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Vilnius’s Lukiškės Prison to be turned into venue

Lukiškės Prison, an early 20th-century former prison in central Vilnius, will be turned into a versatile entertainment and arts venue under new plans drawn up by the Lithuanian government.

Turto Bankas, a state-owned property company, is inviting private businesses to register their interest in a project to convert the prison complex, which is located next to the Seimas Palace, home to the Lithuanian parliament, into a “multifunctional centre of art, culture, and education”.

Lukiškės Prison, which closed in 2019, is currently leased to an events business and recently served as a shooting location for series four of Netflix’s Stranger Things. Before its closure, it housed around 1,000 inmates (as of 2007) and employed 250 prison guards.

Its six buildings – which also include a hospital, administration buildings and the St Nicholas Orthodox Church – now offer a total area of 2ha (5ac) for events and other public activities; for example, 2019’s ‘alternative Christmas’ event at the prison, which featured art and light installations throughout its courtyards.

Its six buildings offer a total area of two hectares for public events

The regeneration project will involve upgrading a part of the complex for cultural and commercial purposes, according to the city, with the other half focusing on its heritage as a prison, as well as modern “multicultural Lithuanian society”.

According to Turto Bankas, the regeneration project, in addition to entertainment leisure facilities, could include “non-conventional accommodation facilities, a food quarter, co-working spaces, a museum [and] workshops, leisure and entertainment spots” – though it notes that as a protected building, the amount of transformation possible would be limited.

Interested parties, it adds, should be committed to “maintaining the commercial-educational balance” in the revamped venue.


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City of Vilnius releases ‘socially distanced’ Xmas LP

In partnership with the city of Vilnius, a group of Lithuanian electronic music producers have released Re-Xmas, a ‘socially distanced’ Christmas album commemorating the “extraordinary” 2020 festive season.

As a video on the Re-Xmas project website explains, the album features reworkings of traditional Christmas songs, including ‘Jingle Bells’, ‘Silent Night and ‘O Christmas Tree’ (‘O Tannenbaum‘), by top local talent.

The ‘social distancing’ element sees the composers adding two equal intervals of pause – symbolising two metres’ distance – after each note from the song’s main melody.

Contributors include dark-techno DJ Alex Krell, ambient producer Fume and experimental electronic duo Lakeside Culture, with the album’s release supported by Lithuanian DJ collection Antidote Community.

The project also incorporates an audiovisual installation near Kablys, the Vilnius electronic music mecca, while the album will be played as album of the week on the national radio station LRT Opus.

Listen to the full Re-Xmas album on SoundCloud here.

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Drive-in concerts: A new normal for live?

Music fans in Lithuania, Denmark, Germany and Hungary are among those to access live performances from the safety of their cars, as the coronavirus shutdown rumbles on.

Drive-in concerts are giving people the chance to access live music – as well as theatrical performances and films – while maintaining strict social distancing measures.

In Lithuania, where mass gatherings, concerts and other live shows are to be the last to return under the government’s four-stage exit plan, fans have been getting their live music fix at the Palūknio airfield, around 30 kilometres from the capital city of Vilnius, courtesy of local company Showart.

Showart’s Drive in Live kicked off last week, hosting performances by Lithuanian acts including Giedrė and Saulės Kliošas. Attendees hear the music through their car speakers via a radio frequency.

Performers including G&G Sindikatas, Happyendless and Junior A are slated to play at the makeshift venue in coming weeks, with some concerts broadcast live on public-owned Lithuanian radio station, LRT Radio.

The concerts will take place until at least the end of May.

In Denmark, which has recently seen a blanket ban on its summer festival season, singer Mads Langer recently played a drive-in concert on the outskirts of Aarhus, performing to 500 fans. Attendees could interact with the singer during the performance using videoconferencing platform Zoom.

Drive-in concerts are giving people the chance to access live music while maintaining strict social distancing measures

Drive-in venues are also proving popular in Germany, with 30 makeshift cinemas opening up in Cologne and four other cities in response to the coronavirus shutdown. The drive-ins are also used for live performances, with Cologne band Brings recently performing to audiences of vehicle-dwellers in their hometown.

