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Berlin pilot project trials pre-entry PCR testing

Participants in a pilot event series held in Berlin over the weekend were asked to provide a negative Covid-19 PCR test, as opposed to the more common lateral-flow/rapid antigen tests becoming an increasingly common entry requirement as festivals and shows restart.

Clubculture Reboot, organised by Clubcommission, an association of Berlin nightclubs, as part of the city-backed Perspektive Kultur: Berliner Pilotprojekt Testing initiative, is the latest pilot scheme intended to demonstrate to German authorities that live events can be held safely “even under pandemic conditions”. Six clubs, the Kitkat-Club, SO36, Festsaal Kreuzberg, Crack Bellmer, Salon zur Wilden Renate and Metropol, and around 2,000 people participated in the pilotprojekt, which began on Friday 6 August.

All clubgoers, regardless of their vaccination status, had to go undergo a PCR test – the ‘swab test’ which is more accurate than a rapid test, but which takes at least 24 hours to return its results – at one of three designated test centres ahead of the weekend events. There were seven positive results out of the 2,200 tests administered, according to the city’s website.

“I’m totally blown away by how people are standing here with umbrellas in the Berlin rain and just want to get in here. It’s like being at a festival”

In addition to the weekend-long series of club nights, the Clubcommission, in partnership with the city of Berlin and the German Red Cross, is organising three ‘Long Nights of Vaccination’ (Lange Nächte des Impfens) at the vaccination centre in Arena Berlin (7,500-cap.) in Treptow. Taking place on 9, 11 and 13 August, the ‘long nights’ run from 8pm to 1am and combine live DJs with free BioNTech/Pfizer vaccinations for younger people.

Speaking to AFP, Sebastian Schwarz from Tiefschwarz, one of the seven acts who played on Monday 9 August, said: “It’s overwhelming, the empathy and the niceness with which people are working together here. I’m totally blown away by how people are standing here with umbrellas in the Berlin rain and just want to get in here. It’s like being at a festival.” According to Berlin’s ministry of health, 420 people were vaccinated on Monday alone.

Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, said earlier this week that the country’s vaccination rate has fallen behind its neighbours and urged state and local governments to promote vaccines and make them easy to obtain.


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Barclaycard Arena invites thousands for test events

Barclaycard Arena Hamburg is welcoming spectators for the first time in over a year, for a series of tests that aim to find out if and how major events can take place safely during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The tests have been approved by the Hamburg Ministry of the Interior and Sport and will take place in conjunction with Handball Sport Verein Hamburg (HSVH), the Handball Bundesliga (HBL), the Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute and the Barclaycard Arena.

For the first test on 28 May, the arena welcomed 1,000 spectators from Hamburg for the home game of handball team Handball Sport Verein Hamburg, which was against ThSV Eisenach.

Provided the first event is deemed successful, it is expected that 2,000 spectators will be allowed into the arena for the REWE Final4 and the last HSVH home game of the season against ASV Hamm-Westfalen on 22 June. Visitors from outside of Hamburg will be welcome at this event.

Both events are seated and socially distanced. Attendees are required to present a negative coronavirus test to gain entry, wear mask a throughout the event, and take another test 7–10 days after the event.

Modified mannequins that emit marked particles will be placed next to the real spectators during the game

Under the direction of Prof. Dr Wolfgang Schade, the Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute will examine the aerosol distribution in the arena, which is equipped with a ‘state-of-the-art ventilation system,’ as well as the risk of infection.

For this purpose, modified mannequins that emit marked particles will be placed next to the real spectators during the game.

“The data from the pilot project collected here will provide important information on the spread of aerosols at major events, which can then also be transferred to other event venues with comparable ventilation systems. In this way, fact-based risk assessments can then be carried out in the future for holding such events,” says Prof. Dr Wolfgang.

Steve Schwenkglenks, managing director of the Barclaycard Arena, adds: “The Barclaycard Arena is the ideal location for these scientific test events and we hope that it will provide the entire industry with important knowledge that will enable us to take further steps towards normality in the near future.”

The arena had prepared to open its doors in early May for a concert series organised by Hamburg Concerts but Hamburg authorities called off the events due to the rising Covid-19 infections at the time.


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Rockhal hosts its biggest pilot concerts yet

Luxembourg’s Rockhal (cap. 6,500) is scaling up its pilot concerts from 100 to 600 people per night as part of the Because Music Matters initiative.

The initiative initially launched in February with five nights of pilot concerts, limited to 100 people each night.

The second round of Because Music Matters launched on Friday 21 May when an audience of 600 tested people watched Luxembourgish artist Serge Tonnar perform in Rockhal’s main hall.

In addition to the sanitary measures in place – which included physical distancing (between groups of up to 4 people) and mandatory wearing of masks – each attendee was required to undergo a PCR or a free antigen test before the concert, as well as a second (PCR) test a few days later.

The venue is once again working with Luxembourg’s Health Inspection and the ministries of culture and health.

“I am hopeful that events like this will help to build towards a model that can be further scaled”

“After more than a year without higher capacity live events, pilot concerts like our Because Music Matters series and other pilot and test events that have been taking place across Europe, are an important and positive step forward in showcasing the safety measures we can employ to support our back to business strategies,” says Olivier Toth, CEO of the Rockhal.

“Building confidence amongst all our stakeholders that live events are a safe environment is so important. It felt great to have our main hall vibrate with the sound of live music and a cheerful crowd. We are grateful for the enthusiasm and participation of both artists and audience, which is a real show of support for our sector.

