International test events underline concert safety
As businesses and individuals in the UK come to terms with the government’s decision to delay the sector’s reopening by a further four weeks, a growing body of evidence demonstrates that concerts, festivals and other live events held under controlled conditions do not contribute to an increase in transmission of Covid-19.
Data gathered from test events across various European countries is building a picture that if every member of the audience is tested prior to a show, and only those who return a negative test are admitted, the chances of them being infected with Covid-19 during the show are extremely slim.
Crucially, despite the pilot shows listed below using different audience configurations, all of them tested participants before and after the event, and all were hailed as successful both by organisers and by the scientists who monitored the health aspects.
Examining the published evidence of different test events around Europe makes for fascinating reading, albeit with very similar results…
Zero positive cases of Covid-19 were detected seven days after test events in Spa and Namur, neither among the participants nor the control group, the company in charge of testing at the shows, DNAlytics, announced in May.
Those events were the first of six pilot experiments organised in the cultural sector by the Wallonia-Brussels Federation. “In the case of Spa, they establish quantitatively that the organisation of an indoor concert can be envisaged with safety, according to an audience size of 50% of the hall’s capacity and by applying the barrier gestures that have become familiar to us,” says Thibault Helleputte, CEO of DNAlytics.
“In the case of Namur [an outdoor event], the results show that, provided some basic health rules are followed, attendance at a show is not associated with a measurable increase in coronavirus contamination.”
“Concert halls and theatres are not places of infection”
A scientific study in Germany of the movement of airborne particles in an indoor environment showed a negligible risk of infection in properly ventilated concert venues.
The test, using a robot, at Dortmund’s 1,500-seat Konzerthaus, was carried out over three days in November by the Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute of Goslar and particle measurement company Parte Q, with the backing of Germany’s Federal Environment Agency. It followed August’s Restart-19 study (using human participants) by the University Hospital of Halle, which concluded that, with adequate ventilation, live events posed a “low to very low” risk of person-to-person transmission.
“Concert halls and theatres are not places of infection,” says Dr Raphael von Hoensbroech, director of Konzerthaus Dortmund. “The past few months have shown that politics needs a scientifically sound basis for decision-making. With our study, we want to ensure that concert halls and theatres may again admit sufficient audiences when they reopen.”
The Konzerthaus Dortmund study followed the first pilot show, the similarly successful Restart-19 in Leipzig, in August 2020, which provided the template for subsequent events internationally.
In Barcelona, the indoor concert setting did not increase the coronavirus risk
Festivals per la Cultura Segura, the organiser of a Barcelona pilot concert in March, also reported that the event had no impact on Covid-19 transmission among attendees, despite the lack of social distancing observed at the show, which had 5,000 attendees.
Having analysed the data, doctors from the show’s medical partners concluded that the indoor concert setting did not increase the coronavirus risk – with concertgoers exhibiting a lower incidence of Covid-19 than the general population in Barcelona at the time.
While the use of a medical-grade FFP2 mask was mandatory, there was no social distancing among fans, who were separated into three areas, once the show got underway.
Of the 4,592 concert attendees who gave consent for the doctors to analyse Covid-19 tests taken after the event, six tested positive for Covid-19 within 14 days of the Barcelona show (and additional analysis suggests that four of the cases originated outside the concert). Those six represented a cumulative incidence of 130.7 cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 inhabitants, far lower than the 259.5 cases/100,000 people in the city’s population at the time.
Three months’ worth of pilots in the Netherlands proved the risk of infection, when following certain hygiene and testing protocols, is about the same as being at home
Perhaps most compelling are the findings from three months’ worth of pilot events in the Netherlands which proved that the risk of Covid-19 infection, when following certain hygiene and testing protocols, is about the same as being at home.
Organiser Fieldlab Evenementen included a series of events in its programme, including the Eurovision Song Contest in Rotterdam which was attended by 3,500 fans, but also business conferences, festivals, arena shows, an awards ceremony and outdoor sports events in a range of formats and capacities.
