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Seated concerts don’t stand up, say French campaigners

French live music associations have initiated a push for their members to be allowed to reopen at full capacity, saying the current ban on standing concerts prevents the return of live music in any meaningful way.

In a new campaign, Les concerts assis, ça ne tient pas debout (‘Seated concerts don’t stand up’, or less literally ‘Seated concerts don’t hold water’/‘Seated concerts don’t make sense’), the SMA (Union of Contemporary Music) and Fedelima (Federation of Contemporary Music Venues) demand that standing shows be allowed from 1 July, saying live music should have parity with other sectors as society begins to reopen this summer.

Concerts have been permitted in France since 19 May, albeit at 35% capacity. As of today (9 June), that has been increased to 65% of capacity, though all shows must be seated.

While culture minister Roselyne Bachelot has suggested standing shows could be allowed from July, they would still be subject to social distancing regulations, with no more than one person every for every 4m² of space in the venue, making most events unfeasible financially.

“Standing is an integral part of the aesthetic and social experience of live music”

Therefore, “without any medical justification, seated shows could from 1 July even have more spectators than the standing configurations,” note the associations.

In a statement, Fedelima and SMA, which between them represent hundreds of live businesses, say all the aid provided to the sector to enable it to survive the pandemic will have been nothing if venues are not allowed to reopen at full capacity from 1 July.

“[A]t a time of the resumption of all activities in society, it is inexplicable that only seated configurations can resume,” they say. Standing concerts, they add, “are an integral part of the aesthetic and social experience of contemporary music” and a “symbol of freedom and equality”.

Therefore, “the whole of the contemporary music sector – music venues, festivals, producers, labels, radio stations, schools and associations – are launching this call today: Les concerts assis, ça ne tient pas debout.”

 


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4,000+ socially distanced gigs to be held in UK in May/June

A new survey has revealed the full extent to which grassroots music venues in England plan to reopen their doors from 17 May.

The survey, commissioned by Music Venue Trust (MVT) among the nearly 1,000 members of its Music Venues Alliance (MVA), reveals that 2,534 socially distanced shows are already on sale in 266 venues from 17 May 17 to 21 June, with more than 4,000 shows across over 400 venues predicted to take place across the period.

17 May begins the penultimate stage in the UK government’s roadmap to ease Covid-19 lockdown restrictions in England before a planned return to full-capacity social activity on 21 June.

By the end of September, the survey indicates that over 17,000 full-capacity shows are confirmed to take place, with nearly 30,000 shows likely to take place in front of a combined audience of nearly seven million.

With support artists factored in, it is estimated that there will be 91,500 individual live performances during the period, offering over 300,000 work opportunities for musicians as they finally get the chance to return to paid employment.

“The grassroots sector is stepping up and putting its own time and money into answering the demand for live music”

Beverley Whitrick, strategic director of MVT, says: “It’s incredible to see the enthusiasm for getting live music back into our towns and cities being shown by venues, artists and crew. These socially distanced shows aren’t being delivered for financial return – in fact precisely the opposite. The grassroots sector is stepping up and putting its own time and money into answering the demand for live music in our communities.”

According to MVT, the grassroots music venue sector turned over £360 million in 2019–20 (prior to the pandemic), delivering over 200,000 events and more than half a million performances to 33m ticket holders. The sector provides full time employment for 10,000 people, with approximately 150,000 musicians, crew, sound engineers, lighting engineers, security personnel, bar staff and other casual employees working in grassroots live music.

“As we emerge from the darkness of the last year and move towards our plan to revive live it is incredibly exciting and heartening to see the positivity with which UK grassroots music venues are approaching re-opening their doors,” says MVT CEO Mark Dayvd.

“The fact that musicians can get back to work, music fans can start to enjoy a live music experience again and all the associated staff in the music venue ecosystem can go back to earning a living again is amazing news. There are still challenges to overcome – and, of course, the whole of this programme relies on the government sticking to its roadmap to allow us to reopen every venue safely. Audience safety continues to be grassroots music venues’ main priority, but this is hopefully the start of our much-anticipated road back to normality.”

