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New outdoor venues promise UK fans summer of music

The UK will gain a number of new outdoor music venues from June, signalling growing optimism among promoters that they will be able to welcome fans back to shows before the summer is out.

Perhaps hoping to replicate the success of Newcastle’s Unity Arena, which hosted some of the UK’s only major live music events last summer, new open-air venues will host concerts and DJ performances as England reopens following the prime minister’s roadmap for summer 2021.

In the Bedfordshire countryside, promoter Labyrinth Events will exclusively present three festivals at Tofte Manor, a 17th-century manor house located near the village of Sharnbrook (but only a 35-minute train ride from London’s St Pancras).

No concerts have previously been staged at Tofte Manor, a favourite haunt of painter Abbott McNeill Whistler and home to a labyrinth (modelled on that of Chartes Cathedral) through which runs fresh water that will be served to guests.

Focused on dance music, the Labyrinth festivals, which will have a capacity of 3,500, will take place on 10 July, 7 August and 18 September, with more events planned for 2022. Tickets for the 2021 events go on sale on 1 April.

In a joint statement, Labyrinth’s Nick Castleman and Michael Dicks say: “Our business is built on the vision that fans want to experience music in unique settings. We want to find venues that truly excite our audience and allow us to work with some of the leading talent in the world. This venue is unlike anything that is possible to find in Greater London and gives us the opportunity to realise our vision, which is restricted when using limited-capacity venues in London and having to compete with corporate beasts for talent bookings.

“Tofte Manor … offers a totally unique music and lifestyle experience unlike anything else in the UK”

“Tofte Manor gives us the opportunity to move away from the crowded London scene and offer our audience a totally unique music and lifestyle experience unlike anything else in the UK. We will be working closely with the local community to ensure that the events generate as much revenue as possible to the surrounding villages of Sharnbrook and Souldrop and have nothing but a positive impact on the neighbourhood. We’re thrilled to be bringing globally recognised artists to Bedfordshire.”

In Manchester, Square One will transform a disused car park into a new open-air clubbing destination hosting weekly events from June.

Opening 26 June with launch parties featuring Denis Sulta, Mella Dee, Enzo Siragusa and Hot Since 82, owners promise “the absolute cream of national and international DJs” from dance music promoters including Zutekh, Jika Jika, Animal Crossing and Dutch label PIV.

“This one is for the dancers: a new venue with no nonsense,” reads a launch statement from the venue, located on Cakebread Street, near Manchester Piccadilly station. “Let’s make up for the lost memories and come together, a good and proper open-air affair. Summer is coming and the dance floor is ready.”

A similar outdoor dance music venue, Ernie’s Yard – comprising two event spaces, a food area and multiple bars – promises revellers in London 12-hour open-air parties from promoters including Secretsundaze, Art of Dark, Adonis, Percolate and Good Life.

The 12,000sqft (1,115m²) venue, run by the team behind Tottenham warehouse club the Cause, will open on 25 June in a former scrapyard in Canning Town, in London’s East End, with an 11pm licence.

“Summer is coming and the dance floor is ready”

Stuart Glen, Ernie’s Yard co-founder, says: “Back in 2019 we walked past a huge street food and drinks venue built from shipping containers and decided to have a pint. As we walked in, the bartender explained the lease was up on the site. I immediately thought: ‘This structure would be amazing for a party; maybe I can buy it and find some land to move it to.’ Two weeks later, we’d agreed to buy it, put a deposit down and had three months to seal the deal on some land I was after.

“[To cut a] long story short, two sites fell through and we’ve been juggling where to put 19 40-foot shipping containers for two years. It’s been a sticky situation, to say the least, but somehow we’ve managed to pull in some favours, met an East End legend called Ernie, and Bob’s your fathers brother: Ernie’s Yard – a killer new daytime space for London – was born.”

Also opening in London this year – albeit indoors – is Outernet, the music venue complex and entertainment district under construction in central London, which has appointed marketing veteran Joe Russell as events director.

