Advice Notes

We’ve put together a series of advice notes that aim to answer some of the most frequent queries that we receive.

We will be adding more advice notes to this section over the coming months. Please get in touch if you have any questions not answered here.

Coronavirus pandemic

Finding a  new operator - guidance on appointing a new operator in the event of a local authority-owned theatre operator entering administration. Aimed at local authorities.

Scenario planning for 2021 - a toolkit and set of base scenarios to allow theatres to challenge assumptions embedded in their business planning. Aimed at theatre operators.

Other organisations' guidance on Covid-19

Working safely during coronavirus - Government guidance for England for events and attractions - note this replaced the specific performing arts guidance in July 2021.

In a bubble of our making - reopening the arts in Northern Ireland - although aimed at Northern Ireland, this is a very comprehensive resource from Arts Council Northern Ireland that will be useful for organisations in all parts of the UK.

Ventilation and air conditioning during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic - Updated advice including a video from the Health and Safety Executive.

ABTT put together a series of advice notes about returning to work in theatres and putting on live performances. The first two should be read together.

Guidance Note 101 - COVID-19 Risk Assessments for Returning to Work in Places of Entertainment

Guidance Note 102 – COVID-19 Returning to Work Support Information

Guidance Note 103 - COVID-19 Production and Technical Departments Safe Working Procedures

Guidance Note 104 – COVID-19 Returning to Work in Places of Entertainment: Guidance for Safe Working in Rehearsal & Production Environments

Guidance Note 105 - COVID-19 Re-opening Places of Entertainment: Systems Inspections & Audit Checklist Copy

Guidance Note 106 - COVID-19 Re-opening Places of Entertainment: Fire Inspection Checklist


Theatre spaces: an introduction - looking at what constitutes a theatre under law as well as the key components that make up a theatre building. It also offers a guide to some of the different types of theatre buildings. Aimed at anyone considering designing a new theatre building or making changes to an existing building, in particular theatre owners / operators, community / volunteer groups, local authorities and developers.

Please note: this does not replace the need to seek specialist advice, but sets out the issues to consider.


Protecting theatres through listing - looking at the process for protecting theatre buildings in the UK, through statutory listing, conservation areas and local listing. Aimed at community / volunteer groups, theatre operators / owners and local authorities. 

Protecting theatres through Urgent Works, Repairs and Section 215 Notices - looking at what can be achieved through statutory local planning authority powers served on owners in order to get theatres into good repair. Aimed at community / volunteer groups and theatre operators / owners.

Owning a listed building - looking at the implications of owning a listed theatre building and offering advice on how to approach any necessary maintenance and building works / alterations that you may wish to make. Aimed at community / volunteer groups, theatre operators / owners and local authorities. 

Organisational advice

Forming a theatre campaign group - looking at how to build support for a campaign and put in place the right structures to suit the campaign’s aims. Aimed at community /volunteer groups who are working to save or revive a theatre in their area.

Fundraising for a capital project - looking at the various elements to consider when putting together a fundraising strategy, and the different funding sources that are likely to support a theatre capital project. Aimed at community / volunteer groups who are working to save or revive a theatre in their area or theatre operators looking to carry out a capital project on their building.

Outsourcing theatre operation - introducing different approaches of theatre operation and to highlight steps that can be taken to protect and preserve theatre provision for the community. Aimed at local authority culture and leisure departments.


How to assess a planning application involving a theatre - looking at  what needs to be considered when determining a planning application either for a theatre, or which will impact a theatre. Aimed at planners working in local authorities.

How to support your theatres through the planning system - how to effectively engage with planning applications and policy. Aimed at theatre owners and operators, community groups and anyone generally interested in supporting and protecting theatres, arts centres and other performance venues.  

Promoting theatres within planning - exploring how theatres, along with other arts and cultural venues, should be promoted, protected and supported through local planning policy for the benefit of local people and the strength and sustainability of communities. Aimed at planners, particularly those working in local authorities.

Using Agent of Change to protect theatres - looking at the principle of Agent of Change and how it can be used by decision-makers to determine planning applications, and by theatres and community groups to safeguard their venues. Aimed at venue owners and operators, communities with an interest in particular venues, planners and other local authority managers and officers with responsibility for development and cultural uses, elected politicians and developers.

Using obligations to protect and improve theatres - looking at the tools that exist to require developers to support investment in new cultural buildings and how these tools can also be used to ensure these buildings are appropriate spaces. Aimed at local authority planning departments and theatre owners and operators.


Creating a Memorandum of Understanding - providing an outline example of a memorandum of understanding as well as advice as to when this may be applicable to use. Aimed at community / volunteer grups who are working to save or revive a theatre in their area.

How local authorities can help theatres at risk - looking at different ways that local authorities can help their local theatres whether on our Theatres at Risk list or providing positive action now to protect a local theatre for the future. Aimed at local authority culture and planning teams.

Top tips for campaign groups - providing 10 top tips to help campaign groups get their project off the ground and move onto the next stages in saving their local theatre. Aimed at community / volunteer groups who are working to save or revive a theatre in their area.

Writing a viability study brief - providing advice on items to be taken into consideration when compiling a viability study brief. It also provides some outline examples for specific areas of the brief. Aimed at community / volunteer groups who are working to save or revive a theatre in their area.


Improving the sustainability of theatre buildings - offering practical guidance for theatres to reduce the environmental impact with their buildings. Aimed at  theatre owners and operators, and local authorities.

Other useful sources of advice

ABTT Non-Conventional Theatre Spaces - a guide to providing safe performance spaces such as pop-up, immersive, promenade, site-specific and other non-traditional types of theatre.

ABTT RU Safe? - an introduction to safety in small venues.

Historic England Historic Fibrous Plaster in the UK -  interim guidance document for the care and management of fibrous plaster, supported by the Theatres Trust and other UK heritage bodies and professional associations.

Including Culture in Development: A Step-by-Step Guide - Urban Land Institute Art Forum’s first publication provides a guide for the effective integration of meaningful culture into all types of development schemes across London.