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Sportpaleis Group given the go-ahead for pop-up arena

Belgian live entertainment giant Sportpaleis Group has been given the green light to open its pop-up arena in the coastal area of Middelkerke this July.

Sportpaleis Group initially revealed plans to build and operate the temporary venue – dubbed Proximus Pop-Up Arena – in the summer of last year.

The venue has now been permitted to open on 2 July, in line with the Flemish government’s roadmap (the Freedom Plan) which stipulates that outdoor events can take place with 5,000, provided attendees wear a mask and adhere to social distancing.

Initially, the arena will open to 2,500 attendees but the capacity will be increased in August when the maximum number of people allowed at outdoor events is bumped up to 10,000.

“The entire team behind our arenas and theatres is ready to get started with great enthusiasm”

As previously reported in IQ, the infrastructure of the venue will combine aspects of a festival setting – such as tents and open-air spaces – with the comfort of permanent areas with weather-resistant, grandstand seats.

So far, the artists announced to play the Proximus Pop-Up Arena include Gers Pardoel, Cleymans & Van Geel, André Hazes, The Schlager Festival Summer Edition, Mama’s Jasje, Soulsister, Natalia and Axelle Red.

A regular feature of the programming will be the Thursday night concert series ‘A Symphonic Evening with’, which will see the 20-piece Antwerp Philharmonic Orchestra accompany a number of artists.

The temporary venue will remain in Middelkerke until the end of August. Tickets are already on sale here.

“The entire team behind our arenas and theatres is ready to get started with great enthusiasm,” says Jan Van Esbroeck, CEO of the Sportpaleis Group. “We will be able to use all our expertise to offer visitors a wonderful concert experience.”

 


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Music venues in the Netherlands to reopen

Music venues in the Netherlands are permitted to reopen from 5 June, when the country enters step three of the government’s reopening plan.

The cabinet announced on Friday (28 May) that cultural venues such as concert halls are allowed to reopen in step 3, subject to certain conditions including booking in advance, health checks and designated seating.

From 5 June, small concert halls can welcome a maximum of 50 visitors, as long as the venue can cater to the 1.5-metre social distancing rule.

Concert halls with at least 1,000 seats can welcome a maximum of 250 socially distanced visitors per room. This applies to all large indoor and outdoor venues including arenas, open-air theatres and concert halls.

Concert halls that opt to use coronavirus entry passes will be permitted to host as many people as they can accommodate provided they’re seated and socially distanced.

Concert halls with at least 1,000 seats can welcome a maximum of 250 socially distanced visitors per room

The relatively stringent measures come in spite of findings from three months’ worth of pilot events which show that the risk of Covid-19 infection, when following certain hygiene and testing protocols, is about the same as being at home.

The pilot events were conducted by Fieldlab Evenementen, an initiative of the Dutch government and several trade bodies, which concluded that shows may return safely at 100% capacity, even under the Netherlands’ ‘concern’ (zorgelijk) coronavirus risk level.

It looks like that won’t be a possibility for the Netherlands until late summer at the earliest, according to the government’s roadmap.

The fourth step of the reopening plan is planned for 30 June, when events can take place without a designated seating plan – provided social distancing is observed and entry passes are used. Events must also take account of local rules and requirements, such as permits. The government will decide on 22 June whether to implement step 4 as planned.

The final step, step 5, will see the government lift restrictions and remove the entry pass system. However, there’s no specified date for step 5 as the government says it will be determined by the number of infections and hospital admissions.

 


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Barclaycard Arena invites thousands for test events

Barclaycard Arena Hamburg is welcoming spectators for the first time in over a year, for a series of tests that aim to find out if and how major events can take place safely during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The tests have been approved by the Hamburg Ministry of the Interior and Sport and will take place in conjunction with Handball Sport Verein Hamburg (HSVH), the Handball Bundesliga (HBL), the Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute and the Barclaycard Arena.

For the first test on 28 May, the arena welcomed 1,000 spectators from Hamburg for the home game of handball team Handball Sport Verein Hamburg, which was against ThSV Eisenach.

Provided the first event is deemed successful, it is expected that 2,000 spectators will be allowed into the arena for the REWE Final4 and the last HSVH home game of the season against ASV Hamm-Westfalen on 22 June. Visitors from outside of Hamburg will be welcome at this event.

Both events are seated and socially distanced. Attendees are required to present a negative coronavirus test to gain entry, wear mask a throughout the event, and take another test 7–10 days after the event.

