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More concert venues become vaccination centres

Further music, entertainment and sports venues in Europe and North America are gearing up to become mass inoculation centres, as the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine continues its roll-out in the UK, with more countries set to follow suit, and other competing vaccines near approval.

IQ reported earlier this month that venues in the UK and Germany, as well as members of Belgian festival association FFMWB, had offered up their facilities as vaccination centres amid the ongoing British vaccination programme and ahead of European Medicines Agency approval for the 27 EU countries.

In Germany, joining the previously announced Merkur Spiel-Arena in Dusseldorf is Stuttgart’s Liederhalle, a historic concert hall (2,100-cap.) and convention centre which will reopen in the new year following a recent renovation with the capacity to immunise 2,500 people a day.

According to German news agency DPA, there are now more than 440 vaccination centres set up across Germany, with locations including converted exhibition centres, sports halls and hotels.

Historic concert hall Liederhalle will have a vaccination capacity of 2,500 a day

DPA reports that German health minister Jens Spahn is relying on EU approval of the first vaccine “shortly before Christmas”, with the first vaccinations then beginning within two to four days. It is being left to Germany’s federal Lands to deliver the national vaccination programme, though the federal government expects immunisation centres are expected to be at full capacity by mid-January.

In Luxembourg, which is similarly waiting on EU approval to begin its vaccination programme, the 2,300-capacity Halle Victor-Hugo in Limpertsberg, Luxembourg City, has been announced as the country’s first vaccination centre, serving the Luxembourgish capital.

Luxembourg has signed contracts with six vaccine manufacturers (AstraZeneca, Sanofi-GSK, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and CureVac) for 1.3 million doses of vaccine, with which it will be possible to immunise 800,000 people (nearly 150,000 more than there are Luxembourgers) against Covid-19, according to Les Frontaliers.

Canada, along with neighbouring America and Mexico, has already approved the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, and began inoculating its earlier this week.

The first vaccinations were given in Quebec on Monday, at a conference centre

The first vaccinations were given in Quebec on Monday, with a conference centre in the city of Sherbrooke, Center de foires de Sherbrooke, chosen as one of the sites, given its history of providing vaccinations against seasonal flu. The 60,000sqft venue was, therefore, “ideal as a place for the delivery and administration of the first doses of the vaccine”, reports local daily La Tribune.

The UK, meanwhile, continues to add new venues to its national vaccination programme, which has given more than 137,000 people their first Covid-19 jab (of two) so far.

Hull’s 25,000-seat KCom Stadium is the latest major sporting venue to be transformed into a mass vaccination facility, with people from “priority” groups (the over-80s and National Health Service workers) receiving the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine from Tuesday (15 December).

James Crick, associate medical director for Hull Clinical Commissioning Group, tells the Hull Daily Mail, that, thanks to “location vaccination sites” like KCom Stadium, more vulnerable people identified as priority cohorts will be able to receive the vaccine. […] In the meantime, I urge everybody to play their part in reducing the spread of the virus and follow the local restrictions to protect the NHS services while we carry out this vital work.”

 


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UK venues announce redundancies

Some of the UK’s most iconic venues have recently announced wide-reaching staff redundancies as the financial pressures of the Covid-19 shutdown continue to bite.

The news of sweeping staff layoffs in venues including the Southbank Centre and the Royal Opera House, come just as venues in England are finally given the go-ahead to reopen, albeit under restricted circumstances.

The announcements also come in the wake of the losses of well loved Manchester venues Gorilla and Deaf Institute last week, as well as VMS Live’s Hull venues the Welly and the Polar Bear.

London’s Southbank Centre, a multi-venue arts and culture complex including the 2,700-capacity Royal Festival Hall, is to make up to two thirds of its staff redundant, equating to around 400 roles.

The centre, which has previously warned it may be forced to close until at least April 2021 without the correct support, has already furloughed the majority of its 600 employees and pecits a deficit of £5.1m for the current financial year.

“It is with great sadness that the Southbank Centre announced that up to 400 roles have been put at risk of redundancy,” says a spokesperson for the venue.

The spokesperson says the cuts form part of a management plan designed “to stem the financial losses being incurred as a result of Covid-19, and to help safeguard the future of the UK’s largest arts centre.”

The news comes as the Royal Opera House (ROH) announces it is laying off its entire team of casual workers.

“It is with great sadness that the Southbank Centre announced that up to 400 roles have been put at risk of redundancy”

It is unclear how many jobs are affected, but the organisation has confirmed that all casual contracts have been terminated and a process of voluntary redundancies among other staff is already underway.

“It is with huge sadness that we have begun a restructure process,” reads a post on the ROH Twitter page. “The scale of financial pressure on ROH alongside continued restrictions on our ability to perform to live audiences, has resulted in this very difficult decision.”

