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Thousands attend Eurovision Song Contest 2021

Organisers have hailed as a success the grand final of the Eurovision Song Contest, which, with 3,500 Covid-negative live music fans in attendance, was the biggest indoor pilot event held in the Netherlands to date.

The 2021 contest, the first since 2019, concluded at the 16,500-capacity Ahoy arena in Rotterdam on Saturday (22 May), with Italian band Måneskin crowned the winner for their song ‘Zitti e buoni’. In total, 26 countries made it to the final, with all but one (Iceland’s Daði og Gagnamagnið, one of whom tested positive for Covid-19) performing live from the arena on the night.

This year’s competition took the form of a pilot show, welcoming an in-person audience as part of the government-approved Back to Live series, coordinated by pan-industry body Fieldlab Events. To gain entry to the arena, everyone involved – including performers, fans, country delegations, press, staff and crew – had to register a negative Covid-19 test in the previous 48 hours, and then get tested again once on site at the dedicated Eurovision test pavilion (pictured).

Eurovision Test Pavilion

In addition, social distancing was enforced throughout the venue, while masks had to be worn whenever people moved around the arena (even performers on their way to the stage).

As a Fieldlab event, no persons deemed to be at risk, such as the elderly, were eligible to apply for tickets – which caused some controversy in the run-up to the show, with former Eurovision winner Getty Kaspers (of Teach-In) among those to criticise the ‘no over-70s’ rule.

“The Eurovision Song Contest is a turning point for me”

Among the fans who were successful in getting tickets, the atmosphere at the Ahoy was celebratory. “Everyone is decked out in flags and costumes with a lot of glitter,” one attendee, Deuss, tells public broadcaster NOS. “The atmosphere is cheerful and exuberant. People here feel that they are the lucky ones.”

Jolanda Jansen, director of Rotterdam Ahoy and a spokesperson for Fieldlab member Alliance of Event Builders, says seeing the arena full of staff and fans was her highlight of Eurovision week.

“The moment that moved me the most was seeing all our colleagues happy at work again,” she tells Tubantia. “We’ve come a long way; 2020 was a terrible year. We had to let 40% of the workforce go.

“The Eurovision Song Contest is a turning point for me. From now on it will only get better.”

According to Dutch economic minister, the provisional results from the second phase of Fieldlab/Back to Live events are positive. The full results, which follow the similarly positive findings from the first test events in February, will be announced in the near future.

 


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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Road to recovery: A timeline of pilot projects

In August 2020, Germany paved the way for live music pilot projects with Restart-19, an experiment which saw thousands of volunteers to take part in a concert at the Quarterback Immobilien Arena in Leipzig with singer Tim Bendzko.

Since then, similar experiments have popped up across the globe. From Spain to Singapore, test events with as few as 50 participants and as many as 5,000 have taken place to prove to authorities (and the world) that when it comes to safety and security, the live music industry knows what it’s doing.

Below is a timeline of the pilot projects that have taken place since late summer 2020 – all of which have proved, in one way or another, that the live entertainment sector can reopen safely under certain measures – as well as the tests that are on the horizon in 2021.

August 2020

Restart-19
When: 22 August 2020
Where: Quarterback Immobilien Arena, Leipzig, Germany
Who: University Medical Center of Halle
What they said: “[T]he contacts that do occur at an event do not involve all participants. Therefore, events could take place under specific conditions during a pandemic.”
Participants: 1,500

November 2020

Konzerthaus Dortmund (study)
When: 2–3, 20 November 2020
Where: Konzerthaus Dortmund, Germany
Who: Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute Goslar, ParteQ
What they said: “Concert halls and theatres are not places of infection. […] With our study, we want to ensure that concert halls and theatres may again admit sufficient audiences when they reopen.”