According to Fieldlab’s data, 100%-capacity events are possible under the Netherlands’ lower two risk levels (caution and concern), with a reduction in capacity necessary for levels three and four (serious and severe, respectively).
Fieldlab’s Dimitri Bonthuis says, “Provided you take the right measures, the risk of getting infected at a Fieldlab event is the same as at home.”
Just 15 positive cases of Covid-19 – equivalent to 0.026% of attendees – were recorded among 58,000 people at UK pilots
British culture secretary Oliver Dowden described recent UK pilot shows as “a real success”, noting that just 15 positive cases of Covid-19 – equivalent to 0.026% of attendees – were recorded among 58,000 people during recent pilot events.
On the back of those figures, Dowden said he was “very hopeful” the full reopening of venues, theatres and clubs without social distancing would take place on the target date of 21 June, though this didn’t come to pass.
While the ERP has yet to be released, Dowden has confirmed there were no positive cases from the Brit Awards, which took place with an audience of 4,000 at the O2 in London last month.
There were two positive Covid-19 tests from the ERP’s Sefton Park Pilot, in Liverpool, which involved 5,000 fans, while nine cases were detected among the 6,000 clubbers who attended two dance events, also in Liverpool.
Zero cases were reported from a football match at Wembley, but four infections were detected at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, which hosted 17 days of the World Snooker Championship.
No social distancing was in place at any of the ERP events, which used lateral-flow tests to check attendees for the coronavirus prior to entry.
This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times.
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.
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.
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.
Belgium test events deemed a success
Results from Belgium’s first-ever cultural test events, which took place at the Royal Flemish Theatre (KVS) and concluded in early May, have been deemed a success.
The two-week test series took place in KVS’s 500-capacity room with 50–250 attendees and examined how the air quality in the room was impacted by the presence of an audience.
The results, which have been published this week, show that the air quality in a half-filled theatre remains unchanged and therefore all spectators can safely attend a performance.
According to the calculations of KVS and its partners, the air quality in a fully occupied hall would not be affected either and therefore there is ‘no objective reason for capacity restrictions at seated events in well-ventilated rooms’.
Now, Belgium’s live sector is asking for a re-evaluation of the proposed reopening on 9 June so that seated events are permitted to take place at full capacity.
“This outcome is a boost for the entire cultural sector”
Artistic director, Michael De Cock, says: “KVS can look back on the test week with satisfaction. Not only was it particularly moving to be able to be in a theatre again – the reactions from the audience were overwhelming – the results that KVS can present today are also encouraging and strengthen our belief that culture can be organised safely. More culture creates more humanity. Something that our society needs today more than ever. ”
Business director, Merlijn Erbuer, says: “This outcome is a boost for the entire cultural sector: what applies at KVS applies in every theatre with an equivalent ventilation system. The KVS is therefore asking for a reevaluation of the proposed reopening, so that from 9 June full houses are admitted for performing arts with a passive, seated audience.
“Test events, however, we have to get rid of as soon as possible, because they are prohibitively expensive and annoying for our audience. You also don’t get tested before getting on the tram or walking into a shopping street.”
Similar live music experiments have also taken place in Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and the UK. See an extensive list here.
Paris test concert finally rescheduled
After a series of stops and starts, French live music association Prodiss and Paris hospital AP-HP have finally been given the green light for the Paris test concert.
The clinical trial was initially announced in February and should have taken place in April but the scheme got “stuck on the government side”, with the ministry of culture proving “unreachable” amid the new lockdown measures.
The experiment, dubbed ‘Ambition Live Again’, will now take place on 29 May at the Accor Arena (20,300-cap.) in Paris with DJ Etienne de Crécy and the band Indochine.
The trial will compare the risk of contamination between two randomised groups: an experimental group of 5,000 people will attend the concert and a control group of 2,500 people will not attend the concert.
The trial will compare the risk of contamination between two randomised groups
The concertgoers will be required to take an antigen test a maximum of 72 hours before the concert and a PCR test seven days after the concert, while the control group will take a self-test on the day of the concert.