German venue operator D.Live, the only non-UK member of Oak View Group’s International Venue Alliance, also put on two sold-out shows by the band in Dusseldorf. D.Live is among those to have transformed a disused car park into a drive-in venue, hosting shows by Sido, Alligatoah and club night BigCityBeats World Club Dome at its Autokino Düsseldorf (Drive-in Cinema Dusseldorf), near the Messe exhibition grounds.

Stand-up comedian Markus Krebs and rapper SSIO are playing at the drive-in in coming weeks. Around 1,000 to 2,000 people can attend shows at D.Live’s Autokino, which holds up to 500 cars.

A slightly different tack has been taken by musicians in Hungary, where just yesterday (30 April) it was announced that no large-scale events would be taking place this summer. Members of Budapest’s MAV symphony orchestra have mounted loudspeakers to their cars, broadcasting past performances as they cruise through the city.

If people want to request an appearance near their homes, they can message the orchestra’s Facebook account with their address.

The orchestra’s efforts are another example of musicians giving back to their local communities, in a similar vein to a fireman in Brazil, who has been serenading the streets of Rio de Janeiro with his trumpet, atop a 50 metre cherry picker.


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EAY 2017: CEE arenas shrug off post-crash gloom

A majority of central and eastern European (CEE) arenas reported strong growth in 2016, boosted by growing demand and increased consumer confidence, IQ’s European Arena Yearbook 2017 reveals.

Almost all the arenas surveyed in eight CEE countries – Croatia, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Serbia – recorded positive results last year, with some even recording their most successful year to date, as they shrugged off the last remnants of the global financial crisis, which hit central and eastern Europe particularly hard.

While GDP is still not as high as in western Europe, demand is strong, consumer confidence has returned to the market and average audience figures are higher than some of the more affluent nations: the arenas surveyed sold 4,368,253 tickets to 882 events, generating €130.5 million.

Sport dominates the calendars at arenas across the region, accounting for 56% of programmes. Music makes up 26%, while family shows and miscellaneous events make-up 9% and 6%, respectively. Only 11 comedy shows took place in these arenas last year, an average of one per arena.

The largest attraction for people is clearly music events, which draw the highest average attendance: 7,761 (survey average attendance: 4,953).

“They used to regard it as very important to be seen as having significant and cool cultural festivals, but that’s changing”

‘Miscellaneous events’ are the next biggest draw, pulling an average crowd of 6,946 to corporate events and exhibitions.
Family and sports events attract average audiences of 4,300 (survey average: 5,157) and 3,610 (4,662) each.

Promoter Nick Hobbs, who books acts at all levels across central and eastern Europe, the Balkans and Turkey, says there’s starting to be a trend of people moving away from festivals and towards arena shows. “The festival market doesn’t seem to be doing as well as it was, but arenas are doing better,” he says. “That’s because sponsorship – which is essential for festivals, but not usually part of the P&L [profit and loss] of an arena show – is struggling, as companies shift their focus away from music.

“In some countries, such as Poland, municipalities are shifting their marketing spend away from cultural events due to the political climate. They used to regard it as very important to be seen as having significant and cool cultural festivals, but that’s changing due to a much more culturally conservative government.”

With the economic situation in many countries improving, arenas are seeing steady growth.


Read the full feature in the digital edition of the European Arena Yearbook 2017:

Eddie the Head not welcome in Lithuania

A poster promoting Iron Maiden’s The Book of Souls world tour in Lithuania has been banned over fears it could scare children.

The poster, featuring the band’s mascot, Eddie the Head, has been subject to complaints from residents in the city of Kaunas, says Gražina Ramanauskaitė-Tiumenevienė, Lithuania’s inspector of journalist ethics, and will now be investigated in connection with a law protecting minors from offensive content.

“We received a letter saying that we should stop advertising because it scares children,” says Mindaugas Paukštė, a lawyer for Live Nation Lithuania, tells Russian-language news site Delfi. “At the moment we’re still deciding what to do, but we will most likely have to remove the posters.”

The advertisement, which shows Eddie holding a bloody heart (presumably his own), has been used elsewhere in the world without incident.

Iron Maiden will play the 20,000-capacity indoor Žalgiris Arena in Kaunas (Kovno) next Thursday (23 June).


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