December 2020

Primacov
When: 12 December 2020
Where: Apolo, Barcelona, Spain
Who: Primavera Sound, Germans Trias Hospital, the Fight Aids and Infectious Diseases Foundation
What they said: “A live music concert, staged with a series of security measures that included a negative antigen test for Sars- CoV-2 done on the same day, was not associated with an increase in Covid-19 infections.”
Participants: 1,047

Philharmonie de Paris (study)
When: 16 December 2020
Where: Philharmonie de Paris, France
Who: Dassault Systèmes
What they said: “The combination of face masks with a fresh-air supply built into every seat gives the indoor Philharmonie a similar profile to that of an outdoor space, with a very limited risk of spread from one side [of the venue] to the other.”

Back to Live (SG)
When: 18–19 December 2020 Where: Sands Theatre, Marina Bay, Singapore
Who: AEG Presents, Collective Minds
What they said: “[T]he outcome of such pilots will be critical to our ongoing efforts to allow events of a larger scale to resume in a safe and sustainable manner.”
Participants: 500

February 2021

Because Music Matters
When: 10–14 February
Where: Rockhal, Luxembourg
Who: Rockhal
What they said: “Building confidence among all our stakeholders that live events are a safe environment is so important.”
Participants: 100 per night

Back to Live (NL)
When: 15, 20, 21, 28 February & 6, 7, 20, 21 March 2021
Where: The Netherlands
Who: Fieldlab Evenementen
What they said: “We can now show that we can organise events in a very safe way. […] We hope this can lead to a tailor- made reopening of venues.”
Participants: Varies between events

March 2021

Love of Lesbian
When: 27 March 2021
Where: Palau Sant Jordi, Barcelona
Who: Festivals per la Cultura Segura
What they said: The event had no impact on Covid-19 transmission among attendees, despite the lack of social distancing observed.
Participants: 5,000

The Berlin Philharmonic
When: 20 March 2021
Where: Chamber Music Hall, Berlin
Who: Pilotprojekt, Berlin department of culture
What they said: ‘Zero infections among the 1,000 people who attended the show is further proof that events can be organised safely during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.’
Participants: 680

April 2021

Jonathan theatre performance
When: 26 April–9 May 2021
Where: Koninklijke Vlaamse Schouwburg (KVS), Belgium
Who: KVS and Belgium’s Ministry of Culture
What they said: “An important observation is that the CO2 value and the relative humidity have barely increased. We saw the figure increase from 500 ppm to 600 ppm, while the maximum permitted value is 1200 ppm. This is of course only a first indication.”
Participants: 50–250

May 2021

Events Research Programme
When: April/May 2021
Where: Sefton Park and Bramley-Moore Dock in Liverpool, Brit Awards in London, The Crucible Theatre in Sheffield and more
Who: Festival Republic, Circus, BPI, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and more
What they said: “These test events will be crucial in finding ways to get fans and audiences back in safely without social distancing. We will be guided by the science and medical experts but will work flat out to make that happen.”
Participants: 300–21,000

TBC 2021

Denmark Trials
When: TBC 2021
Where: Denmark
Who: Dansk Live, Divisionsforeningen
What they said: “This should very much lead to a much-needed festival summer and many great concert experiences across the country in 2021.”

Paris test
When: TBC 2021
Where: Accor Arena, Paris
Who: Ministry of Health, Ministry of Culture, St Louis Hospital, Prodiss
Participants: 5,000

Marseille test
When: TBC 2021
Where: Dôme, Marseille
Who: The city of Marseille, Inserm, Béatrice Desgranges (Marsatac, SMA)
Participants: 1,000

 


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10,000-person pilot event called off amid unrest

The future of the Netherlands’ highly publicised pilot events are in doubt after local authorities today (19 April) forced the cancellation of 538 Koningsdag, a 10,000-person festival which would have been the series’ largest event to date.

Fieldlab Evenementen, the industry-backed body responsible for organising the successful Back to Live series of test concerts, conferences, festivals and club events, announced last week that phase two of Back to Live would include 538 Koningsdag (‘King’s Day’) on 24 April, as well as a 3,500-person concert on 7 May and another nightclub event on 15 May.

