Arcola Theatre investigates how airflow can cut Covid risk

The auditorium at Dalston's Arcola Theatre

The auditorium at Dalston's Arcola Theatre - Credit: Lidia Crisafulli

Arcola Theatre is working with Imperial College scientists to investigate air quality and virus transmission in performance spaces.

The collaboration will help the theatre in Ashwin Street, Dalston to decide how to safely reopen its main building, as well as the wider cultural sector to adapt to new ways of working in the pandemic.

The artistic team will work with scientists to look at how air quality in indoor performance spaces might affect aerosol transmission of viruses such as Covid-19 and whether increased air flow might reduce the risks to audiences.

They hope to share their findings with other venues and use them to inform their new outdoor performance space Arcola Outside, due to open this spring, which benefits from full airflow thus reducing risk of either aerosol or droplet transmission.

Dr Ben Todd, executive director of Arcola Theatre, said the project was part of learning how to adapt in long term, sustainable ways.


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“Since the pandemic began, we have been trying to understand how the cultural sector can respond innovatively to the difficulties we have faced in bringing people together to enjoy culture in a safe way. We are delighted to be working with independent scientists from Imperial College London to understand how airflow affects viral transmission in theatres, which will turn the challenges of the past year into learning and ideas for both Arcola and the wider theatre sector.”

The lead consultant for Imperial College London said: “Significant scientific and policy work has been undertaken to better understand the impact of COVID-19 and mitigate the on-going risks. Ventilation and air quality have been identified as an important factor in reducing the risk of spread of COVID-19 in indoor spaces. Working with Arcola Theatre, we hope to use emerging knowledge and data-driven approaches to address the challenges faced by indoor theatres and venues during the pandemic.”

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