audiences when determining whether to engage the public with physical and in-person programming and performances, ” he adds.
Paul Augustin, director of Penang House of Music (PHoM), sees this pro-active post-CMCO planning as a step in the right direction.
"The guidelines are a big help as it sends a positive message that the state government is willing to work with the relevant players in the industry to move forward. Everyone needs to play their part... the venue owners, the artists and the public," says Augustin, who is planning to limit visitor numbers to PHoM and also start a series of digital programmes when it reopens.
Alexander Ooi, PenangPac company manager, agrees that a clear direction and action plan will help performing arts spaces resume operations accordingly with all the government guidelines in place.
"In these confusing times, it's good to have a set of guidelines. They illustrate all the dos and don'ts when it comes to performing arts spaces and audiences. However, some things are still unclear, especially the size and scale of productions that will be allowed post-CMCO," says Ooi, who reveals that PenangPac has postponed/cancelled six in-house shows and 12 external productions since the MCO came into effect.
"Can we have a choir in the PenangPac venue? How big can a theatre show production be? We are ready to resume operations, but that can only happen when we have all the proper official details," he adds.