The post adds that ROH’s director of music, Antonio Pappano, has forgone his salary since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, with the venue’s chief executive, Alex Beard, also taking a “significant reduction” in pay.

The National Theatre in London has also signalled its intention to proceed with around 400 redundancies among its casual staff base, including 250 front-of-house workers.

The Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG), is another organisation to announce it is planning redundancies across its UK workforce.

ATG, which operates close to 50 venues worldwide including theatres Bristol Hippodrome, London’s Lyceum Theatre, Sunderland Empire, Manchester’s Palace Theatre and the Alexandra in Birmingham, as well as live venues Swansea Arena and the Stockton Globe, says layoffs may affect around 5% of its staff, predominantly those working in its head offices in London and Woking.

The operator has also said that while it zero-hours staff will continue to be supported by the government’s furlough scheme, arrangements beyond that have not been confirmed.

The wave of redundancies come despite the UK government’s recently announced £1.57 billion rescue package for arts and culture and a reduction in the value-added tax (VAT) levied on concert and event tickets, from 20% to 5%.

It remains unclear how the funds will be distributed across the sector.

Photo: Saval/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0) (cropped)

 


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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Coronavirus: Numerous UK venues close in single day

A number of UK venues declared they were closing for good today, as the insolvency of two companies making up UK event and venue management specialist VMS Live leads to the shuttering of Hull venues the Welly and the Polar Bear, and Mission Mars-operated Gorilla and Deaf Institute in Manchester also announce permanent closures.

Hull Live reports that VMS CEO Bert van Horck and non-executive director Kate Forster yesterday (15 July) transferred their authority as directors for the VMS Live companies VMS Live (2011) Ltd and VMS Live (Venues) Ltd, with the expected loss of 20 full-time jobs..

As a result of the insolvencies of the two companies, Hull venues the Welly (600-cap.) and the Polar Bear (200-cap.), which VMS took on in 2018, as well as ticketing outlet Hull Box Office, are closing down.

The remaining four VMS Live companies, which operate/book venues including Eventim Olympia Liverpool (1,960-cap.), Asylum in Hull (1,100-cap.) and the William Aston Hall in Wrexham (1,200-cap.), will continue to operate as before.

“I am deeply saddened that we had to make this decision, following the completion of the yearly accounts, the announcements of the government and the bank reconciliation, which lead us to be at immediate risk of trading whilst insolvent,” comments van Horck, who has served as CEO of the company since 2019.

“I am deeply saddened that we had to make this decision”

“I would like to thank all of our staff on behalf of Kate and I for the magnificent efforts made to try and save these two companies, both between September and March during normal trading and beyond into the Covid-19 enforced closure.”

The news comes as two other well-loved UK venues, Mission Mars-operated Gorilla (600-cap.) and Deaf Institute (260-cap.) in Manchester, close under the pressure of Covid-19.

“The Deaf Institute and Gorilla have been at the forefront of the music scene in Manchester for many years and it is with great sadness that we announce that we will not be reopening,” says Mission Mars CEO Roy Ellis.

“This difficult decision has been made against the backdrop of Covid-19 and the enforced closure of all of our sites and with continued restrictions upon opening of live music venues.

“We appreciate that these music destinations are well loved and have provided an early stage for many acts in the North West and are therefore well known in the world of music.

“We would encourage any industry and music entrepreneurs who might be interested in this as an opportunity to please get in touch.”

 


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Hull venues unite for Hull City of Music initiative

The leading music venues in Hull, in north-east England, have joined forces to promote the area as a ‘city of music’ in the vein of Liverpool or Manchester.

Hull City of Music – comprising venues including Bonus Arena (3,500-cap.), Welly (600-cap.), Adelphi (200-cap.), Asylum (1,100-cap.), the 1,200-seat Hull City Hall and the Humber Street Sesh festival – aims to “encourage the experience of live music within the community through attendance, participation and education” and put “put the city’s live music scene will on the map in the same way as Manchester and Liverpool’s musical heritage”, according to a launch announcement.

Famous musical exports from Hull (in full Kingston upon Hull), a city of some 250,000 people in the East Riding of Yorkshire, include Sade, the Housemartins/Beautiful South, Fatboy Slim, Throbbing Gristle and Bowie collaborator/Spider from Mars Mick Ronson.

The Hull City of Music group will work alongside Hull City Council and Visit Hull to:

“Hull City of Music gives all venues, regardless of size, the chance to come together”

As part of its longer-term aims, the group hopes to inspire young people to get involved in the music industry, whether as artists or promoters, technicians or other industry professionals.

