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Optimism grows after successful Brit Awards 2021

After nearly 14 months, non-socially distanced indoor live music returned to the UK last night (11 May) as the likes of Dua Lipa, Coldplay, Elton John, Pink and Rag’n’Bone Man took to the O2 Arena stage for the 2021 Brit Awards.

As previously reported, some 4,000 people – 2,500 of them key workers who had been gifted free tickets – attended the ceremony, with an estimated 1,000 more working as staff, production and crew. As a medically monitored pilot event, held as part of the UK’s Events Research Programme (ERP), Brits attendees were free to mingle and take off their masks once inside the O2 (as they had at previous ERP shows in Liverpool), where scientists were examining risk factors including crowd behaviour, ventilation, surface contact and the effect of having performers in the room.

All guests took a lateral-flow Covid-19 test in the 36 hours leading up to the event, as well as a PCR test on the day. Attendees are also required to take another PCR test five days after the event, with both tests being sent to a laboratory to assess for any coronavirus transmission during the show.

Gennaro Castaldo, director of communications for Brits organiser BPI, tells IQ there was a “huge amount of interest” in the event, “not just from the UK, but from the global community”, reflecting its significance as the first major indoor concert of the Covid-19 era. “We’ve had a record amount of TV requests this year, from Japan, America, Canada, Europe… Obviously everyone’s intrigued as to how we as a country are coming out of lockdown, and how these Event Research Programme pilots are working. So there wasn’t just the UK audience, but there was a wider global interest, too, I think.”

“Heralding the return of live music, it was a special moment for everyone working in the industry”

Both Castaldo and BPI chief executive Geoff Taylor are full of praise for the O2 team, as well as stage designers Es Devlin and Yinka Ilori, whose technicoloured set, built by Diagon, provided a spectacular backdrop to both the prize-giving ceremony and the night’s live performances.

“Our hope is that the Brits 2021 with Mastercard showed the music industry at its best,” says Taylor. “It united global superstars with the breakthrough talent that is the future of British music, reflecting on a year when music has shown its power to help us navigate difficult times. The creativity of the performances lit up staging by Yinka Ilori and Es Devlin which, with its explosion of colour, was like a wake-up from the monochrome reality many of us have lived for the last 12 months.”

“It was great to be back working with the Brits and to once again collaborate with the brilliant Es Devlin,” says Diagon’s Liam Ownsworth. “It was a huge privilege to bring Es Delvin’s vision to life for the biggest night in UK music. Heralding the return of live music events, it was a special moment for everyone working within the creative industry, who have been especially hit hard by the pandemic.”

Dua Lipa collects award

Castaldo also commends the government for managing the end of the third lockdown in a “very step-by-step, gradual way” with the ERP initiative. “Our fervent wish is that [the results from the events] will come out positive, and we’ll be able to speed up the process of opening up our venues and festivals and nightclubs,” he continues, noting that – although insurance remains a sticking point – many venues still have availability for shows this summer. “With a bit of luck, there could be a real surge of interest if the government were to come out sooner, rather than later, and say, ‘We’re satisfied that with these precautions in place, you can reopen safely’.”

“What was happening on stage felt particularly significant,” adds Taylor, highlighting wins for female artists such as Dua Lipa, Taylor Swift, Little Mix, Haim, Arlo Parks and Billie Eilish. “‘Women artists won in eightof the 11 award categories, illustrating how the music industry has transformed to better reflect all the talent in our society. There was an inclusive feel to the show, including the additional Brits trophies that winning artists could give to their own heroes, and the fact that the majority of the audience were key workers who have done so much to help the country get through the last year. I would like to thank the music labels who contributed to cover the costs of making that happen.

“Talking to guests, it seemed they were truly excited to be out enjoying live music once again, and it was particularly special to be part of the first live audience for music at the O2 Arena in a year. Finally, the Brits being part of the ERP meant that we were gathering scientific data which should help ease the path to government reopening live music as quickly as possible, which is so important to fans and to our artists.”

“It’s probably the most significant Brit Awards in our four-decade history”

All Brit Awards 2021 performances, which also included the Weeknd, Griff, Headie One and Olivia Rodrigo, are available to watch back on the Brits YouTube channel.