 


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Vertical Theatre: Tourable socially distanced venue launches

The Vertical Theatre Group, a new company backed by leading production and theatre professionals, has unveiled the Vertical Theatre, a tourable, freestanding 2,400-capacity entertainment venue with built-in social distancing.

The modular Vertical Theatre is designed to be future-proof, say its creators, with the capability to separate audiences into Covid-secure household bubbles while restrictions are in place, but no requirement for social distancing when Covid-19 is a thing of the past.

The UK-based company’s founders are production director (and inaugural IQ Gaffer) Jake Berry; theatre producer Katy Lipson; Stufish Entertainment Architects’ Ric Lipson and Paul Preston; events and documentary producer Holly Gilliam; and Digital Theatre founder Robert Delamere. The six say in a joint statement that they are “very excited to be able to bring this innovative new venue offering to the live entertainment world at this pivotal moment for the future of the arts”.

Vertical Theatre Group’s ambition is to have multiple venues around the world, saying the Vertical Theatre is suitable for tours, festivals, comedy, theatre and circus, as well as televised events, with its inbuilt streaming functionality.

“We were excited to see what a new type of cross-arts collaboration could produce”

Inside the Vertical Theatre, eventgoers are seated on balconies which accomodate groups of 4–12 people (ie social bubbles), all with a good view of the stage. Optional open sides, meanwhile, allow for natural airflow, while a roof protects the audience.

Capacity is between 1,200 and 2,400 people, depending on social-distancing rules.

Vertical Theatre Group, which is is already in conversation with potential partners, says it is “optimistic” the project will be ready to launch in 2021.

Stufish partner Ric Lipson comments: “Creativity defines all the artists and partners we work with. At Stufish, we were excited to see what a new type of cross-arts collaboration could produce, as we build a new vision for the future of live entertainment: the Vertical Theatre.”

 


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Fauci: Live shows could return in autumn 2021

Dr Anthony Fauci, one of the leaders of the White House’s coronavirus taskforce and the incoming chief medical advisor to the US president, has predicted that live performances could resume this autumn, depending on how widely the Covid-19 vaccine can be distributed by then.

Speaking at the Association of Performing Arts Professionals’ APAP NYC conference on Saturday (9 January), Fauci (pictured) told delegates he believes theatres and other live entertainment venues may reopen “some time in the fall of 2021”, dependent on the US achieving a form of herd immunity by that time.

According to the New York Times, Fauci said for shows to return, between 70% and 85% of the US population would need to vaccinated against Covid-19. “If everything goes right, this is will occur some time in the fall [autumn] of 2021,” he explained, “so that by the time we get to the early to mid-fall, you can have people feeling safe performing on stage, as well as people in the audience.”

Fauci suggested that, should that vaccination goal be met, venues with good ventilation and proper air filters could open without social distancing – though some theatres may ask audience members to continue to wear masks.

“We’ll be back in the theatres … It will happen”

“I think you can then start getting back to almost full capacity of seating,” he said, also suggesting that some venues could follow airlines and require negative Covid-19 tests before entry.

During the conversation, Fauci also referred to Restart-19 – the German study that demonstrated that, with proper ventilation and hygiene measures, live events have a low impact on the spread of coronavirus – suggesting there should be similar studies carried out in the United States. “What the performing arts needs to do is to do a little bit more of what the Germans are doing,” he commented.

In his concluding remarks, Fauci urged Americans to stay vigilant about public health measures so that the live industry could restart. “We’ll be back in the theatres – performers will be performing, audiences will be enjoying it,” he said. “It will happen.”

At the time of writing, had 1,140 new daily cases of Covid-19 and 18 new deaths.

 


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NZ festivals bring in the new year with huge audiences

New Year’s Eve (NYE) events were held as usual in New Zealand (NZ), with festivals welcoming tens of thousands of people to celebrate without social distancing.

