Music buffs to groove again in UK venues



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UK live music venues to re-open Image: AEG Europe

Some of the UK’s largest and most legendary venues, such as the O2 Arena (London) – boasting capacity of 20,000 – and the Royal Albert Hall (also in London) which can sit 5,272 spectators – are set to reopen their doors this winter for the first time since March.

The O2 Arena has announced it will host its first live music event after more than eight months on December 5th with British band Squeeze.

The socially distanced event will see the venue’s capacity come down to 4,700, with tickets being sold in groups of twos, threes and fours only and a seating configuration which is in harmony with the UK Government’s one meter-plus guidelines.

Seats will remain empty between each group and one-way routes have been installed throughout the arena and concourse. The performance will end before 10 pm in compliance with the new curfew rules.

“We have been working incredibly hard to bring back events at the O2 Arena and put measures in place to ensure our fans will have a safe and COVID-19 secure experience,” remarked Steve Sayer, General Manager (GM)-cum Vice-President (VP) at the O2 Arena.

“At the moment, we’re only able to host under a quarter of our capacity in the arena, so this is not a long-term solution for us or other venues and we continue to press the Government for targeted support and guidance to get the live events industry and its supply chain back on its feet,” Sayer added.

“The O2 was designed to give artistes and fans the best live music in the world and we look forward to doing that again with Squeeze. As the O2 Arena returns to live events, it’s really fitting that a band from the local area are the ones to reopen our doors to the public once again. The whole team is excited to see them on our stage for the first time,” the top official enthused.

The Royal Albert Hall has also shared plans to reopen this December, announcing a program of 18 Christmas concerts including Handel’s Messiah, the Royal Choral Society, Guy Barker’s Big Band Christmas and My Christmas Orchestral Adventure.

The events will mark the Royal Albert Hall’s first concerts with an audience in nine months, on the eve of its 150th anniversary.

Craig Hassall, CEO, Royal Albert Hall, stated, “Six months on from enforced closure, and six months away from our 150th anniversary on March 29, 2021, we are excited beyond words to open our doors to the public for what will be a joyful, stirring and historic occasion.”

“It remains the case that socially-distanced performances are financially unviable in the long term. Although this model is not sustainable with such reduced capacities, we are opening because I firmly believe this is what the country needs. It is an investment into our future – to protect the jobs of our highly skilled staff, to stimulate the local economy and the wider arts ecosystem, and to fulfill significant audience demand,” Hassall added.

“Christmas has always been a time of great celebrations at the Royal Albert Hall, where people have come together since 1871 – from Vera Lynn at the end of the Blitz, to HM The Queen’s first public Christmas address. It is essential for us to carry on this spirit in what has been a year of disruption,” the head honcho further observed.

The Hall sold 121,229 tickets across last year’s Christmas season. This year there will be 36,000 tickets available in total.

Elsewhere, Alexandra Palace in London – with a capacity of 10, 400 – recently announced a series of socially-distanced, indoor live events taking place this October and November. The arena’s autumn program features comedy, theater, a drive-in film club and a sold-out show with DJ Sasha.

Apart from the standard coronavirus regulations, the venue will be operating a table-only format with a maximum of six people at each table.

All three venues have put in place stringent COVID-19 guidelines including socially-distanced seating, e-tickets, and deep-cleaning, staggered entry times to reduce queues, temperature checks, mandatory masks policy, and sanitizing stations throughout the venue.

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