It is also hoped that by working together, the city will be able to take a “joined-up approach” to hosting a multi-venue event, similar to Live at Leeds or Tramlines in Sheffield, which attract thousands of visitors from outside of their respective cities.

It is the first time in at least 30 years that all major venues in the city have pledged to work together.

Dan Harris, general manager of ASM Global’s Bonus Arena, explains: “Over the last few years Hull has welcomed some enormous bands and artists to the city, with even more planned in 2020. Hull City of Music gives all venues, regardless of size, the chance to come together and celebrate the rich cultural offering, promote the city’s grassroots acts and clear a pathway to continue to put the city on the musical map.”

“Multiple musical hearts from local government to enterprises and media have joined forces to emphasise the unique and vibrant live music scene in Hull,” adds Bert van Horck of VMS Live, which operates the Welly, Welly 2 and Polar Bear. “Music is a vital anchor in the social fabric of our society, and we will continue to drive this forward to the benefit of the audience and the musicians.”

“Hull City of Music is a really exciting partnership that promises to make this city great again”

Mark Hall, business manager for Hull Box Office, comments: “In nearly 30 years of working in the live music scene in Hull, I have only ever dreamed of a group that brings all of the city’s venues and promoters together to promote the vibrant and diverse music scene that exists in this great city.

“With the full support of Hull City Council and VHEY [Visit Hull and East Yorkshire], Hull City of Music is a really exciting partnership that promises to make this city great again!”

Cllr Dave Craker, portfolio holder for culture, leisure and tourism at Hull City Council, adds: “It is great for the council, through Visit Hull, to be part of a partnership of venues that will help to rightly establish Hull as one of the country’s best destinations for seeing and playing live music.”

A Hull City of Music website, including combined gig listings for all member venues, will launch in the coming weeks.

 


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VMS Live to open London office, launch marketing arm

Independent British promoter and venue operator VMS Live is making changes to its business model, opening a central London office and creating a new marketing division.

Founded in 2007 by the late Steve Forster, VMS Live operates and/or books mid-size UK venues including Eventim Olympia Liverpool (1,960-cap.), Asylum in Hull (1,100-cap.) and the William Aston Hall in Wrexham (1,200-cap.), and counts Eventim UK, the local arm of Germany’s CTS Eventim, among its clients.

Following the appointment of Bert Van Horck as CEO in September, VMS is undergoing changes to improve customer service and enhance marketing support for venues.

From 6 January 2020, VMS’s booking, ticketing, marketing and music divisions will operate out of a new office in King’s Cross, London, headed by High Voltage festival promoter Abbie Marshall. Central services such as finance and HR will also be based out of the London office.

“To align our aims and those of our clients, we will invest in new systems, and a new office, and create a new marketing department”

The company has also hired Ioana Mosteanu, who formerly worked on music brand partnerships at Red Bull, and digital marketing and design specialist Yara Magarino to work in its newly created marketing division. Mosteanu will also take charge of the ticketing department.

VMS’s former operations assistant, Aoife Niblock, will take on the role of northern regional manager, supervising VMS venues in Wrexham, Liverpool and Hull.

“We have taken a very close look at the heart of the company and consulted with the great team of people working here and fantastic clients to make some well-informed, bold decisions,” comments Van Horck.

“To align our aims and those of our clients, we will invest in new systems, and a new office, and create a new marketing department, for which we have appointed two marketeers.

“This signals our ambitions to help our clients grow their businesses and expand our portfolio of venues.”

 


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VMS Live acquires the Welly, Hull Box Office

Fast-growing UK venue management company VMS Live has acquired Hull venues the Welly and the Polar Bear.

The deal sees VMS, run by ex-Academy Music Group/MAMA director Steve Forster, securing the freehold of the 880-capacity Welly and the lease on small bar venue the Polar Bear, as well as the IP of ticketing business Hull Box Office, from former owner Humyne Ltd.

VMS has worked with Humyne for the past three years as venue consultant and event booker for both the Welly and the Polar Bear, as well as developing the Inner City Live series of outdoor events in Hull.

The venues will fall under the operational control of VMS operations director Richard Maides. “The Welly is an institution in Hull and is both a great live and club space,” he comments, “and I feel the Polar Bear is a venue with both great history and massive potential. We intend to develop both venues sympathetically working with the existing staff team to help them bring to life some of the plans they have had in place for some time, particularly in relation to the Polar Bear, where we will be extending the venue to create new toilets and dressing rooms, as well as a new stage area and an increased floor space.

“We are looking to commence the works as soon as possible, with the new venue reopening late January with a new permanent PA and lighting installation as part of the overall improvements.”