Modified mannequins that emit marked particles will be placed next to the real spectators during the game

Under the direction of Prof. Dr Wolfgang Schade, the Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute will examine the aerosol distribution in the arena, which is equipped with a ‘state-of-the-art ventilation system,’ as well as the risk of infection.

For this purpose, modified mannequins that emit marked particles will be placed next to the real spectators during the game.

“The data from the pilot project collected here will provide important information on the spread of aerosols at major events, which can then also be transferred to other event venues with comparable ventilation systems. In this way, fact-based risk assessments can then be carried out in the future for holding such events,” says Prof. Dr Wolfgang.

Steve Schwenkglenks, managing director of the Barclaycard Arena, adds: “The Barclaycard Arena is the ideal location for these scientific test events and we hope that it will provide the entire industry with important knowledge that will enable us to take further steps towards normality in the near future.”

The arena had prepared to open its doors in early May for a concert series organised by Hamburg Concerts but Hamburg authorities called off the events due to the rising Covid-19 infections at the time.

 


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Rockhal hosts its biggest pilot concerts yet

Luxembourg’s Rockhal (cap. 6,500) is scaling up its pilot concerts from 100 to 600 people per night as part of the Because Music Matters initiative.

The initiative initially launched in February with five nights of pilot concerts, limited to 100 people each night.

The second round of Because Music Matters launched on Friday 21 May when an audience of 600 tested people watched Luxembourgish artist Serge Tonnar perform in Rockhal’s main hall.

In addition to the sanitary measures in place – which included physical distancing (between groups of up to 4 people) and mandatory wearing of masks – each attendee was required to undergo a PCR or a free antigen test before the concert, as well as a second (PCR) test a few days later.

The venue is once again working with Luxembourg’s Health Inspection and the ministries of culture and health.

“I am hopeful that events like this will help to build towards a model that can be further scaled”

“After more than a year without higher capacity live events, pilot concerts like our Because Music Matters series and other pilot and test events that have been taking place across Europe, are an important and positive step forward in showcasing the safety measures we can employ to support our back to business strategies,” says Olivier Toth, CEO of the Rockhal.

“Building confidence amongst all our stakeholders that live events are a safe environment is so important. It felt great to have our main hall vibrate with the sound of live music and a cheerful crowd. We are grateful for the enthusiasm and participation of both artists and audience, which is a real show of support for our sector.

“As the name of the project suggests, music really does play an essential role in people’s well-being. I am hopeful that events like this, together with other pilot concerts that are taking place throughout Europe, will help to build towards a model that can be further scaled as our industry works towards a safe and sustainable return of live events.”

The second round of Because Music Matters will continue at Rockhal this Friday (4 June) with a performance from Luxembourg’s Remo Cavallini which will take place in the same way as the Serge Tonnar concert.

Pilot projects have taken place in markets including Germany, the UK, Spain, Belgium, France and the Netherlands. See an extensive list of live music experiments here.

 


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Report: UK’s inaction over insurance blamed for ‘lost summer’

The UK government’s “refusal” to back insurance for events at risk of cancellation due to Covid-19 restrictions is “directly” responsible for the festival sector’s second consecutive ‘lost summer’, a report has found.

The report is a result of a January inquiry into the future of UK music festivals, conducted by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Select Committee.

The findings come after culture secretary Oliver Dowden stated that the government would not provide commercial insurance until 21 June at the earliest, when all restrictions are due to be lifted. However, MPs say that at that point, it would “simply be too late” for summer festivals.

Now, MPs express caution on whether the government’s roadmap will enable festivals to go ahead at all this summer, raising doubts about the scope of the government’s Events Research Programme and uncertainty over the spread of new Covid-19 variants.

“Music festivals have been treated as the poor relation by the government,” says DCMS committee chair, Julian Knight. “Despite the huge economic and cultural contribution they make, few have benefited from the Culture Recovery Fund, and without our efforts the sector would have been left out of the pilot events programme on the safe return of audiences.

“It has been made very clear to us that the vast majority of music festivals do not have the financial resilience to cover the costs of another year of late-notice cancellations. If the commercial insurance market won’t step in, ministers must, and urgently: events need to know now whether the government will back them, or they simply won’t take place this year.

“Events need to know now whether the government will back them, or they simply won’t take place this year”

“We repeat our call for the government to announce an insurance scheme to cover festival organisers if events need to be cancelled as a result of Covid-19 restrictions continuing beyond 21 June. There’s still time to get the music playing, but no more room for excuses.”

The UK live industry, along with the DCMS Select Committee, has repeatedly called for a contingency fund for live events, as more and more marquee festivals have cancelled.

