Gig-goers to get reminder of pre-pandemic life at non-socially distanced event

Patrick Daly, PA Political Correspondent
·3 min read

Music lovers in Liverpool will get the chance to enjoy the uninhibited intimacy of a gig once again, after the Government announced a pilot event without social distancing.

The live concert at Sefton Park on May 2 will not require the audience to be socially distanced, but attendees will have to provide proof of a coronavirus negative test before gaining entry, ministers have confirmed.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said he hoped the Events Research Programme (ERP) test event, being held in the city famous for The Beatles and other musical heavyweights, meant the wait for gigs to return would not be “too much longer”.

Operating slightly below its capacity of 7,500, researchers on site will examine the movements and behaviour of the 5,000-strong crowd at Sefton Park next month.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said the audience will not be socially distanced or required to wear face coverings in the controlled setting of the test event, meaning gig-goers will be able to enjoy the experience without physical restraints.

All attendees must have proof of a negative Covid-19 test result beforehand and will also be asked to take a test after the event, as ministers and scientists look to assess the safety of outdoor settings for masses of people not wearing face masks.

Ticket-holders will be required to take a lateral flow test, which can produce a result within 30 minutes, at a local testing centre before entry, to trial the role such facilities could play in the return of large-scale events, officials said.

The gig-goers will also have to provide contact details for NHS Test and Trace to ensure everyone can be reached in the event of a positive test.

Cabinet minister Mr Dowden said: “We’re one step closer to a summer of live events now our science-led programme is under way.

“Testing different settings and looking at different mitigations is key to getting crowds back safely.

“The Sefton Park pilot is an important addition to the programme … I hope it won’t be too much longer until gigs are back for good.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the results from the event would “inform our approach to ensuring future big events can take place safely”.

Little Mix
Pop group Little Mix performed at Sefton Park (Peter Byrne/PA)

“By trialling a range of measures to reduce transmission, we are able to gather vital evidence to inform our plans for allowing events in the future,” he said.

“I am hugely grateful to scientists and clinicians working hard across the country so we can start to enjoy these events again safely.”

The event will be organised by music promoter Festival Republic in partnership with Culture Liverpool.

Claire McColgan, director of Culture Liverpool, said: “We should all be proud of the fact we’re part of this brave endeavour which looks to get this vital sector back up and running and resilient once again.”

Greg Parmley, chief executive of Live, the UK’s live music industry body, said: “The addition of an outdoor music event in the line-up of ERP pilot shows is a hugely positive development and brings the summer festival season one step closer.”

The first event as part of the scientific trial began on Saturday with the World Snooker Championships.

The Championships are due to run until May 3, welcoming up to 1,000 spectators a day to the Sheffield Crucible Theatre to test an indoor seated setting.

The FA Cup semi-final between Leicester City and Southampton on Sunday will host an audience of 4,000.

The information gathered from events as part of the Events Research Programme will be crucial to how all venues – from major sport stadiums and theatres to wedding venues, conference centres and nightclubs – could operate safely this summer, DCMS said.