Coventry City of Culture 2021 creative director Chenine Bhathena (pictured) has told a DCMS Select Committee meeting that the event may continue with social distancing after restrictions are lifted on 19 July.

During the meeting, part of the Committee’s Major Cultural and Sporting Events inquiry, Bhathena said that the approach to adjusting capacities at forthcoming City Of Culture events would take into account audience sentiment and could mean social distancing measures continue in some form.

She said, “There are a number of events that we were planning at a very low capacity, particularly indoor events. We will have to look at the guidance, when it is published next week, as to how we increase those capacities and what our approach will be to social distancing. Clearly there is still a lot of concern among communities; people are still very cautious and we need to be able to show them that we are taking the Covid scenario seriously as well as joining with Government moving forward.

In response, Committee member Steve Brine, Conservative MP for Winchester asked, “There is no social distancing after 19 July and venues are able to act at capacity so are you saying you are going to diverge from the Government’s position and on what authority are you going to do that?

Bhathena said organisers of Coventry City of Culture 2021 would “align with audience sentiment and audience sentiment is still cautious”.

She said that while there was a desire to increase capacities so more people could enjoy the events, organisers had to be mindful of how people engage with those events.

Brine said, “Do you accept that there is a balance between following ‘project fear’ and you leading? At the end of the day people are always going to be anxious but you are putting on a cultural event and more than three fifths of the country will have been double jabbed by 19 July, do you have to lead or follow?

“We lead but we do it carefully,” said Bhathena. “We are in a leadership position, we work closely with local, regional and national government but we have to be aware of how our audience are feeling, so we will take a line with our board once we see the official guidance.”

Forthcoming Coventry City of Culture 2021 events include Terry Hall presents Home Sessions; a four-day festival of live music, DJ sets, film and spoken work staged at city centre locations from 29 July – 1 August. Performers include Peter Doherty, Terry Hall and Alabama 3.