While the shows to date – which, like pilot events in other countries, aim to test how coronavirus may be transmitted between audience members in a range of formats – have generally been received positively by music fans and in the wider industry, a backlash has been growing in recent days over the perceived cost of Back to Live, as well as the appropriateness of holding large events before enough Dutch have received Covid-19 vaccines.

While many of the objections are based on misinformation – for example, one popular tweet appears to confuse the €925 million the government has set aside for its Testen voor Toegang (Testing for Access) programme with Fieldlab’s costs, estimated at under €3m – a petition calling on organisers to cancel 538 Koningsdag appears to have genuine support, having drawn more than 370,000 signatures since Saturday.

The petitioners focus on the festival’s location in the city of Breda, near a hospital, as their chief grievance, writing that “celebrating a party with 10,000 people 400 metres from a hospital overloaded by Covid-19 is a blow to patients and caregivers”.

“The police are getting more and more signals that 538 Oranjedag will attract both supporters and opponents of Fieldlab”

Ultimately, the Dutch government left the decision to city authorities, which decided today to decline a permit for the event, this year also called 538 Oranjedag (‘Orange Day’), citing the potential for disruption at the festival.

“The police are getting more and more signals that 538 Oranjedag will attract both supporters and opponents of the [government’s] coronavirus policy and Fieldlab, with all the associated security risks,” says Breda’s mayor, Paul Depla. “As mayor, I stand for the safety of the police officers, local residents and visitors to the event.”

Everyone who bought tickets for the festival will be refunded, says Radio 538.

Another Fieldlab event, Startschotgala (1 May) in Lichtenvoorde – another festival-type event that sold all 10,000 tickets in just ten minutes – will also be called off, and more cancellations are expected, according to local media.

Annette Bronsvoort, mayor of Oost Gelre, says the cancellation was the decision of organisers, not the city. “This is because of the social debate, and the pressure on healthcare,” she says in a statement. “I understand this decision and I respect it. ”

Preliminary results from the first Back to Live shows in February revealed that the risk of transmission in a live environment is low, tallying with studies from other countries – and a result organisers had hoped to replicate with the larger events.

At press time, the Netherlands had 8,505 new cases of Covid-19.

 


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Fieldlab announces test event for 10,000 visitors

Fieldlab Evenementen, the Dutch initiative behind the Back to Live series, has received permission from the government to scale up its forthcoming test events.

538 Koningsdag (King’s Day), a rock and pop festival that takes place annually at Chasséveld in Breda, will be the largest Fieldlab test event so far, admitting 10,000 visitors.

The festival will take place on 24 April with artists including Snollebollekes, Davina Michelle, Chef’Special and Di-rect.

The event marks a second phase of the Fieldlab test events, whereby the organisers will trial certain measures with increased visitor capacities.

“It is great that we can do these upscaling tests, where we can test previously acquired knowledge with higher visitor numbers,” says Marcel Elbertse, chairman of Fieldlab Events.

“We are well aware that this is an absolute privilege, especially with the current epidemiological picture”

“We are well aware that this is an absolute privilege, especially with a look at the current epidemiological picture, where easing is not yet forthcoming. However, this new research is essential for the second phase of Fieldlab Events.”

Other upcoming large-scale Fieldlab events include the 3FM Awards taking place today (15 April) with 1,500 visitors, a Racoon concert on 7 May (3,500 people) and a nightclub test event in Amsterdam on 15 May, which can be attended by 1,000 people.

It was announced at the beginning of April that the Eurovision Song Contest would also become a Fieldlab test event, for which 3,500 people a day will be admitted to the 16,426-capacity Rotterdam Ahoy arena from 18 to 22 May.

Fieldlab recently shared the findings from the first part of its Back to Live test series, which involved a business conference and a cabaret show by the Dutch comedian Guido Weijers. The Back to Live series also included concerts, festivals and other live events.

