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Cardiff arena design overhauled due to costs

The design of Cardiff’s new arena has been overhauled after material costs spiralled by more than 50%.

The venue, which is being developed by Robertson Group and will be operated by Live Nation and Oak View Group, was due to cost £180 million (€203m) but “inflationary pressures” saw it rise to almost £280m (€316m).

Now, architect Populous has made a number of major changes to the design, which have been approved by Cardiff Council planning committee.

The firm, which designed Tottenham Hotspur stadium and Cardiff’s Principality Stadium, has replaced its 2022 ‘lump of coal’ arena with a smaller, more rectangular, and lighter-coloured design inspired by the Welsh mountains.

The arena’s height, width, and length have shrunk by 6.5 metres, 9.53m, and 14m respectively, reducing the venue’s capacity from 17,000 to 15,348, according to Architects’ Journal.

Cardiff’s planning committee was told the venue has “lost capacity but gained versatility in what can be offered,” with a new flexible seating or standing arena at its centre.

Cardiff’s planning committee was told the venue has ‘lost capacity but gained versatility in what can be offered’

Other changes include a bronze-coloured aluminium façade, a ‘swoop’ on the arena’s southern exterior, and increased glazing on its east and west-facing elevations to create two arches on each, which will be illuminated for events.

The new arena will sit 4m south of the originally proposed position, on part of Cardiff’s existing County Hall car park in Atlantic Wharf within the Cardiff Bay area, which has been undergoing ongoing regeneration for more than 30 years.

In a design and access statement submitted for the new design in July this year, Populous wrote: ‘The proposed changes to the arena have arisen as a result of the global economic environment and associated increased material costs since the scheme was consented.’

The firm said a ‘full review’ of the proposals with the client led to the overhaul of the project to achieve ‘greater cost certainty’.

The arena was originally scheduled to open in 2025, but is not now set to be completed until the following year, according to Wales Online.

Live Nation already runs the existing 7,500-cap Motorpoint Arena Cardiff, as well as converted warehouse venue Titan Warehouse. OVG, meanwhile, is currently constructing the UK’s first all-electric arena, Co-op Live, in Manchester.

 


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Cardiff venue to stay closed for another 18 months

Cardiff’s St David’s Hall is to remain shut for around 18 months while its roof is replaced and the building refurbished.

The 2,000-cap Welsh concert hall closed for an initial four weeks in September to allow the checks to be completed, but now faces a much lengthier spell on the sidelines after Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC) experts noted that a significant number of the venue’s 900-plus roof panels were “red-critical” and others “red-high risk”, meaning they could fail and collapse.

Cardiff Council commissioned the report following changes to Health and Safety Executive (HSE) advice on Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete RAAC in public buildings. At least 10 concert venues and theatres shut their doors last month after inspectors flagged RAAC – a building material which the HSE said was now past its intended lifespan and is liable to fail without warning.

The council has cancelled all shows at St David’s Hall for the rest of the year, including gigs by the likes of Lindisfarne, Dexys, Graham Nash, Alfie Boe, Europe, Gabrielle, Daniel O’Donnell, Beverley Knight, Howard Jones and Level 42.

“We know this will cause a lot of inconvenience and disappointment for our customers, but we hope they will understand that the safety of audiences, staff, artists, volunteers, and everyone at the venue is paramount,” says a council spokesperson. “We will be in contact with promoters and hirers to discuss the potential for moving performances to other venues.”

“We continue to work to progress the transfer of the hall to Academy Music Group”

St David’s Hall was in the process of being leased to the Academy Music Group (AMG), which had committed to refurbishing the venue and dealing with the roof issues as part of the original lease agreement. The council’s Cabinet will now meet this Thursday (26 October) to decide next steps and whether it should still go ahead with plans to enter a new lease agreement with AMG.

The authority says that AMG had planned to keep St David’s Hall open with only short closures while repairs took place. But “the findings of this new report now point towards a complete closure to enable a new roof to be installed and a refurbishment of the venue to take place”, which “could take around 18 months to deliver”.

“Work is continuing to progress the transfer of the hall to AMG,” adds the spokesperson. “Ahead of taking over the operation of St David’s Hall, AMG had already undertaken its own inspections and while it did have plans to undertake remedial work and to keep the venue open, the latest report into the condition of RAAC in the building indicates clearly it would be better to keep the venue closed until it is completely refurbished, and a new roof has been installed.