“What makes the acquisition really interesting is not just the addition of another two venues to our estate, but also the inclusion of Hull Box Office”

VMS bolstered its venue portfolio in July with the addition of Liverpool Olympia (renamed Eventim Olympia to reflect VMS’s relationship with the eponymous ticketing company) and Lemon Grove in Exeter. Other managed and partner venues include Manchester Academy, the Waterfront in Norwich, Preston Guild Hall and Coventry’s the Copper Rooms.

Forster, VMS MD, comments: I really am pleased that we have managed to get this deal over the line. I have know Humyne owners Dave [Mays] and Andy [Balman] for many years. […] When it became apparent that the Humyne business was potentially up for sale, I declared our interest at the earliest opportunity.

“What makes the acquisition really interesting from a VMS perspective is not just the addition of another two venues to our estate, but also the inclusion of Hull Box Office [HBO]. HBO already sells in excess of 80,000 tickets a year over and above those from the Welly and Polar Bear, these being for other events and venues in Hull and the East Ridings, and we think there is much more growth in this area of the business.

“The plan is to integrate the HBO operation into our VMS tickets platform, provided by Eventim, and use the existing HBO team up there to oversee both ticketing as well as marketing and advertising for all of the VMS businesses. In terms of our overall business and strategy going forward, I firmly believe the Hull venues, as well as the recent acquisition of the William Aston Hall in Wrexham and management contract for the Lemon Grove in Exeter, make VMS a far better balanced business.

“There a few other deals currently in discussion, but after this VMS will enter a period of consolidation and focus on our existing businesses and contracts.”

 


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Hull Venue becomes Bonus Arena in new sponsor deal

Hull Venue has secured a sponsorship deal with local business group Bonus, and will now be known as the Bonus Arena. It is hoped that this new deal will help to secure a lasting legacy for the city, after it was named UK City of Culture in 2017.

With a 3,500 person capacity, the state-of-the-art events complex hopes to attract exhibitions, large-scale conferences as well as concerts, stand-up and sporting events. Already, the venue has announced upcoming gigs from George Ezra, Jack White and Madness as well as events from the Strictly Come Dancing professionals and the Harlem Globe Trotters.

New sponsors Bonus Group are a well-established part of the Hull business community. For almost 60 years, the group has been involved in the local area, with many of those years spent in offices just a stone’s throw away from the new arena. On the new deal, Shaun Boanus, CEO of Bonus Group, says: “Having been involved with so many things ‘Hull’ over the years it seemed an obvious partnership from both sides.

“The arena is a huge legacy for the city and will do fantastic things for tourism”

“To be involved from day one is a great honour. It will undoubtedly be a huge success for the city and the people of Hull.”

Bonus Arena is managed by SMG Europe. John Sharkey, executive vice president of European operations at SMG Europe, echoes the optimism shared by those at Bonus Group. He says: “Following an incredible year with City of Culture, we are delighted to be operating the Bonus Arena in Hull.

“The arena is a huge legacy for the city and will do fantastic things for tourism, catapulting Hull on to the UK map in a big way as a destination experience.”

Open days and test event will take place in the next month, with the venue opening officially for business later in the summer. Tickets for performances at the venue are on sale now.

 


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SMG appoints GM for new Hull Venue

SMG Europe has appointed Dan Harris, general manager of its Baths Hall (1,800-cap.) and Plowright Theatre (354-cap.) venues in Scunthorpe, as GM of the new Hull Venue, a 3,500-capacity music and events complex set to open in summer 2018.

Hull Venue, in the city of the same name, will bolster SMG’s presence in northern England, offering a mix of live entertainment and corporate conferences, exhibitions, dinners and trade events. The new venue will have the flexibility to reduce to a 2,500 all-seated capacity with 1,400m2 exhibition space, and also includes 800-capacity conference auditorium with additional meeting rooms.

John Sharkey, executive vice-president of SMG Europe, says: “Dan has been instrumental in the success of our two Scunthorpe venues and I’m delighted to announce we’re now expanding his role to cover our new project in Hull. This new organisational structure, led by Dan, allows us to better programme content across all three venues as we continue to synergise our offering in the north.”

“Following this year’s City of Culture 2017 in Hull, entertainment in the region is now firmly on the agenda”

“Following this year’s hugely successful City of Culture 2017 in Hull, entertainment in the region is now firmly on the agenda,” adds Harris, “and I’m looking forward to leading the team across all three venues as we keep the momentum alive.

“In addition to bringing the best in live entertainment and sporting events to all three venues, we’re also working closely with national conference and exhibition organisers to ensure both our new and existing venues offer a wide and varied programme.”

Joining Harris at the £40m Hull Venue will be Paul Savage, recently appointed head of entertainment sales and marketing for all three venues, with more senior management appointments to be made in the coming months.

 


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