See an overview of upcoming Fieldlab test results below:

15 April – 3FM Awards – TivoliVredenburg Utrecht – 1,500 visitors
24 April – De Efteling Kaatsheuvel – 8,000 visitors
24 April – 538 Orange Day – Chasséveld Breda – 10,000 visitors
1 May – Starting shot gala – Event area Lichtenvoorde – 10,000 visitors
7 May – Concert Racoon – Mainstage Den Bosch – 3,500 visitors
8 May – Mud Masters – Floriade terrain Haarlemmermeer – 9,000 visitors
14 May – The Residentie Orkest – Zuiderstrandtheater The Hague – 1,000 visitors
15 May – Nightclub – Club (tbc) Amsterdam – 1,000 visitors
16 May – Enschede Marathon – Twenthe Airport Event location Enschede – 5,000 visitors
17 to 22 May – Eurovision Song Contest – Ahoy Rotterdam – 9 x 3,500 visitors
20 May – EventSummit – Jaarbeurs Utrecht – 3,000 visitors
Date TBC – Back to Live – Walibi Event area Walibi Holland Biddinghuizen – 9,000 visitors

 


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Fieldlab shares results of initial Back to Live tests

Seated indoor events can take place as soon as possible – even with a high prevalence of Covid-19 infections – provided a certain set of measures are adhered to, according to a study conducted by Fieldlab Evenementen.

The Dutch initiative has shared the findings from the first part of its Back to Live test series, which involved a business conference and a cabaret show by the Dutch comedian Guido Weijers. Each event took place during February at the Beatrix Theater, Utrecht, with around 500 attendees.

Based on the results of the study, Fieldlab says that these so-called ‘type 1 events’, which take place indoors, with seats and where the public behaves calmly, can take place with 50% occupancy and without social distancing.

However, visitors must be tested before and after the event and wear a mask while walking around the venue. The recommendations are also based on a venue having good ventilation and separating large groups of visitors.

“Indoor, seated events, where the public behaves calmly, can take place with 50% occupancy and without social distancing”

Fieldlab has now presented the research results to the Dutch government and hopes that the Outbreak Management Team will provide advice on organising events in the near future.

The researchers say the results of the study are “encouraging”, noting that 98.4% of the visitors who attended the events adhered to the instructions and 80% of the visitors downloaded the CoronaMelder app in advance, so that track and trace could be carried out easily.

The number of contacts within a meter and a half and lasting longer than 15 minutes was limited, especially during the theatre test. This number was higher at the conference because people actively sought out colleagues and peers.

The Back to Live series, which has so far included concerts, festivals and other live events, will continue with the 3FM Awards in a few days time and the Eurovision Song Contest in May.

Alongside the Fieldlab events, the Netherlands will also host more than 80 concerts across nine days as part of an extensive pilot programme of cultural activities, announced by the Dutch government.

 


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Dutch gov plots 80+ test concerts over nine days

The Netherlands will host more than 80 concerts across nine days as part of an extensive pilot programme of cultural activities, announced last night (6 April) by the Dutch government.

Music venues across the country, including Amsterdam’s Paradiso and Milky Way, will accommodate a total of 11,000 visitors at 87 reduced-capacity shows between 22 and 30 April.

The programme, which stretches across April and includes theatre shows and museum openings, will trial the use of test certificates which display Covid-19 test results or vaccination status.

Participants must show either a negative Covid-19 test result or proof of vaccination upon entry, and adhere to the 1.5-metre social distancing rule once inside the concert.

“There is close consultation with the municipalities about the feasibility and enforceability of the pilots,” says minister for education, culture and science, Ingrid van Engelshoven. “If these are successful, a good start can then be made with test evidence on a large scale.

“If these [pilot events] are successful, a good start can then be made with test evidence on a large scale”

“It is important that we start with this, also for all those cultural institutions that have not been able to receive an audience for a long time. The monuments, museums, theatres and music venues can now carefully open their doors.”

The pilot scheme will run alongside Fieldlab Events’ forthcoming test shows, which includes the Eurovision Song Contest in May and the 3FM Awards, which was announced today (7 April).