Once inside, attendees will not socially distance, though everyone will be required to wear a mask.
The scientific team specified that the participants could not be people at risk and must be in an age group between 18-45 years old and live in Ile-de-France. A full list of criteria can be found on the Ambition Live Again website.
The sister pilot in Marseille was also hit by delays and has not yet been rescheduled. As reported in IQ, a thousand people are expected to attend the two shows at the Dôme (cap. 8,500) in Marseille, which will see performances from French hip-hop group Iam.
Norway tests would involve 15k people…staying at home
The Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH) is proposing a number of test events that would involve a total of 30,000 people – half of which would not get to attend the concerts.
The Institute is envisaging several indoor concerts – which will most likely take place in Oslo in June – with up to 5,000 unmasked participants.
Both those attending the concert and those who are not will be tested before and after the event in order to compare infection rates at home and in the venue.
“We want a definite answer as to whether infection-testing the audience before they are admitted to a concert makes it as safe to go to a concert as to be at home and watch TV,” says Atle Fretheim who heads the research group at the NIPH.
“We want a definite answer as to whether it’s as safe to go to a concert as to be at home and watch TV”
Whether Norway’s test events can go ahead depends on the approval from the health authorities and the regional committee for medical research ethics.
According to Fretheim, the minister for culture’s working group – which includes Bergen Live and Øya Festival – and Norwegian Concert Organisers (Konsertarrangor) have backed the test series.
However, Konsertarrangor’s Tone Østerdal doubts the results will come back quickly enough to have an impact on Norway’s festival summer.
The Stavern Festival and OsloOslo have already been cancelled after the minister for culture announced preliminary guidelines which would restrict festivals to 2,000 attendees until June, 5,000 attendees until August and 10,000 thereafter.
The Danish government this week announced similar restrictions which will restrict events to 2,000 attendees until August, rather than June.
Plotting the path back: Live music tests its mettle
Historically, the live music business has relied on an army of creative minds to deliver once-in a-lifetime experiences for fans, but as the industry slowly starts to emerge from an enforced shutdown, professionals are turning to the scientific community to help kick-start live events.
Statisticians and epidemiologists have been key players in government policy to put a lid on the spread of Covid-19, and with international studies proving that various vaccines are even more effective than originally thought, the events industry is hoping scientists can help map out the best way to reintroduce live entertainment to society.
In the UK, such high-profile occasions as the Brit Awards on 11 May and the FA Cup Final on 15 May are being run as test events to showcase various Covid-safe systems, procedures and products that will help pave the way to arenas and stadia reopening – and that’s in addition to dedicated pilot shows such as this weekend’s 5,000-cap. Blossoms show in Liverpool, organised by Festival Republic. Across the North Sea in the Netherlands, meanwhile, a series of test events are being run by Fieldlab Events, a government-backed initiative that has represented the events sector during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Elsewhere, test events have been held recently in Barcelona and Berlin; programmes are being discussed in the likes of Denmark and Greece (where a collaboration of rap acts are working on a solution); and in Germany, a group of scientists, health experts and doctors have created a set of guidelines to enable the gradual return of audiences to cultural and sporting events.
Biosecurity Systems uses robotic cleaners and other integrated technology and services to diminish the risk of Covid-19 and other epidemic infections in tourism destinations, public buildings (such as airports) and sporting events.
Company CEO Dr Paul Twomey says the test events that the industry is relying on to plot its return to action need to deliver results that convince scientists and politicians, but crucially the proof will also be vital to restore confidence among consumers. “One of the bosses of a major arena operation told me that they were not in the business of trying to convince the kids; they are in the business of trying to convince the parents of those kids that it will be safe when their children come back home to see grandma after a show,” he notes.