Glastonbury, Download, Bluedot, Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival, Bluedot, Boomtown and Shambala are among the UK festivals that have already called it quits, citing a lack of security for large events.

Commenting on the DCMS Select Committee report, a spokesperson from LIVE, the representative body for the UK live music industry, says: “The DCMS Select Committee is right when it says that the government is letting UK festivals down by refusing to deal with the absence of commercial insurance. After months of fruitless discussions with the DCMS and Treasury, the sector is exasperated at the government’s unwillingness to step in to help prevent the collapse of the festival sector for a further 12 months.

“Without some form of insurance the risk of going ahead will simply be too great for many festivals this year and, whatever happens with the reopening timetable, the vast majority of events could pull the plug in the coming weeks.”

Compensation schemes have been announced in Germany (€2.5bn), Austria (€300m), the Netherlands (€300m), Belgium (€60m),  Norway (€34m), Denmark (DKK 500m) and Estonia (€6m).

But while the UK government has underwritten the cancellation costs of all forthcoming Events Research Programme pilot shows – to a maximum of £300,000 per event – officials have been reticent to agree to a scheme more broadly.


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Registration opens for physical IFF 2021

After going online only for last year, the International Festival Forum will return this September as a physical, non-socially distanced event in London, complemented by an online pass for delegates who are unable to travel.

The first major live music industry gathering in 18 months, IFF 2021 will kick off with the opening party on Tuesday 28 September and end late on Thursday 30 September. The invitation event for music festivals and booking agents will feature the usual mix of showcases, conference sessions, keynotes, pop-up up offices, networking events and more.

New for this year will be an online element which allows all delegates to watch back every showcase and conference session on demand for up to 30 days after the event. For anyone who can’t travel to London, meanwhile, an online-only registration is also available.

“It feels so good to go live with IFF and organise a real event after all these months of only meeting via screens,” says IFF co-founder Ruud Berends.

“It feels so good to go live with IFF and organise a real event”

“We can’t wait to welcome everybody in London – and to see everybody’s faces on the morning after the first night…”

More details of IFF 2021, including the provisional schedule, agency partners and conference/showcase venues, will be announced shortly. Some 800 delegates, including all the major international music festivals and agents, are expected to attend.

Discounted earlybird passes for IFF, which include meals, drinks and more, are available now for £275. Click here to register.

If you have an idea for a panel topic, speaker or presentation, please email Ruud Berends. To partner with IFF, contact Steve Woollett (+44 7469 872 279).

 


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Fieldlab results: Infection risk ‘same as at home’

The findings from three months’ worth of pilot events in the Netherlands show that the risk of Covid-19 infection, when following certain hygiene and testing protocols, is about the same as being at home, organiser Fieldlab Evenementen has revealed.

Fieldlab – an initiative of the Dutch government and several trade bodies, including the pan-industry Alliantie van Evenementenbouwers (Alliance of Event Builders) – kicked off its Back to Live series of test events in February, with the most recent event, the Eurovision Song Contest in Rotterdam, taking place on 22 May with 3,500 fans in attendance. Other Fieldlab events included business conferences, festivals, arena shows, an awards ceremony and outdoor sports events in a range of formats and capacities.

The results from the first phase of the Back to Live pilots – all small, ‘type-one’ events with assigned seats, including a conference and a comedy show – were released in April, and showed that these types of events are safe without social distancing at 50% capacity.

More significantly, the findings released this week by Fieldlab, which draw on events such as a 1,300-person arena show and two 1,500-person festivals and organised by promoters Mojo and ID&T, conclude that shows may return safely at 100% capacity, even under the Netherlands’ ‘concern’ (zorgelijk) coronavirus risk level.

Based on Fieldlab’s research, led by Prof. Andreas Voss of the Radboud Institute for Health Sciences, the organisation has now issued a series of recommendations, or a ‘matrix’, to the Dutch government demonstrating how festivals and other live events can be held safely this summer. A final report, which will also include infection figures from Eurovision, will be issued in the coming weeks.

“We can now open, and as an industry need never be completely closed again”

According to the Back to Live data, 100%-capacity events are possible under the Netherlands’ lower two risk levels (caution and concern), with a reduction in capacity necessary for levels three and four (serious and severe, respectively).

By risk level, Fieldlab’s recommendations are:

Riemer Rijpkema, a spokesperson for corporate events association Eventplatform and deputy chair of Fieldlab’s steering group, calls on the Dutch government to act on Fieldlab’s conclusions. “Fieldlab Evenementen have delivered great results to the cabinet, as well as concrete tools on how to act in each phase of the pandemic. We call on the members of the cabinet to adopt this matrix, embrace and use it for reformulating the regulations.