Thanks to strict lockdowns and border closures which have all but eliminated Covid-19 in NZ, residents were able to enjoy a full return to live at mammoth NYE events.

NZ’s largest festival, Live Nation-owned Rhythm and Vines, welcomed 20,000 people to the Gisborne site between 29–31 December where social distancing and mask-wearing was not required.

The 18th edition of the music and camping festival – founded in 2003 by University of Otago friends Hamish Pinkham, Tom Gibson, and Andrew Witters – delivered sets from artists including Benee, Fat Freddy’s Drop, Broods, The Beths and Netsky. Single-day festival passes started from NZ$125.

https://twitter.com/rhythmandvines/status/1344147509363392512

Elsewhere, Rhythm & Alps celebrated its 10th anniversary by inviting 10,000 people to Wanaka, a resort town on NZ’s South Island, for three days of non-socially distanced festivities.

The event took place between 29 and 31 December, bringing in the New Year with a wholly domestic lineup featuring Six60, Chaos in the CBD and Shihad.

 

Northern Bass, presented by Fuzen and George FM, also celebrated its 10th chapter with another NYE celebration spanning three days and nights.

Around 10,000 people flocked to the festival site in Mangawhai – just over an hour north of Auckland – for sets from world-renowned artists, producers and DJs including Dimension, Earthgang and LAB.

NZ, which has a population of around 4.8 million, has been lauded for its response to the pandemic and currently only has 72 active Coronavirus cases.

 


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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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New socially distanced outdoor venue opens in HK

The Grounds, Hong Kong’s first socially distanced outdoor entertainment venue, has opened at AIA Vitality Park in the city’s Central district.

Located below the Hong Kong Observation Wheel on the Central Waterfront, The Grounds at AIA Vitality Park is the first venue in Hong Kong purpose built for the pandemic. It can seat up to 400 people in 100 private ‘pods’, each equipped with two to four deck chairs, with eventgoers able to order food and drink to their seats by scanning a QR code.

Each pod is sanitised, and visitors will have to comply with a range of anti-Covid-19 measures, including temperature checks, pre-registration and health declarations, and the wearing of face masks.

“The Grounds is designed to allow guests to play, socialise and be entertained responsibly”

Entertainment at The Grounds, which opened on 6 November, includes live music, film screenings, game shows, stand-up comedy and health and wellbeing events, says The Grounds MD Simon Wilson.

“We want to give Hong Kong something new to look forward to, while at the same time creating an opportunity for the local entertainment and hospitality industries to engage with audiences in an innovative, comfortable and safe environment,” he comments.

New events and tickets for events at The Grounds are released at midday local time every Wednesday.

“As we navigate this new global normal, The Grounds is designed to allow guests to play, socialise and be entertained responsibly,” adds Wilson.

 


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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AI-powered screens detect mask wearing at venue

A North Carolina stadium is using artificial-intelligence (AI) technology to monitor for Covid-compliant public behaviour, such as social distancing and the wearing of face coverings, among fans arriving at the venue.

The 50,500-capacity Kenan Memorial Stadium in Chapel Hill, which is primarily used for American football, has installed ‘Health Greeter Kiosks’ to encourage anyone passing to wear masks and practice social distancing. The AI – specifically machine learning and computer vision – uses real-time data from a depth-sensing camera to detect if someone is wearing a mask and whether there is proper spacing between individuals. As people walk by the screens, a large display alerts them to either correct or continue their behaviour.

The technology was developed by the University of North Carolina’s Reese Innovation Lab, with support from Lenovo North America, and first deployed for an American football match (University of North Carolina vs Virginia Tech) on 10 October. The kiosks, which were placed at locations such as entrances, bag-check queues and ticket offices, “worked as intended, tracking and encouraging safe behaviour”, according to Lenovo.