“As much as it was painful process at times” for the Brits team, who pulled together the show in under six weeks, seeing the result made it more than worth it, concludes Castaldo, who says having multiple performances with a live audience sends an important message that the ERP can act as a “stepping stone towards the return of live music at scale”. “And that’s the key word: scale,” he adds, “because obviously you can have events and have a few people distanced here and there, but that’s no good to any promoter. You’ve got to be able to put bums on seats and know that you can fill the room to capacity, so that’s why these pilots are so hugely important.

“It’s also the most diverse awards we’ve ever had, with eight of the 11 categories won by women, which is a historic moment, too. So I think for those reasons, it’s probably the most significant Brit Awards that we’ve had in our four-decade history.”

A full list of 2021 award winners is available from the Brits website.

 


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Brit Awards 2021 confirms pilot event in May

The 2021 Brit Awards ceremony will go ahead with a live audience of 4,000 people as part of the UK government’s Events Research Programme (ERP), organisers have announced.

IQ reported last month that the Brits, the UK music industry’s main annual awards ceremony, was being considered as a pilot show alongside events such as the FA Cup final and the World Snooker Championship. The 2021 awards, which take place at the 20,000-capacity O2 Arena in London on Tuesday 11 March, will be the biggest indoor ERP show and feature live performances from Dua Lipa, Headie One, Arlo Parks and Griff, among others.

As with other ERP events, including the recently announced Sefton Park Pilot concert in Liverpool, audience members will not be socially distanced or required to wear face coverings once seated in the arena. All attendees must, however, have proof of a negative lateral-flow test result to enter the venue.

As part of the wider scientific research on the ERP’s events, attendees will also be asked to take a test after the event to gather further evidence on the safety of indoor settings, reduced social distancing and the removal of non-pharmaceutical interventions like face coverings. They will also be requirement to provide contact details for National Health Service’s contact-tracing system.

“The BRITs are always a big night in the music calendar, but this year’s awards will be particularly special. They will reunite live audiences with the best of British talent for the first time in a year, while providing a vital opportunity to see how we can get large crowds back safely as soon as possible,” says British culture secretary Oliver Dowden.

“This scientific trial is an important step on the path to recovery for the live entertainment industry”

“Music connected us when we were separated by this pandemic, and now it’s going to help bring us back together again.”

The majority of tickets for the event (2,500) will be donated to key workers from London via a ballot system in recognition of their work during the pandemic.

Geoff Taylor, chief executive of Brits organiser the BPI, comments: “The Brit Awards team are excited to confirm our plans to host a live audience at our ceremony on 11 May. There could be no better way to celebrate music’s biggest night than with an audience present for the first live performances at the O2 in over a year. Most importantly, this is also a key moment in the return of live music, which we all want to see back at scale as quickly as possible.

“We will be working closely with the government, the O2 and all our partners to finalise details and ensure all safety measures and guidelines are adhered to. More exciting performance announcements will be made in the coming days.”

“We’re proud that the O2 has been selected to host the largest-indoor-capacity pilot event with the Brits” says the O2’s deputy GM, Danielle Kennedy-Clark. “This scientific trial is an important step on the path to recovery for the live entertainment industry, and our operational teams are making the final preparations to be able to welcome people into the O2 again for the first time in more than a year”.

 


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UK targets “special summer” with new test events

Upcoming major events such as the Brit Awards and FA Cup final may be run as ‘pilot’ events designed to trial the return of large, non-socially distanced audiences to UK venues, culture minister Oliver Dowden has said.

In an interview published in yesterday’s Sunday Times, Dowden, the secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, said the British government will use a dozen events held in late April and May to test allowing spectators to return to sports venues, theatres and nightclubs without social distancing. Currently, under prime minister Boris Johnson’s ‘roadmap’ out of the UK’s latest lockdown, all restrictions on indoor gatherings are set to be lifted from 21 June.

Among the 12 events observed under the so-called Events Research Programme (ERP), said Dowden, could be the World Snooker Championship final, held at the 980-seat Crucible Theatre in Sheffield on 17 April; football’s FA Cup final, staged at Wembley Stadium (90,000-seat) on 15 May; and the UK music industry’s main annual awards ceremony, the Brits, which are scheduled to return to the O2 (20,000-cap.) in London on 11 May.