“There is a wealth of information from which one can learn in both the short and long term. We can now open, and as an industry need never be completely closed again.”

“Provided you take the right measures, the risk of getting infected at a Fieldlab event is the same as at home”

Willem Westermann of the Alliance of Event Builders, which represents live entertainment and sports professionals, adds: “The cabinet now has in their hands the key to to give the green light for the festival summer. The Fieldlab researchers have shown that this can be done, with additional measures and if we consider the risk level.

“Practical tests have shown that visitors are quite prepared, for example, to cooperate by having a rapid test beforehand. If the infrastructure for testing is properly put in place and the cabinet endorses these conclusions, there is almost nothing in the way of a great summer for the events industry.”

While the majority of Dutch regions are still in level four (severe), this should come down as the Netherlands’ vaccine roll-out continues. The government’s most recent weekly report on infection figures, issued on Tuesday (25 May), shows a “steady” downward trend in new cases of Covid-19.

Speaking to local broadcaster RTV Rijnmond, Fieldlab’s Dimitri Bonthuis says the team are “very happy with the results” from the Back to Live events. “It is absolutely good news,” he says. “Provided you take the right measures, the risk of getting infected at a Fieldlab event is the same as at home.”

The Fieldlab results follow similar positive data out of studies in the UK, Spain and Germany, all of which showed that live events do not pose a risk to public health while Covid-19 is still a threat.

 


This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times.

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Nordic test shows: Too little, too late?

After effectively ruling out the 2021 festival season, the governments in Denmark and Norway are now in the process of organising large-scale test events to determine how big gatherings can take place during the pandemic.

According to Denmark’s live association, Dansk Live, such experiments were proposed in December 2020 and also in March 2021 by the government-backed ‘Restart Team’.

Both proposals were “kicked to the corner by the authorities,” according to Dansk Live’s Esben Marcher, but it seems that Denmark’s minister of culture has had a late change of heart.

This week, minister Joy Mogensen asked the government’s Restart Team to assess the possibilities of conducting experiments with large events this summer.

The minister’s request comes three weeks after the government’s roadmap was published, which stated that a maximum of 2,000 participants will be permitted at festivals between 21 May and 1 August 2021.

The announcement was followed by a raft of cancellations from 15+ festivals including Roskilde (26 June to 3 July), Smukfest (4–8 August), Northside (3–5 June) and Tinderbox (24–26 June) – rendering the country’s 2021 festival season over.

“The hope was that knowledge could be created that could ensure better opportunities for this summer’s events”

While Dansk Live’s Marcher has welcomed the news of potential test concerts, he also expresses disappointment that large-scale pilots weren’t approved earlier in the year.

“Already at the end of 2020, we proposed to the minister of culture that experiments be carried out in events that bring many people together,” he says.

“The hope was that knowledge could be created that could ensure better opportunities for this summer’s events. Although it is positive that there now seems to be support for making trial arrangements, it is, of course, a pity that there has been no political will to launch trials in the past.”

The Norwegian government has also shown little political will to organise test concerts up to this point – though, after some uncertainty, this morning the cabinet finally approved a pilot series proposed by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.

The institute is planning five test concerts in Bergen and Oslo with up to 5,000 people attending each one. As previously reported in IQ, 15,000 participants will be recruited for a control group and will not actually attend the concerts.

The series is expected to kick off in June and concerts will take place in a number of venues including Oslo Spektrum and Grieg Hall in Bergen.

The Nowegian government this morning approved a pilot series proposed by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health

The research project will investigate whether the risk of the spread of infection is reduced to such an extent that rapid testing can replace the distance requirement during events.

Bergen Live, Øya festival, Palmesus and other Norwegian concert organisers will be involved in the test events – many of which were forced to cancel festivals due to the government’s preliminary guidelines, which restrict festivals to 2,000 attendees until June, 5,000 attendees until August and 10,000 thereafter.

Live Nation-owned festivals Bergenfest and Tons of Rock, Superstruct-backed Øya Festival, Over Oslo, Picnic in the Park, Stavernfetsivalen, Seljord Festival and Country Festival among events have been cancelled since.

Compared with other countries in the northern hemisphere, Norway and Denmark have been slow off the mark with arranging test shows.

Germany began conducting test shows as far back as August 2020, with Restart-19, prompting other nations including Spain, France, the Netherlands, the UK, Belgium and Luxembourg, to follow suit. See an extensive timeline of pilot projects here.