“These kiosks will help us better understand human behaviour and encourage safe behaviour”

“We needed real innovation to meet this unprecedented challenge, and pushing the limits of technology is at the core of our lab’s mission,” says Steven King, chief innovation officer of Reese Innovation Lab. “Engineering a technological response to Covid-19 and event-attendance restarting is a real and rewarding challenge, [and] I’m grateful for the support of UNC-Chapel Hill leadership, our exceptional and inventive students and Lenovo.”

The kiosks, which use fully anonymised data, with no images saved or transmitted, may help shape safety protocol and provide insight on how crowds behave during the coronavirus pandemic, adds King.

“We see this as the starting point of wider deployment, with opportunities to refine and customise the technology,” he explains. “From campus hallways to outdoor events, these kiosks will help us better understand human behaviour and encourage safe behaviour, and I’m excited to see how we evolve and adapt this AI-powered solution.”

 


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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Fan tents and sanitiser showers at 1,200-cap K-pop show

An estimated 1,200 K-pop fans attended an innovative socially distanced live show intended to offer a blueprint for how live events may continue in South Korea while Covid-19 is still a threat.

The Live in DMZ concert, held as part of an annual event promoting peace in the Korean peninsula, was organised by the government of the province of Gyeonggi as a means of providing “comfort” to people who are tired of ongoing coronavirus restrictions, according to local media.

For the show, fans were placed in 300 clear dome-shaped tents, specially constructed for the occasion and capable of seating four people (from a single household/bubble) apiece. According to organisers, the tents aim are the first of their kind in the world, and prevent the transmission of potentially disease-carrying droplets between fans.

In addition to the unusual seating arrangement, the Gyeonggi authorities installed an ‘air shower’ gate that sprayed a disinfecting mist at the entrance to the concert, as well as a thermal temperature-checking system and a ‘distancing fence’ to prevent household mixing in the waiting area before fans took their seats, reports the Gyeonggi Daily.

In addition to the unusual seating arrangement, authorities installed an ‘air shower’ gate that sprayed a disinfecting mist

For the purposes of contact tracing, all attendees were required to fill in a health-check questionnaire and provide their details in advance of the show. After filling in the form, ticket buyers received an automatically generated QR code to use for entry into the concert.

Explaining the concept to Cities Today, Lee Jae-gang, Gyeonggi’s vice-governor for peace, says: “By operating a web-based access system that enabled entry using QR codes for confirmation, the Gyeonggi provincial government was not only able to implement rapid and accurate quarantine procedures, but [can] also undertake follow-up management by once again sending self-health-check questionnaires to concert attendees two weeks after the event.”

https://twitter.com/KJH_GLOBAL/status/1320666624010055682

Held from Friday 23 to Sunday 25 October at the 41,000-seat Goyang Sports Complex in Goyang (a satellite city of South Korean capital Seoul), the Live in DMZ show featured performances from local stars including Monsta X, Mamamoo, Itzy, Loona, (G)I-dle, and Oh My Girl’s Seunghee and Yooa.

According to Cities Today, the novel set-up gave the stadium a capacity of 1,200 for Live in DMZ, while an additional 400 people watched the concert online.

 


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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No standing concerts in France until March 2021 – report

Amid a second wave of the coronavirus in Europe, French authorities are preparing to ban all standing concerts until 31 March 2021, according to local media.

It is an “open secret” that the government is preparing to outlaw all “horizontal concerts” (as opposed to vertical concerts – ie seated shows, where concertgoers’ seats are staggered vertically) until after the winter, when it is hoped a Covid-19 vaccine will be available, reports Les Jours.

The news would come as a particular blow to French festival businesses, which will be deep into preparations for their summer 2021 events (if not having started the festival build) by the time the proposed ban expires on 1 April.

It is hoped a Covid-19 vaccine will be available by April

According to France Festivals, more than 2,500 open-air events were cancelled because of coronavirus restrictions this summer.

Like many of its European neighbours, the French live business was showing signs of a return to normal in late summer, with health authorities even lifting the requirement for small events to socially distance patrons in August.

However, new restrictions were brought in earlier this month in light of rising coronavirus infections, and many cities, including Paris, are now subject to night-time curfews.

 


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