Indeed, the Biosecurity Systems founder notes that being able to list a series of precautionary measures could also be crucial in persuading artists to return to live work – especially those from North America. “The Americans are a lot more risk conscious and litigious, so acts based in the states are going to be cautious not only for themselves but because they live in a different liability environment, they’re going to want to know that people have taken all the steps that they can to minimise any prospect of negligence claims,” notes Twomey. “Due diligence is going to be important.”
“Arenas are in the business of trying to convince the parents of kids that it will be safe when their children come back home to see grandma after a show”
Test event programmes
When the coronavirus first started shutting down events last March, most people in the industry (if they are honest) thought the ‘pause’ would last a matter of weeks. When it became apparent that was not the case, promoters and venue operators in a number of nations were granted permission to run test events to prove that live entertainment could still continue, despite the virus.
As successful as those initial tests were, the fact that strict social distancing had to be implemented meant that venue capacities were slashed, making shows financially unviable. However, thanks to the thousands of scientists around the world who have been studying the virus, the test events that are being held in 2021 are benefitting from a whole host of new technology and protocol that is geared toward showing that the live entertainment industry can reopen its doors with minimal risk of Covid-19 transmission.
Individual companies have been formulating their own plans to mitigate Covid transmission – for example, ASM Global’s VenueShield is being rolled out across the group’s 325 venues worldwide in an effort to provide “the highest levels of safety, security and consumer confidence, in alignment with approvals from local government officials and health care experts.”
In Israel, where the majority of the population has now had both Covid-19 vaccinations, a new passport or ‘green pass’ has been introduced by the ministry of health that has to be shown before fans are admitted to concerts and other gatherings, although such events are still subject to capacity limits. The certificate, which can also be presented virtually on a mobile device, confirms the holder has received two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which has been preferred by the Israeli government.
On 5 March, local star Ivri Lider performed to an audience of 500 fans at the 30,000-capacity Bloomfield Stadium in a concert that was organised by the Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality, which governs the city. Although those fans were not socially distanced, they were all seated and were required to wear face masks.
Thanks to the success of that pilot, up to 1,000 people were soon allowed into indoor events in the country, and 1,500 for open-air shows, provided all attendees have a green pass. However, those capacity limits came with caveats as they only applied to venues that normally can seat more than 10,000 people. For smaller venues, a capacity of 500 still exists for indoors, while smaller outdoor spaces are limited to 750 fans.
The green pass programme has quickly been adopted nationwide, with Israeli restaurants, hotels, cafés, gyms and shops allowed to reopen without social distancing restrictions provided patrons can prove they have had both doses of the vaccine, and seated venues are now able to welcome up to 4,000 people for indoor shows.
The green pass programme has quickly been adopted nationwide, with Israeli restaurants, hotels, cafés, gyms and shops allowed to reopen without social distancing
In the UK, all hoped are currently pinned to the results of the forthcoming Events Research Programme (ERP), which will examine scientific findings from a dozen pilot events over the coming weeks in order to gauge the viability of large-scale events without having to impose social distancing on audiences.
Depending on the results of the ERP, the UK may see a return to full-capacity concerts, shows, sports, festivals and other events as early as June, with the UK prime minister’s roadmap to recovery naming 21 June as the date when all restrictions on indoor gatherings are set to be lifted. Before that (from 17 May), outdoor gatherings will be permitted with audiences of up to 10,000 people, under that roadmap strategy.
“These test events will be crucial in finding ways to get fans and audiences back in safely without social distancing,” stated Dowden. “We will be guided by the science and medical experts, but will work flat out to make that happen. We want to get the people back to enjoying what they love and ensure some of our most important growth industries get back on their feet.”
Experts in the Netherlands have been running a testing regime called Back to Live for a number of weeks. Dutch tests have used Amsterdam’s Ziggo Dome (17,000-cap.) , where 1,300 participants were given access to a dance event featuring a number of DJs, and a similar number enjoyed a concert by André Hazes. Those events, organised by Mojo and ID&T, ran from 3pm till 7pm in order to comply with the nationwide curfew (9pm to 4.30am), which had been in place since January.