While the test shows haven’t necessarily guaranteed the security of the 2021 festival season – many of the aforementioned markets have already seen the summer season obliterated due to government restrictions – nations like the UK are surging towards a full reopening thanks to reassuring results from the government’s Events Research Programme.

 


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ASM Europe EVP John Sharkey to step down

John Sharkey, executive vice-president of European operations for leading venue operator ASM Global, is leaving the company after seven years.

Sharkey – who joined ASM’s predecessor, SMG, in 2014 – gave his notice in February and will stay on until December.

He was appointed ASM Global’s EVP for Europe in late 2019, following the completion of the merger between SMG and AEG Facilities.

Prior to joining SMG Europe, Sharkey was group CEO of the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre (now the Scottish Event Campus), where he led the team responsible for delivering the 13,000-capacity SSE Hydro arena. He previously held positions with First Group, Scottish Enterprise and Ernst & Young.

It is understood Sharkey does not yet have another role lined up following his exit from ASM.

“Over the last seven years, I have been lucky to work with some of the finest people in the business with such tremendous passion and energy for our industry,” says Sharkey. “I have also been incredibly proud to work for a business which stands for the best in gold standard venue management.

“It was a really tough decision to leave the business. However, the events of the last year have been profound”

“For these reasons, it was a really tough decision to leave the business. However, the events of the last year have been profound across the world and the pandemic has caused me to reflect and decide on a change of direction in my career.”

Ron Bension ASM Global’s president and CEO, comments: “John has been leading the European business for nearly seven years and during that time has been the driving force behind many of the business’s successes, from delivering venues in Aberdeen [P&J Live] and Hull [Bonus Arena] to integrating the acquisition of our in-house catering business CGC and overseeing the significant progress of the Kai Tak project in Hong Kong.

“John will leave the business in December, but before that time he will be instrumental in leading the teams as we get ready to re-open and bring guests back into our venues. I wish John the very best in the next chapter in his life and would like to thank him for the commitment and dedication to the business over the years.”

Bension adds: “We have recently commenced a search for a new European lead, who will be responsible for leading the European business and delivering a number of exciting venue projects including Wolverhampton, Derby and Cantu in Italy, with a number of others in the pipeline.”

 


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Exit festival to offer vaccines to int’l visitors

Exit Festival plans to offer doses of the coronavirus vaccine to international guests who attend the event this summer.

The Serbian festival, which will be held in Novi Sad from 8–11 July, is set to go ahead as normal as the country charges towards a full reopening on 21 June, thanks to Serbia’s “successful mass vaccination programme and significantly decreased number of new Covid cases”.

Now, “as a way to aid countries that currently have vaccine shortages,” Exit has partnered with the ministry of health to organise “a few thousand” coronavirus vaccine doses for international artists, ticketholders and accredited press who attend the festival.

The festival told IQ that international guests will be able to apply to have their vaccine in Serbia. More information regarding the vaccination process for international visitors will be announced soon.

Attendees who can prove they are immune against Covid-19 or can produce a negative PCR or antigen test will also be able to attend the 20th-anniversary edition of Exit – which is slated to feature international acts including Robin Schultz, David Guetta and DJ Snake.

“Serbia has been one of the global leaders in mass vaccination for months,” says Serbian prime minister Ana Brnabić. “Thanks to that, we have an ever-improving epidemiological situation and the plan is to open the country for gatherings, concerts and festivals on 21 June.

“Exit festival happening this July will be one of the important symbols of Serbia’s victory over the pandemic”

“In this way, we show not only the care for the event industry that contributes so much to our tourism and economy, but we also fight for the mental health of young people. Also, we confirm the strategic commitment of the government of Serbia towards the development of creative industries. Exit festival, which our country is globally proud of, happening this July will be one of the important symbols of Serbia’s victory over the pandemic”.

The country’s prospective 21 June reopening, which coincides with World Music Day, depends on 50% of adults getting vaccinated by that date.

Currently, around 45% of adults in Serbia have been vaccinated against Covid-19 with a further 5% expected in the next few weeks.

The government recently launched an immunisation campaign that would “reward” citizens for their “responsibility” to get inoculated against the virus.

Citizens over the age of 16 who have either already received one or two doses, or will be vaccinated with at least one dose by 31 May will receive a one-time payment of 3,000 dinars (€25). The amount equates to around 5% of the country’s average monthly salary.

The government initiative – believed to be the first of its kind in the world – is aiming to revive Serbia’s immunisation campaign amid waning public interest and growing scepticism.

Read about the international live music industry is divided as to how, if at all, fans’ vaccination status should be taken into account as live activity resumes here.

 


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