Hi everyone,

In line with the UK easing it's COVID-19 restrictions on 19th July 2021, here's our new updated guidelines that we will be following at Bally Studios.  Our previous guidelines were published last year, which you can find {{{HERE}}}.  

Firstly, since the legal restrictions that we were working under have been lifted,  these guidelines are, of course, not legally binding rules that everyone must obey. However, we feel that considering the uncertainty that we've been living under for the last 16 months, and considering how small changes can make such a big difference, we feel that with a few extra steps of caution here and there we can have minimal bother for the bands, and big benefits for everyone. Here's how we're going to proceed with things: 

1) Studio disinfection?

Keeping the studios clean has always been a high priority to us, and we've been disinfecting the microphones here since 2008, with us posting about it on Facebook in 2014. Hence, needless to say, we'll be continuing to make sure that all relevant surfaces are disinfected between band rehearsal sessions,  since the benefits outweigh the downsides.  Door handles, microphones, microphone stands, amplifiers, light switches, basically anything that a band member is likely to touch with their hands will be properly disinfected between band sessions, and the rooms will be cleaned as usual. 

2) Hand sanitizers in the studios? 


Yep, we may as well! We've already got the hand gel dispensers in the room, so we'll keep topping them up with the hand sanitizer, in case you want to use it. 


3) Vaccinations? 

We've seen some questions flying around online as to whether vaccinations are mandatory to book a session, and in short, no, they aren't.   Nearly all of our staff will have had their second vaccine by the time that this information is published, and bands should feel welcome to check this with us if they want, but we won't be asking for any proof of vaccinations before confirming a session.   

4) Temperature Checks? 

 

There is no legal necessity to get your temperature checked, but each band will be given the opportunity to have their temperature taken, and the band should feel confident to honestly say whether they want it or not, since it will be to their benefit.  The process takes a few seconds, and is one of the best ways to find out if a band member is showing the symptoms of COVID-19, and as you'll be sharing a space with little-to-no ventilation with them for 3-5 hours at a time, the more information you have the better.  All that will happen is we'll ask if you want us to take the temperature of you and your band mates, if you don't then no worries, but if you do it we will then let you know what the results are, and that's it!   We won't stop you coming in if you're high since we don't have the legal authority to do so, so it's only to the benefit of the bands who come to us. We advise that you do it, but it's your choice. 

5) COVID tests needed to book? 

At present we are not asking for bands to provide a positive COVID test before booking a session, due to the fact that:
a) It's a prohibitive hurdle to overcome for bands in terms of cost and hassle. 
b) It would be pretty easy for someone to fake a test, and the whole point of doing tests is to be as certain as possible.  We wouldn't be in a position to know whether any tests provided to us were genuine or not, so this wouldn't really achieve anything, 

However, it's worth remembering that you're going into a studio with not much ventilation with your friends for a few hours. The measures that we put in place will reduce the impact to other bands and Bally Studios staff members if anyone does bring COVID-19 into the studios, but they won't do much against the virus being spread between band members of the same band that share the same room for a few hours.   Taking a COVID test is a good way to determine whether you have COVID, it will help you to protect your friends and band mates.  Hence it's best that bands chat to each other about how they will reduce the risk of passing COVID to their friends, and if there is anything that we can do to help with this, please let us know.  

6) Masks?

Our staff will continue to wear masks at all times indoors, and we encourage our customers to wear one too, but if you don't want to wear one, there's no legal necessity for you to wear one, and we're not going to make you. We also won't grumble under our breath about people not wearing a mask.  The limits to our mask policy will be to remind our customers of the benefits of wearing them, and as always this will only apply within the communal areas of the building. 

7) QR Codes and Track and Trace?

