Roughly 2,500 fans gathered Tuesday for the premiere concert at Britain’s first music venue dedicated to accommodating social distance. The Virgin Money Unity Arena, in England’s northeast in Gosforth Park, Newcastle, kicked off the first of its scheduled events with a show by English rock singer-songwriter Sam Fender.
The pop-up venue bills itself as the first of its kind, giving hope to an entertainment industry brought to a standstill by the coronavirus pandemic.
It has 500 separated viewing sites, most with raised metal platforms. The spaces are about 6 feet apart and fit up to five people, all of whom must arrive in the same car.
The UK’s first socially distanced gig is happening now in Newcastle with @samfendermusic headlining, and where attendees have their own private viewing area with 2m of space between them. Here’s what it looks like #samfender #unityarena pic.twitter.com/YBdxpAjYyi— Kieron Donoghue (@kierondonoghue) August 11, 2020
Guidance on the venue’s website directs attendees to join a socially distanced queuing system for entering the arena after parking, then to follow staff to an allocated platform and pre-order food and drinks on their phones.
Guests are not to leave the platforms unless they’re going to the restrooms, which are at the end of every row of platforms.
Promoter SSD Concerts, which announced the concept earlier this year, has more than 20 other artists on the schedule through September, including Two Door Cinema Club and Patrick Topping.
Recent attempts at socially distanced concerts in the U.S. ― including an event in the Hamptons in New York, featuring a Chainsmokers DJ set that made nationwide headlines for its attendees’ apparent disregard of health guidelines ― have raised concerns for pandemic-era adaptations for entertainers.
The U.K.’s newest solution piqued the interest of would-be concertgoers there and across the Atlantic. Many commenters quipped they were more than OK with ditching mosh pits and interacting with strangers ― pandemic or otherwise.
My hatred for human contact with people I don’t know really, realllyyy approves of this https://t.co/Mg0pT2IzkO— bianca 🌺💐🌼🥀 (@bloom_Iive) August 11, 2020
I know I just said I miss being in a disgusting pit of strangers a few days ago but I changed my mind, I want this to be the new normal for no reason other than easy pizza and alcohol delivery https://t.co/FEaKuLzqgw— ✨✨✨ (@glitter_gIue) August 11, 2020
I can't stand the thought of normal festivals but I'd actually consider one like this! (hoping they have some ramped for wheelchair access!) https://t.co/XOsOc7WJoU— Georgina Grogan♿ (@GeorginaGrogan_) August 12, 2020
am i that much of an old man that i think this looks preferable to an actual festival? https://t.co/sLQAs0oQCS— hermione (@thorlokid) August 12, 2020
i’ve reached the age where this looks like an absolute dream https://t.co/XuMPKWEqs5— sam💥 (@unlostsam) August 12, 2020
oh no everybody at the concert can see the stage and has a clear path to the bathroom and is pretty much in VIP this is horrible! https://t.co/x6Hzp0m1WF— maurice (@tallmaurice) August 12, 2020
Well hold on now .....y'all mighta did summin here... https://t.co/nDAF4Wq5Gn— Oxtail Gawd (@ThatDudeMCFLY) August 12, 2020
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