The promoters of the Ziggo Dome shows report that 100,000 people applied for tickets, providing further evidence of public support for the industry’s revival. Those who were successful were required to produce proof of a negative Covid-19 test within 48 hours of doors opening. Those applicants who received a positive test, which amounted to 12 people, were not admitted. Those who did attend were asked to take another test five days after the shows, while the Back to Live guidelines ensured that the movements of event participants were tracked and traced.
The Dutch testing scheme has been heralded as one of the most comprehensive yet. Attendees for the Ziggo Dome shows were divided into five ‘bubbles’ of 250 people, plus one of 50, each of which had to comply with different rules to test different spectator scenarios.
Additionally, one group was reportedly given a fluorescent drink and encouraged to sing along to the music, so that scientists could monitor the levels of saliva being spread.
“These test events will be crucial in finding ways to get fans and audiences back in safely”
Speaking to media, Tim Boersma, of Fieldlab, said, “We hope this can lead to a tailor-made reopening of venues. Measures are now generic, allowing for instance a maximum of 100 guests at any event if coronavirus infections drop to a certain level. We hope for more specific measures, such as allowing the Ziggo Dome to open at half its capacity.”
The Back to Live series has also included a simulated conference environment with 500 people and two music festivals on the site usually used by Lowlands Festival in Biddinghuizen, with future events including the Eurovision Song Contest in May. The behavioural data gathered at the pilot events will inform governmental decisions on the easing of restrictions in the Netherlands as the country plots its way out of lockdown, which has seen a ban on gatherings of more than 100 people for more than a year.
In Spain, a concert by chart-toppers Love of Lesbian on 27 March at the Palau Sant Jordi arena has been hailed as a success, with the non-socially distanced format presenting no increased risk to the 5,000 fans present, according to doctors.
Audience members were given three locations in Barcelona where they could take a rapid antigen test on the morning of the show. Test results were communicated in a matter of minutes via an app on their phones and only a handful of people tested positive, with those fans banned from the concert but refunded. The ticket price covered the cost of the Covid test, while attendees were also provided with a mask as part of the package.
At the Palau Sant Jordi, the show was delayed due to the strict health controls at the entrance, but with the audience all wearing masks, the event was heralded as a great success.
The planning for that show reportedly persuaded organisers of Barcelona festival Cruïlla to proceed with plans for its 8–10 July 2021 festival, despite fellow Parc del Fòrum festival Primavera Sound cancelling its 10–12 June activities. The proposed Cruïlla is a step forward from last year when the festival pivoted to host a series of socially distanced concerts, Cruïlla XXS, in place of its usual 25,000-capacity gathering.
While shows in Israel have required proof of full vaccination, Cruïlla promoter Barcelona Events Musicals will allow vaccination proof as well as depending on a rapid testing programme to create a “sanitary bubble” of healthy festival- goers. The company is confident that that will deliver a full-capacity festival, with no social distancing restrictions for attendees who have bought tickets to see the likes of Two Door Cinema Club, Editors, Morcheeba, Of Monsters and Men, and local acts Kase.O, and Natos y Waor.
In nearby Canet del Mar, the annual Canet Rock extravaganza on 3 July is planning wide-ranging measures including rapid tests, mandatory masks, a trace-and-track app, and a scheme to enlarge the festival site to provide extra space for its 50,000 visitors.
“We hope this can lead to a tailor-made reopening of venues”
Despite calling time for the second year in a row, Primavera Sound Festival has been at the forefront of activities to try to reopen the events sector in Spain. In addition to a series of 70 small gigs last summer, Primavera partnered with Hospital Germans Trias i Pujol and the Fight AIDS Foundation to conduct a test event in Barcelona’s Apolo venue last October. The show saw 1,000 fans trial a situation that coupled temperature testing with a rapid testing scheme, before watching the concert wearing face masks.