“As the name of the project suggests, music really does play an essential role in people’s well-being. I am hopeful that events like this, together with other pilot concerts that are taking place throughout Europe, will help to build towards a model that can be further scaled as our industry works towards a safe and sustainable return of live events.”

The second round of Because Music Matters will continue at Rockhal this Friday (4 June) with a performance from Luxembourg’s Remo Cavallini which will take place in the same way as the Serge Tonnar concert.

Pilot projects have taken place in markets including Germany, the UK, Spain, Belgium, France and the Netherlands. See an extensive list of live music experiments here.


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Nordic test shows: Too little, too late?

After effectively ruling out the 2021 festival season, the governments in Denmark and Norway are now in the process of organising large-scale test events to determine how big gatherings can take place during the pandemic.

According to Denmark’s live association, Dansk Live, such experiments were proposed in December 2020 and also in March 2021 by the government-backed ‘Restart Team’.

Both proposals were “kicked to the corner by the authorities,” according to Dansk Live’s Esben Marcher, but it seems that Denmark’s minister of culture has had a late change of heart.

This week, minister Joy Mogensen asked the government’s Restart Team to assess the possibilities of conducting experiments with large events this summer.

The minister’s request comes three weeks after the government’s roadmap was published, which stated that a maximum of 2,000 participants will be permitted at festivals between 21 May and 1 August 2021.

The announcement was followed by a raft of cancellations from 15+ festivals including Roskilde (26 June to 3 July), Smukfest (4–8 August), Northside (3–5 June) and Tinderbox (24–26 June) – rendering the country’s 2021 festival season over.

“The hope was that knowledge could be created that could ensure better opportunities for this summer’s events”

While Dansk Live’s Marcher has welcomed the news of potential test concerts, he also expresses disappointment that large-scale pilots weren’t approved earlier in the year.

“Already at the end of 2020, we proposed to the minister of culture that experiments be carried out in events that bring many people together,” he says.

“The hope was that knowledge could be created that could ensure better opportunities for this summer’s events. Although it is positive that there now seems to be support for making trial arrangements, it is, of course, a pity that there has been no political will to launch trials in the past.”

The Norwegian government has also shown little political will to organise test concerts up to this point – though, after some uncertainty, this morning the cabinet finally approved a pilot series proposed by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.

The institute is planning five test concerts in Bergen and Oslo with up to 5,000 people attending each one. As previously reported in IQ, 15,000 participants will be recruited for a control group and will not actually attend the concerts.

The series is expected to kick off in June and concerts will take place in a number of venues including Oslo Spektrum and Grieg Hall in Bergen.

The Nowegian government this morning approved a pilot series proposed by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health

The research project will investigate whether the risk of the spread of infection is reduced to such an extent that rapid testing can replace the distance requirement during events.

Bergen Live, Øya festival, Palmesus and other Norwegian concert organisers will be involved in the test events – many of which were forced to cancel festivals due to the government’s preliminary guidelines, which restrict festivals to 2,000 attendees until June, 5,000 attendees until August and 10,000 thereafter.

Live Nation-owned festivals Bergenfest and Tons of Rock, Superstruct-backed Øya Festival, Over Oslo, Picnic in the Park, Stavernfetsivalen, Seljord Festival and Country Festival among events have been cancelled since.

Compared with other countries in the northern hemisphere, Norway and Denmark have been slow off the mark with arranging test shows.

Germany began conducting test shows as far back as August 2020, with Restart-19, prompting other nations including Spain, France, the Netherlands, the UK, Belgium and Luxembourg, to follow suit. See an extensive timeline of pilot projects here.

While the test shows haven’t necessarily guaranteed the security of the 2021 festival season – many of the aforementioned markets have already seen the summer season obliterated due to government restrictions – nations like the UK are surging towards a full reopening thanks to reassuring results from the government’s Events Research Programme.


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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

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

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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French pilot concerts hit by delays

As the Netherlands steams ahead with yet another round of clinically monitored pilot concerts, media in France is asking when its test shows, first announced in January but still without dates, will take place.

The concerts were supposed to have kicked off in the second half of March, with French hip-hop group Iam playing two shows at the 8,500-capacity Dôme in Marseille, followed by a sister event with the band Indochine at Paris’s Accor Arena (20,300-cap.) in April. A thousand people are expected to attend the Marseille concerts, with the Paris experiment having a capacity for 5,000.

During a session of the French Senate on 25 March, sénateurs heard from Constance Delaugerre of St Louis Hospital, which is supporting the Paris show, that the concerts are still feasible, despite tightening restrictions in France (which culminated in a third national lockdown from Sunday 4 April). Additionally, on Friday the city of Marseille signed an agreement with Inserm (the National Institute of Health and Medical Research) reaffirming the availability of the Dôme for the planned pilot shows.

The scheme is reportedly still “stuck on the government side”

Last week, Le Parisien reported that the shows would instead take place on 29 April, although that is now looking unlikely with France in a four-week lockdown.

According to RTL, while organisers are keen to to get going (the pilot programme is being coordinated by industry association Prodiss), the scheme is currently “stuck on the government side”, with the ministry of culture proving “unreachable” amid the new lockdown measures.

Since announcing the test concerts, France has seen a number of high-profile festival cancellations, including the likes of Lollapalooza Paris, Les Vieilles Charrues, Hellfest and Les Eurockéennes, with most citing a cap on attendance of 5,000 seated guests as being responsible for the decision not to go ahead.

“[T]he government has hesitated too much since February and the epidemic situation has ignited,” writes RTL’s Jean-Mathieu Pernin. “As a result, these concerts still have not taken place, and the festivals are cancelling one after another.”


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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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