Up until now we've asked the bands to scan the Track and Trace QR code on the wall in the rehearsal studios, and then we've contacted them 2 weeks after their sessions to check in case any of their members have since shown the symptoms of COVID-19.  Now that these legal requirements have been dropped, instead we are now going to ask every band at the end of their session to please let us know if they show any symptoms within the next two weeks of their sessions, so that we can let the other bands who were in that day know.  We will take it as standard that no band members have shown any symptoms, unless we are contacted, and if that happens then we will contact all other bands from that day without delay.  We will also be happy to contact bands if there is any band member that is worried that they may have picked up the virus from the studios, so you may receive a message from us to say, "there was a band that was in at the same time as you that was worried that they may have picked up COVID from the studios, have any of your band members shown any symptoms?"  However, that will only be done if it's instigated by another band member.  Instead we will ask all band members to be proactive in letting us know of any confirmed cases. 

8) Maximum number of members in each studio?

There are no legal limits that are being put on how many members we can have in each studio,  but we'd advise any band with 5+ members to book a bigger studio, not least as it's barely £1-£2 more per hour, so for 20p-40p per hour you get a more comfortable studio to stretch your legs in.   However, it's important to remember that the benefits of social distancing won't apply as much in rehearsal studios, since there isn't a steady supply of fresh air to replace the air within the studio.  If you've ever been in a rehearsal studios, you'll know how refreshing it is to step out of the building at the end of your session and feel the cool breeze on your face, and this is because the limited airflow within the studio means that over the space of a few hours, the air within the room starts to get recycled from not being refreshed. The whole point of social distancing is that you don't breathe in the air that someone else has breathed out, but that's not really possible in an airtight studio.  Booking a bigger studio can negate the effects to a certain extent, but it's debatable as to whether it will make any real difference to the chances of catching COVID-19 from any fellow band mates if they do have it. This is why it's so vital that as many steps are taken as possible to not bring the virus into the studio in the first place. Stopping it from entering the studios in the first place is 99% of the battle. 

9) Social Distancing within communal areas?

We will ask bands to be respectful of other bands and staff within the corridor and to keep your distance from them wherever possible.  Many people are still worried about COVID-19, and many have gotten used to social distancing in the meantime. Therefore all of our staff will be observing social distancing at all times, and we ask the bands that come to us to be conscious of members of other bands, and to take the odd couple of seconds here and there to give them the little bit of space that may be appreciated much more than you realise. 

10) Leaving studios empty between sessions?

We've been leaving the studios empty for 4 hours between sessions, as the evidence so far gathered is that COVID-19 can hang in the air for up to 3.5 hours. However, this is dependent on many factors, and this was in line with other recommendations that have now been lifted, and therefore we will now be leaving a 1 hour gap between sessions, which has a 95%+ effectiveness of allowing any airbourne strains of COVID-19 settle.  We will then be disinfecting the studio ready for the next band.  Information will be made available to all bands to let them know how long it will have been that the previous band was in the studios, and if you would rather book a session in a time where there has been a longer gap to a previous band also using the studio, please do let us know and we will arrange this. 

 

11) Entering the office?

Up until now we've not been letting bands come into the office in order to keep it a safe space for our staff members, and also to reduce the amount of areas where band members congregate, but this restriction will be lifted so that bands can come into the office to buy stock, pay and make teas and coffees. We ask (but don't demand) that bands wear a face mask in the office wherever possible, and try to limit the time in the office to what is necessary, to the benefit of our staff members and other bands.

12) Booking sessions in Studio 4?

 

We've not been using Studio 4 so that staff members and band members don't have to share the same airspace, but with the loosening of the restrictions we will start to resume bookings in this studio.   We ask (but don't insist) that band members who are booked into Studio 4 wear a face-mask whilst walking the few metres through the office to get to the studio, and our staff members will do the same as well.  The door to the office will be kept open, to allow for as much ventilation as possible, and the surfaces in the studios will be disinfected as usual. Band members will also be reminded when they make a booking in this studio that the access to it is shared with staff members.  

13) Making teas and coffees?