That pilot show was considered a success as the venue introduced additional ventilation and the study concluded that people should be able to begin attending live events again, as long as similar measures were followed. For 2021, the Primavera team is organising a second round of shows in late April, where over the course of a week the likes of Swedish singer-songwriter José González, Seville collective Califato ¾ and Derby Motoreta’s Burrito Kachimba will entertain fans at Barcelona’s Coliseum Theatre.
In Denmark, the live music industry’s ‘restart team’ has submitted a catalogue of recommendations on the reopening of the cultural and sports sectors to the ministry of culture for government approval. The ten-person team – which includes Esben Marcher (Dansk Live), Signe Lopdrup (Roskilde Festival Group) and Sara Indrio (Danish Artist Association) from the music sector – has met with more than 80 key stakeholders across the two sectors to determine how the government should allocate its DKK 50million (€7m) fund.
Among its recommendations are:
- Form an advisory expert group composed of members of the culture and sports sectors, which will maintain dialogue between the sector, authorities and the government, and assist in the preparation of a fact-based long-term opening plan
- Launch a nationwide campaign, immediately after reopening the entire cultural and sports sectors, to celebrate the restart. The team has recommended that the government arranges a nationwide festival, and sets aside DKK 2m (€0.3m), for this purpose
- Back the implementation of SAFE (Sars-CoV-2 antigen testing of fans before events in Denmark), which is a large-scale study of Covid-19 antigen testing of the public prior to matches in the 3F Superliga. The estimated cost is DKK 5m (€0.7m)
- Create an ‘innovation laboratory’, bolstered by DKK 6m (€0.8m), which will develop new digital formats, technologies and initiatives for parts of each sector that have difficulty reopening – principally crowd management solutions for live music events
- Collect data to understand citizens’ concerns, considerations and motivations in relation to cultural and sports life in the wake of Covid-19 and make the information publicly available so the sectors can make informed choices of how to restart. DKK 500,000 (€67,000) has been suggested for this recommendation
- Set aside DKK 36.5m (€4.5m) for the development and testing of new formats for culture and sports, which will enable a safe return.
The team has also made a number of recommendations that require a longer-term effort and/or funding that is outside the allocated DKK 50m. As a result, various schemes, such as compensation funding and a government-backed insurance guarantee, were tabled, as was the suggestion of ongoing compensation for those who have to wait longer to open.
Dansk Live’s Marcher says: “We have gone for broad, embracing proposals that can benefit all actors, which, of course, means that recommendations are not necessarily directly aimed at live organisers. However, I think it is positive that the SAFE project on quick tests is included in recommendations, just as it is positive that there is a focus on pushing for innovation in culture and sports.”
Roskilde’s Lopdrup, who is deputy chairman of the restart team, says: “Our recommendations certainly do not solve all the challenges, but I hope they can help inspire and open up new opportunities for the players and thus pave the way for the reopening of cultural and sports life, so we can meet about the community-creating experiences again.”
Earlier this week, the group said it now looks unlikely there will be major music festivals in Denmark this summer, as the “work [was] started too late”, although it is hoped there will still be at least one test event sometime this year.
“If you say to consumers that there’s going to be a bit more expense as we try to sort things out, I think consumers will live with that”
All who rely on the live entertainment business for their livelihoods will be anxiously awaiting the results of those test show schemes to gauge when they might conceivably get back to work. For its part, and despite zero revenue streams, the industry at large has been investing significant time and money into creating protocols that will allow doors to reopen, to meet the huge demand for entertainment that has been underlined by the frenzy for festival tickets apparent in the UK.
And those protocols could be a vital part of the business into 2022 and beyond, according to Twomey of Biosecurity Systems. “The population might slowly be beginning to understand that the vaccine does not solve Covid,” he says. “It certainly diminishes it, and the death rates and hospitalisation numbers will ease, but the disease problem is not going to go away and the variety of issues around that are going to continue to exist. “The real question for the industry, particularly in Europe, is can they get to a position where they can show sufficiently diminished risk to the extent that public health authorities – and agents and artists – are willing to adopt that risk. If that’s the pertinent question, then I can see a tiered pathway forward.”
