Covid-19 has changed the way the world works in every single aspect, and entertainment has not gone unchallenged. Due to lockdowns and social distancing rules, the first things to get cancelled were shows, concerts, and really any event that had tons of people gathered in one place. But it’s been months since the pandemic first rocked every portion of the world, and thankfully some countries have managed to lift some restrictions and start life once again – kind of.
Although things have not gone completely back to normal – with no one truly knowing if things will ever be normal again – the UK has found a way to generate some happy news in the midst of the coronavirus. The country has reintroduced concerts despite all the strict rules on social distancing. They’ve created a venue that has been designed in such a way that it enforces the 6-feet distancing rules but still allows people to come together in small groups to enjoy a concert under the stars and while getting to watch their favorite artists perform.
The Virgin Money Unity Arena is located in Gosforth Park, Newcastle upon Tyne. The area actually has a variety of venues on the property like the Britannia Hotel, Newcastle Racecourse, as well as a football center, a garden and a number of golf courses. But lately, it has become best known for the social distancing concert arena that allows music lovers to do what they love best, watch concerts.
The concert grounds are 480,000-square feet or 45,000-square meters in size, and they hold 500 viewing spaces, otherwise known as pods, where friends can actually stay together. Each pod is allowed to have a maximum of 5 people, which means that when the arena is at full capacity, it can hold up to 2,500 individuals in total. To get to the grounds, you’ll need to either go by car, bike or taxi, as you cannot reach the arena by foot, and there is no service vehicles that you can take either, nor are overnight stays allowed.
While concert goers are socially distanced while in the pods, many wonder what happens when they all arrive on the grounds to get to their designated viewing space. Apparently, when they buy their tickets online, they are given a specific time and place within the venue that they need to abide by. And when arrive, in order to reduce any risk of overcrowding, they are escorted to their area, also to ensure they are following all the requirements of the venue, as well as any restrictions set due to the ongoing pandemic.
Other rules include not being allowed re-entry into the venue should someone leave mid-concert. Also, chairs can be provided in every pod, and there is even a drink and food ordering system via app that gets rid of the need for lining up to order, where you can either pick up the items when ready or have them delivered straight to your pod.
The first concert held in the arena was by Sam Fender, who did two concerts on August 11 and 13. Incredibly, the concert was sold out, which was not surprising considering his debut album named ‘Hypersonic Missiles’ hit number one just last year. There is already a long list of artists booked to do more in the coming days too, including the likes of Patrick Topping, the Libertines, Superglass, and Two Door Cinema Club. And it isn’t just singers and bands that have upcoming shows but comedians like Jimmy Carr and Adam Kay as well.
Group Brand and Marketing Director for Virgin Money, Helen Page, shared, “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.”
Although this isn’t considered the very first socially distanced concert venue, it is the first to introduce pods or viewing stations. Other concerts have been held from home via streaming online, or at “drive-in” type venues where people remain in their vehicles to enjoy the show, just as they would in a drive-in movie. With the Virgin Money Unity Arena, it gives guests the chance to feel like they are in a traditional concert with a bit of freedom to have drinks, some food, and to move around and dance – as long as they remain in their designated pods.
Considering that a number of events have already sold out, and tons of other tickets are being bought for upcoming events, it’s obvious that people appreciate the chance to be able to attend a concert in the first place. And despite an ongoing pandemic – with currently no end in sight it seems – this is some of the best news that any music lover could ask for, and possibly something for other countries to try and do as well.
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