We are now able to have bands making their own teas and coffees again, although for the majority of the time we will need to ask bands to use disposable cups for this, which we will provide for free. These new regulations we're working under are more time consuming than many people realize, and so we want to cut out as many non-essential tasks and risks as possible, and the extra time and effort taken to disinfect cups, as well as the risk that the job may not be done properly, means for the moment we're going to use disposable cups, before eventually going back to the usual mugs at a later date. 


14) Uncertain times need a flexible approach. 

At times we're following rules where the ink is barely dry on them, and there will be times when we'll need to change the rules that we are working to as the situation changes.  This may happen as the government has said that we need to change the rules, or because we can see that the rules we've been asked to follow aren't working as well as they need to.  Therefore we need to be up front that these rules may change at very short notice, in the interests of everyone.  Back in March 2020 other countries in the EU were placing restrictions on their citizens, but the UK delayed due to worrying about how it would look. Delays in policy in a pandemic are the worst mistake you can make.  Making an good decision quickly is better than making a perfect one much later, speed is of the essence, and that means we may have lots of changes of policy from time to time. Believe me, we don't want to make more changes than possible, but rest assured that if we do it it's because it's for the best interests of everyone, and that it's much more frustrating for our staff members than for our customers.  There may also be times we need to ask bands to move or cancel their sessions, but this will only be dome if there is a real benefit to the bands that come to us.  Therefore, we apologize in advance for any changes in rules that may cause frustration.   Thank you for your understanding. 

15) Cancellations policy?

 

Due to our last point, there may be times when we are not able to fulfill a session due to us needing to do a deep clean of a studio, or moving a time slot if something else has happened. Usually we will give a free session to a band as a compensation as an extra apology, but at this time we will not be able to follow this self imposed rule, due to the fact that the reasons for such cancellations/alterations will be out of our hands. The studio has made continual losses from March 2020 - July 2021 after 15 years of profitability, and we don't want to be in a situation where we have to choose between whether to take the bookings that keep the studios solvent, or where we do what's the safest thing to do.   Cancelling a session means we lose out on the money for that session, which is bad enough for us as a business, but we're unable to then give another session away in the future to compensate, as we'd be put in a position where it would be a conflict of interest between us doing what's best for the studio, and what's best for the customer. Removing the usual cancellation policy for the moment means means we can put the safety of the bands that come to us first, above all else, which we believe is better for everyone who uses us.  


16) Please be kind and respectful to each other. 


We're incredibly happy to say that the bands that come to us are overwhelmingly lovely people, and seeing them on a regular basis was/is one of the best parts of our jobs. It's also one of the things that we're most looking forward to again, to chatting to band members about gigs, guitar pedals and life in general.   Hopefully from now on we'll be able to see everyone a lot more, and we're looking forward to things getting as back to "normal" as possible, but let's be honest - this whole last 18 months has been rough on us all, to say the least.   At best it's been challenging, at worst it's literally redefined people's whole lives.  There will be times that people will feel out of their comfort zone, and there will be bumps and mistakes made along the way, and so we ask that everyone take this into account, and to be patient with other people, as we will be patient with everyone who comes to us. 

If you feel that we've made a mistake in our approach, please let us know as soon as possible so that we can quickly address it, we won't be offended.  Likewise, please do not be offended if we ask you to make small changes that may greatly benefit us or the band members of other bands.   We're all in the same boat, we all want the same thing, which is to have some great rehearsals in a safe environment.  Let's try to do what we can to work together to make this work. Believe me, our staff members didn't start working in the music industry to be taking temperatures with an infrared temperature gun, logging those temperatures and text messaging bands to confirm that they hadn't picked up a deadly virus.  That's kind of the opposite of what we expected this industry to be about.   We hate this as much as you do, but for the moment it's a necessary evil. Let's do what we can to get through it together, let's give people the benefit of the doubt where offence is suspected, let's give everyone a bit more space and cut them a bit more slack where possible, and get's get through this together.   Come on, we can do this!   <3 

Thanks - The Team, Bally Studios.