Twomey believes venues should be able to show that the risk profile of the people they are inviting into an event is well known and “less than the average risk elsewhere in the environment”. Using Israel’s green pass scheme as an example, he comments, “I can see the same thing happening in Europe built around showing similar types of passes or passports that show that the holder has been inoculated or has recently had a PCR test. The mix between those two is going to vary country by country.
“At ILMC, one of the things I was taken with was some of the festival people saying they would not consider vaccine passports because it was against their beliefs. Obviously, I’m not close to their business or the people that attend their events, but my immediate thought is that those events won’t be returning to business as quickly as those who do implement such guidelines. Put simply, if you’re not willing to make the effort to shift and know your risk, then that’s not going to solve any problems.”
Citing such measures as air purification, disinfection of surfaces, obligatory mask usage, and audience testing, screening and contact tracing, Twomey draws parallels with the anti-terrorism precautions introduced by airports in the aftermath of 9/11, where, ultimately, travellers bore the cost. “The difference between this and terrorism is that everybody now has changed their behaviour, whereas there was only a small percentage of the population who went through airports regularly,” he observes. “With Covid, everyone has been through it and everyone understands it. Therefore, if you say to consumers that there’s going to be a bit more expense as we try to sort things out, personally I think consumers will live with that.”
Twomey concludes, “It’s going to cost a bit more money but probably not as much as people think. But people are going to have to do something. If your model is I’m going to sit and wait, that’s fine, but plan for the second quarter of 2022… maybe.”
This feature has been edited since first appearing in the digital edition of IQ 97. Read the original piece below:
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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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.
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
Because Music Matters
When: 10–14 February
Where: Rockhal, Luxembourg
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
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.
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.’
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.”
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.”
When: TBC 2021
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.”
When: TBC 2021
Where: Accor Arena, Paris
Who: Ministry of Health, Ministry of Culture, St Louis Hospital, Prodiss
When: TBC 2021
Where: Dôme, Marseille
Who: The city of Marseille, Inserm, Béatrice Desgranges (Marsatac, SMA)
Fieldlab vouches for 50-75% cap outdoor events
Fieldlab Events, the initiative behind a swathe of test shows in the Netherlands, has told the Dutch government that outdoor events should be allowed to take place at 50-75% of normal visitor capacity without social distancing, under certain measures.
The recommendations are based on the results of Fieldlab’s first outdoor tests, which comprised two football matches with 1,500 spectators each and one with 5,000 spectators.
Research was conducted using Fieldlab’s risk model which is aimed at limiting the residual risk that arises from events and considers factors including visitor behaviour, track and trace, rapid tests, occupancy and social distancing.
Research at three football matches showed that larger outdoor events are possible under the following strict conditions in the current Corona situation:
- Rapid test at a decentralised location, close to home;
- Rapid test up to 24 hours from the end of the event;
- Use of an app or other type of access control for a negative Corona test;
- Maximum 50-75% occupancy of the capacity of outdoor locations, without the 1.5 meter rule.
The cabinet is now consulting with the Outbreak Management Team on the research results
- Specific for football stadiums:
- Capacity of Business Seats in the stadium at 50-75%, just like regular grandstand sections. Indoor area (Business Club) with an occupancy of 20%.
- Due to the natural separation, so-called sky boxes can be used at 50-75% of the occupancy (just like regular grandstand);
- Physical separation of groups of visitors, depending on the capacity and the design of the location;
- Mouth masks (mouth-nose mask) mandatory when walking around on location at an occupancy of 50%;
- With an occupation of 75%, a mouth mask is also required while sitting;
- Active communication of all practical, relevant information and continuous indication of compliance with the measures.
The cabinet is now consulting with the Outbreak Management Team on the research results.
Earlier this month, Fieldlab shared findings from the first part of its Back to Live test series, which involved a business conference and a cabaret show.
The Dutch initiative found that indoor seated events should be able to take place at 50% occupancy without social distancing. See more here.