21st June 2021
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UK Live Music Scene Has First Outdoor Gig & Plans To Reopen Venues

UK Live Music Scene Has First Outdoor Gig & Plans To Reopen Venues
By Michelle Sciarrotta

The middle of August 2020 has seen a lot of changes in the UK’s live music industry, with the first outdoor gig and ongoing demonstrations taking place. Additionally, perhaps in reaction to the unknown permanence of the lockdown on the industry, the UK government announced the reopening of music and theatre venues.

Sam Fender plays socially distanced concert

The first socially distanced gigs occurred on 11th and 13th August at Newcastle’s Gosforth Park, to see Sam Fender. In accordance with the government guidelines, the newly named Virgin Money Unity Arena created a space for 2,500 people by building special audience areas on raised platforms. Each of the 500 platforms measured two metres distance apart and ensured that distancing regulations were adhered to. The ‘pens’ as they’ve been nicknamed in the UK, were designed to hold five people each, with additional requests for the audience to wear masks and not mingle with others unnecessarily.

While the venue kept the launch of the concert fairly quiet in the UK’s mainstream and social media, there has been a good post-gig reaction and the launch has been deemed a success, with future performances from Sir Van Morrison, The Libertines and Maximo Park allegedly booked.

Sam Fender Pens

Reflecting positively on the first shows, group brand and marketing director at Virgin Money, Helen Page remarked:

“We are delighted to play a part in bringing back live music events as we start to emerge from lockdown. This feels like a unique opportunity to celebrate music and all the wonderful emotions that come with experiencing it live alongside other music fans.”

We Make Events demonstrations #WeMakeEvents

At the same time, a large-scale demonstration across the UK’s major cities took place on 11th August in order to raise government attention to the plight of those working in the live events industry. The campaign, organised by PLASA highlighted the need for help for industry professionals who have been unable to work since March, with the tag line “throw us a line” being used in the demonstration.

We Make Events

With a big presence in London, the event included a barge cruising down the Thames carrying press, politicians and notable artists. The collective also visually created a striking image with the use of the colour red; venues across the route were lit up in red, which was also followed suit by UK cities taking part. The industry workers who participated also wore red clothing, with many pushing empty flight cases on their paths, creating a memorable image.

The demonstrations adhered to social distancing rules, with tickets and online sign up for Covid-19 ‘track and trace’ required for all prior to attending the events that were held in Blackpool, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Hull, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Tunbridge Wells.

We Make Events London

Peter Heath, MD of PLASA, commented on the day’s demonstrations:

“The live events industry supply chain, essential to every single event in the UK, is set to completely collapse without financial support from the government, due to social distancing prohibiting mass events. Large scale events are not expected to reopen until Spring 2021 at the earliest, and the reality is that the sector can’t wait that long. While the Government’s commitment to provide £1.57bn to our crown jewels is welcomed, this does not help the companies and freelancers who work in the live events supply chain.  We’ve issued a ‘Red Alert’ for #WeMakeEvents because the sector is on its last legs, and now the whole industry is coming together to ask the government to ‘throw us a line.’”

Reopening venues

By the end of the week, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced socially distanced live music and theatre performances could go ahead from the 15th August. The restrictions around the social distancing rules as well as the lack of insurance cover for Covid-19 means that many are uncertain about the practicalities of the changes, and what this may mean in reality. With several regions of the UK currently facing recent impositions of ‘local lockdown’, the music and theatre industries still need firmer guidelines and help as to what the reopening will look like, and how venues will keep their staff and performers safe while doing this.

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Also by Michelle Sciarrotta:

The Human Library: Check Out Real People

Alice Smart: Interview with a London based Costume Constructor

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