The 3FM Awards will be presented on 15 April at TivoliVredenburg in Utrecht with 1,000 people in attendance. Live performances will be delivered by Son Mieux and The Vices.

The most recent Fieldlab Events pilots, two test festivals held at the Lowlands site in Biddinghuizen on 20 and 21 March, were used to trial the government’s new CoronaCheck app.

The calendar for the full pilot programme can be viewed on the central government website. Artists for the concerts are yet to be announced.

 


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Eurovision Song Contest becomes Back to Live pilot

This year’s Eurovision Song Contest in the Netherlands will take place as a government-backed pilot event with a small in-person audience, a Dutch minister has announced.

Arie Slob, a minister for media under culture secretary Ingrid van Engelshoven, tells De Telegraaf that it will be possible to admit thousands of fans to Eurovision, which returns this spring after cancelling in 2020, by bringing the contest under Fieldlab Evenementen’s Back to Live, a series of pilot concerts, festivals and other live events which has been running since February. The most recent Back to Live events, two test festivals held at the Lowlands site in Biddinghuizen, took place on 20 and 21 March.

Currently, it is hoped a maximum of 3,500 people a day will be admitted to the 16,426-capacity Rotterdam Ahoy arena from 18 to 22 May, though plans are subject to change should the coronavirus situation deteriorate.

As with previous Back to Live trial events, fans will only be permitted to enter the Ahoy after testing negative for Covid-19.

“We welcome this decision by the Dutch government and the possibility that we can invite fans to join us”

In total, there will be nine shows, including rehearsals, for Eurovision 2021, the 65th edition of the pan-European song contest.

“We welcome this decision by the Dutch government and the possibility that we can invite fans to join us as we bring the Eurovision Song Contest back in May,” says Martin Österdahl, Eurovision’s executive supervisor.

“We will consider the options now available and announce more details in the coming weeks on how we can safely admit audiences to the Ahoy venue in Rotterdam should the situation allow. The health and safety of all those attending the event remains our top priority.”

“The fact that we now have the opportunity to plan for a Eurovision Song Contest with an audience again is something we could only dream of [previously],” the contest’s executive producer Sietse Bakker tells public broadcaster NOS. “We are grateful to the cabinet and to Fieldlab Evenementen for this perspective and the confidence they have placed in us.”

 


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Dutch test festivals postponed due to weather

This weekend’s Back to Live test festivals, organised by Mojo, ID&T and Fieldlab, have been postponed by a week due to forecasted adverse weather conditions.

The two music festivals – a dance music event and a rock/pop festival – were scheduled to take place on Saturday 13 and Sunday 14 March, respectively, on the Lowlands and Defqon 1 site in Biddinghuizen, in the central Netherlands, admitting 1,500 participants each.

Due to the organisers’ concerns that the weather would lead to atypical results, the events have been rescheduled to 20 March and 21 March.

“The [bad weather] means that Fieldlab Events expects attendance to be lower and the stay shorter”

“The combination of heavy gusts of wind, rainfall and low temperature and the concerns expressed by our visitors, mean that Fieldlab Events expects attendance to be lower and the stay shorter,” Fieldlab told Nu.nl. “This means that the results of the survey will not be representative and the visitors’ experience is far from pleasant.”

Participants were tested for Covid-19 on Thursday (11 March) and will be required to retest before next weekend’s event.

Earlier this week, the Dutch government announced that a new Covid-19 app, called CoronaCheck, will be trialled at the Back to Live pilot festivals.

The pilot festivals are the last events in the Back to Live series, which includes the recent dance event and a concert at Amsterdam’s Ziggo Dome last weekend.

 


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Dutch government to trial Covid app at test festivals

The Dutch government will trial a new app that displays the results of Covid-19 tests at the Back to Live pilot festivals this weekend.

The two music festivals – a dance music event and a rock/pop festival – will take place on Saturday 13 and Sunday 14 March, respectively, on the Lowlands site in Biddinghuizen, in the central Netherlands, admitting 1,500 participants each.