According to the BBC, the government hopes up to 20,000 fans could attend the FA Cup match – double the 10,000 people who will be permitted at outdoor events in England from 17 May.

Other ERP events will take place at a nightclub, a comedy club and a conference venue, according to Dowden’s Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

“These test events will be crucial in finding ways to get fans and audiences back in safely without social distancing”

Brits organiser BPI said last autumn that it is planning for the awards – which traditionally take place in February – to return with a “spectacular event” in May. The 40th Brit Awards took place in February 2021, a month before the Covid-19 pandemic forced the closure of the O2 and other venues. IQ has contacted the Brit Awards for comment on the 2021 event.

According to DCMS, the ERP will use a range of “non-pharmaceutical” methods to prevent the spread of Covid-19 at the events, including pre- and post-event testing, enhanced ventilation, novel venue lay-outs and the monitoring fans’ movements and interactions.

‘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,” says Dowden. “We want to get the people back to enjoying what they love and ensure some of our most important growth industries get back on their feet.

“These are important steps towards the safe and special summer we all crave, and that I’m fully focused on delivering.”

 


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Major award shows will return “rain or shine” in 2021

The Grammy Awards, one of the earliest dates in the annual calendar for music awards, will be happening in January 2021 “come rain or shine, Covid-19 vaccine or not,” say organisers.

The 63rd edition of the US-based awards show is scheduled to take place on 31 January and will be broadcast on CBS at 8 pm ET.

Organisers say things will be “a little different” at next year’s ceremony but have not yet revealed details about the show’s format.

However, Harvey Mason Jnr, the Recording Academy’s interim president/CEO, offered some insight on what to expect at the 2021 show back in June during an interview with Variety.

“We are simultaneously developing three plans for what the show would look like: One is the traditional show with the full crowd, two is a limited crowd, and three is no crowd, and there’s creative around all three of those ideas: how and where we would film it. But none of them involve changing or postponing the date,” said Mason.

“We are simultaneously developing three plans for what the Grammys would look like, but none involving postponing”

Mason also said the Grammys are looking at hosting the awards at the Staples Centre (cap. 20,000) in LA with a limited audience, though it seems “increasing unlikely”. The one thing he guarantees is “a spectacular show” that, no matter what, the show will be executed fully live, with no pre-recorded segments.

Across the pond, organisers of Britain’s annual music awards show, the Brits, have said the event will return next year on 11 May instead of its usual date in February and will be broadcast on ITV.

Organisers say they consulted with the music industry and show partners Mastercard, ITV and AEG, and made the decision based on safety and logistical considerations.

“We believe that this move will give a fairer opportunity to all artists, as well as ensuring a mix of huge domestic and global superstars that annually attend and perform at the show,” the Brits statement reads.

Speaking about the decision to move the date, Geoff Taylor, chief executive at British Phonographic Industry and Brit Awards said: “We want to make sure that the Brits delivers the outstanding production levels, superstar performances and live excitement that make it the biggest night in music.

“We want to make sure that The Brits delivers the outstanding production levels, superstar performances and live excitement”

“We believe that the best way to achieve this in 2021 is to move the show back a few months to May, and we are already at work planning a spectacular event that will remind us how important music has been in getting us all through these difficult times.”

The awards show held its 40th edition before the pandemic hit in February, which took place at the O2 (cap. 21,000) in London, where it has been held every year since 2011.

Major award shows that have taken place during the pandemic include MTV’s VMAs (August, US), the Country Music Awards (September, US), the Mercury Prize (September, UK) and The Billboard Music Awards (October, US) and have not yet revealed details about 2021 ceremonies.

Still to come this year is the American Music Awards, which will air on 22 November in the US at 8 pm ET on ABC and plans to “bring fans together with surprising musical performances and celebrate the artists who make it happen”. Additional details regarding the production of the show will be announced at a later date.

Also, the UK’s Mobo Awards, which has celebrated music of black origin since 1996, is due to return after two years off. Founder Kanya King told Capital Xtra in an exclusive interview that the ceremony would return in an “exciting and dynamic” way before the end of the year. Further details about the ceremony are yet to be revealed.

 


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