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UK Successfully Hosts First Large Scale Socially Distant Concert

August 18, 2020 by Sara Wilkerson

The UK hosted its first large scale concert with social distancing at the forefront, bringing in 2,500 concert goers on 500 separate elevated platforms spaced six feet apart to see UK rocker Sam Fender perform onstage. The success of the concert offers a newfound glimpse into how live entertainment can take place amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The concert was hosted at the Virgin Money Unity Arena, a pop-up amphitheater, in Newcastle, England, by SSD Concerts, one of the UK’s largest independent live event promoters. 

Prior to entering the venue, guests were given staggered entrance times as part of the venue’s socially distant queuing system. Additionally, to avoid overcrowding at concessions prior to the start of the concert, guests were able to reserve drinks online when they purchased their ticket.

In an official statement made on Facebook, SSD Concerts said, “The arena is designed to keep you safe, with organised parking and a socially distanced queuing system into the arena where you will be directed to your personal area.” 

For those in attendance at the Sam Fender concert, masks were required and attendees were asked not to intermingle among the platforms. In terms of navigating the venue, one-way pathways were made to restrooms. Up to five guests were allowed to be grouped on a platform in advance. 

The platforms themselves were angled to allow all concert-goers a prime view of the stage. Platforms in the front of the venue were laid flat on the ground, while those in the back were placed at an elevated angle to see the stage. 

Speaking to the BBC on the significance of the socially distant gig, Sam Fender said, “I think it’s fantastic that our region [Newcastle] is going to lead the way on this, and we’ll be the trailblazers for something that will hopefully continue on through the rest of the pandemic.” 

Meanwhile in the United States, strategies on hosting live concert events amid the pandemic have varied. 

At the beginning of the summer, concert tour promoter Live Nation launched a drive-in concert series where concerts take place in the parking lot of Live Nation stadiums, with cars stationed two empty parking spaces apart for the events. 

In recent weeks, however, while the drive-in concerts have been successful for some, others have not fared as well and instead have faced severe scrutiny and criticism. In a recent Chainsmokers concert, many criticized the artists and concert promoters for not enforcing CDC guidelines of social distancing and mask wearing after videos and pictures of the event surfaced online.

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