At the previous events in the Back to Live test series, participants showed their test result via a digital or paper PDF document in combination with ID. The CoronaCheck app will corroborate both of the documents.

The health minister also said that, in the long term, CoronaCheck could also integrate proof of vaccination

Fieldlab, which is responsible for organising the Back to Live pilots, will investigate whether using the app will accelerate the admittance process, though participants can choose to show test results via email if they prefer.

Minister for health, Hugo De Jonge, previously emphasised that the CoronaCheck app will only be used in non-essential places, such as festivals.

In response to concerns about data privacy, De Jonge said that, initially, the app will not contain any personal information, but that this will be the case after an amendment to the law.

The health minister also said that, in the long term, CoronaCheck could also integrate proof of vaccination, which follows his announcement that the cabinet is working on making vaccine passports “technically possible”.

 


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Thousands take part in “historic” Dutch test events

Thousands of Dutch residents took part in the latest Back to Live test events, which took place in the Ziggo Dome (cap. 17,000) at the weekend.

Saturday’s dance event saw 1,300 people visit the Amsterdam venue to enjoy sets from domestic DJs including Sam Feldt, Lady Bee and Sunnery James and Ryan Marciano.

The next day André Hazes delivered a concert in the venue, with the same amount of participants.

The events, organised by Mojo and ID&T, ran from 3 pm till 7 pm in order to comply with the nationwide curfew from 9 pm to 4:30 am, which has been in place for the past six weeks.

Around 100,000 people applied for the Ziggo Dome events, which were priced at €15 (£13), and tickets for both sold out in 20 minutes.

“One group was given a fluorescent drink and encouraged to sing in order to examine how much saliva was released”

Those who successfully secured a ticket had to have received a negative Covid-19 test 48 hours prior to the event. Twelve applicants had received a positive test result and were turned away. Those who did attend were asked to take another test five days afterwards.

Those participating were traced in all their movements and contacts through a tag.

Participants were divided into five ‘bubbles’ of 250 people, plus one of 50, each of which had to comply with different rules.

In bubble 1, participants were told to wear a mask throughout the event. They could decide for themselves where to stand but had to ensure that there were no more than three people in a square metre of space.

In bubble 2, participants wore a mask at all times but were told to keep a distance of 1.5 metres. In bubble 3, participants wore a mouth mask only when in motion and had to stand on designated spots.

In bubble 4, people wore masks all the time and were permitted to sit down. In bubble 5, people wore masks only when on the move. There were standing and seating areas. The participants were put in their dancing spot by the organisers with two chairs spacing people apart.

In bubble 6, participants did not wear masks and were allowed to stand or sit where and when they pleased.

One group was given a fluorescent drink and encouraged to sing and scream to the music in order to examine how much saliva was released at moments of peak revelry, according to The Guardian.

Tim Boersma, of Fieldlab, the organisation carrying out the research for the government, told the newspaper: “We hope this can lead to a tailor-made reopening of venues. Measures are now generic, allowing for instance a maximum of 100 guests at any event if coronavirus infections drop to a certain level. We hope for more specific measures, such as allowing the Ziggo Dome to open at half its capacity.”

“We hope this can lead to a tailor-made reopening of venues”

Rosanne Janmaat, COO of ID&T, said the events were “a historical moment”, adding: “Hopefully this is the key to being able to reopen”.

The Back to Live series has so far included Back to Live Business, which simulated a conference environment, took place at Utrecht’s Beatrix Theatre on Monday (15 February) with 500 people, as well as two football matches with 1,200 supporters at each.

Two music festivals – a dance music event and a rock/pop festival – will take place on Saturday 13 and Sunday 14 March, respectively, on the Lowlands site in Biddinghuizen, in the central Netherlands.

Government advisers will use the behavioural data collected to inform decisions on whether or not to ease restrictions on nightlife in the near future. It is more than a year since gatherings of more than 100 people were banned in the Netherlands. All bars and restaurants in the country have been closed since mid-October.

 


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