James McEwan, COO of Outernet, comments: “We are delighted to have Joe join the team. Outernet districts will be destinations where people come to share incredible multi-sensory experiences, blending the digital and physical, [and] Joe will play a key role in helping us create those unprecedented audience connections.”

Outernet’s enormous main public space, dubbed the Now Building, will feature a four-storey, 360-degree, 16k interactive screen surface and be fully rigged to accommodate high-impact staging and production, creating “the most advanced experiential space in the world”, says Outernet. The venue, located near Tottenham Court Road tube station, is scheduled to open in winter 2021.“


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Plea to Clubs Across Japan: Close your doors

Mindgames, promoter of venerable Japanese dance music festival Labyrinth, has written an open letter to Japan’s venues and nightclubs urging them to close to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Unlike in neighbouring China, as well as must of the western world, Japanese authorities have imposed no lockdown or mass closures of public places amid the pandemic, with workplaces, bars and restaurants, public transport and many schools remaining open.

The government says it has been proactive in identifying and containing clusters of coronavirus, while critics speculate it is intentionally underreporting infections ahead of the 2020 Olympic games.

The letter from Mindgames, entitled ‘Plea to Clubs Across Japan’, comes as bars and clubs, particularly in Tokyo, come under fire for allegedly turning a blind eye to their role in the spread of the virus.

An outbreak among venues in Osaka now appears to be over, according to Kyodo News, but Mindgames argues that clubs elsewhere remain a major source of infection.

According to the promoter, Tokyo nightclubs “are among the highest risk spaces in all of Japan”, with owners failing “in their civic duty” to protect patrons and the wider public. “[I]f this clueless government fails in its duty to shut them down, it is our civic responsibility to take action and demand that these clubs close now to protect the health of us all,” the letter reads.

“Tricked into complacency, almost all the major Tokyo clubs are still running like normal, causing a huge public risk”

Read Mindgames’ open letter, dated 16 March, in full below:

The world has entered a state of war with an enemy who is fast and ruthless. The numbers around the world are increasing with incredible speed, yet Japan still does not enough. […] This is just the beginning.

Unlike every other Asian country that is successfully attacking the disease – Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore and China – Japan is not operating an aggressive testing and quarantine program.

Japan has also not been blocking flights or requiring self-quarantine for visitors from Europe or America, the two greatest spreading vectors in the world now. Because of a suicidal delusion that the Olympics can still happen, [prime minister Shinzo] Abe’s administration doesn’t want to report large numbers.

Tricked into complacency, almost all the major Tokyo clubs are still running like normal, causing a huge public risk for every person in this city. Clubs are extremely dangerous because they are small enclosed spaces with poor ventilation, lots of people close to each other and shared toilets. Plus lots of drunk people not acting carefully with regards to hygiene.

The epicentre of the outbreak is now Europe and America, and clubs are a popular and obvious gathering spot for tourists from abroad. Since the government is not blocking flights or asking visitors to self quarantine yet, there are more virus carriers arriving every day. And local transmission has obviously already begun.

Since spreading can happen asymptotically, young people who don’t even know they are sick can spread the disease to others, causing tragic outbreaks all across the city.

All these factors combine to make Tokyo clubs and bars among the HIGHEST risk spaces in all of Japan. They must all SHUT DOWN. And clubs all across Japan should also follow.

If these club managers and owners fail so horribly in their civic duty to close temporarily, and if this clueless government fails in its duty to shut them down, it is our civic responsibility to take action and demand that these clubs close now to protect the health of us all. Write to them and tell them how you feel.

I beg you large clubs and bars across Japan, please close for a few weeks like most gyms, museums, and other public spaces have done. The economics are brutal, I know, but we are all in this together. And this is not the time to focus on short-term, local economic issues.

We must focus our efforts on preserving the society, economy, and public health of Japan as a whole.


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