“We continue to work to progress the transfer of the hall to Academy Music Group. We are keeping them appraised of the actions we are taking, and we are in constant dialogue with staff at St David’s Hall to keep them updated too.”

 


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Kilimanjaro Live to open new Wales office

UK promoter Kilimanjaro Live has announced the opening of a new office in Wales, headed by former Orchard Live boss Pablo Janczur.

The Welsh division aims to build on Kilimanjaro’s previous history in the country with bands and projects, such as Stereophonics, Wakestock, and shows with artists such as Ed Sheeran at venues including Cardiff Castle, Principality Stadium, Cardiff City Football Club, Morfa Stadium Swansea, Swansea Singleton Park and Wrexham Football Club.

“With over 20 years of experience in live entertainment across Wales, we’re very pleased to welcome Pablo into the Kilimanjaro Live fold,” says Kili CEO Stuart Galbraith. “His knowledge and energy within this sector is second to none, and to have him on board will bolster our live music offering across the country, linking in with Kilimanjaro Live in London, Regular Music in Scotland and Singular Artists in Northern Ireland and Eire.”

Kili’s parent company DEAG enhanced its UK activities by acquiring a majority stake in Scotland’s Regular Music last year, and previously launched Singular Artists in Ireland in 2020 with veteran promoters Fin O’Leary, Brian Hand and Simon Merriman.

“Our combined strengths in the indoor and outdoor sector has great potential for growth and innovation”

Janczur, who will serve as MD of the new Wales base and divide his time between Kili’s Welsh and London offices, adds: “I’m delighted to be Joining Kilimanjaro Live and bringing my experience and expertise in the Welsh market gained over the past 20-plus years.

“Our combined strengths in the indoor and outdoor sector has great potential for growth and innovation. I’m excited about the next chapter working alongside the team and contributing to further growth here.”

Orchard Live was Wales’ biggest independent concert promoter prior to it ceasing trading earlier this year. The company promoted shows with acts such as Queens of the Stone Age, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, Diana Ross, George Ezra and Sam Fender.

“DEAG continues to grow successfully with Kilimanjaro,” says DEAG co-CEO Detlef Kornett. “With the opening of the new office in Wales, Kilimanjaro will be able to act more flexibly as a national promoter and better serve the needs of visitors in Wales. We expect to see significant growth from working with our other offices in the UK and beyond.

“We are delighted to welcome Pablo Janczur, an experienced professional with extensive know-how and a broad industry network, to the DEAG family as managing director of our Wales office.”

 


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Wales concert hall closed due to concrete issues

A Welsh concert hall has closed with immediate effect to allow additional checks on the building’s concrete panels.

The decision to temporarily close the 2,000-cap St David’s Hall in Cardiff was taken in light of the recent change to advice on Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC) in public buildings issued by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), and follows further discussions with the Cardiff Council’s appointed independent structural engineers, and insurers.

All shows are currently postponed for the next month, including concerts by Lindisfarne, Dexys and Graham Nash. St David’s Hall is set to welcome acts such as Alfie Boe, Europe, Daniel O’Donnell, Beverley Knight, Howard Jones and Level 42 in October.

Academy Music Group is due to take over the running of the venue in the near future and “has already undertaken its own inspections and has plans in place to undertake remedial work required in the medium to long-term”.

“We believe it is prudent and responsible to carry out intrusive surveys to further reassure ourselves and the public on the safety of the hall”

The Welsh government has been asking local authorities for updates on the state of RAAC in its facilities since Westminster closed more than 100 education buildings in England last week.

The council says it has been aware of RAAC at St David’s Hall and the need to manage it from a health and safety viewpoint since 2021, and has always followed government guidelines and advice to ensure it was safe. A building management and health and safety strategy has been implemented at the venue for the past 18 months, including regular inspections by independent structural engineers with specific RAAC expertise.

“Throughout this time no issues were raised about the condition of RAAC in the building and there was no evidence of deterioration – and this remains the case,” says a council statement. “However, the council has continued to engage with its insurers and expert structural engineers and, based on advice received today from those experts, we believe it is prudent and responsible to carry out intrusive surveys to further reassure ourselves and the public on the safety of the hall. This will require drilling into panels to confirm their interior construction and to determine if any further work is required to ensure continuing safety.

“Consequently, we will be bringing structural engineers – who are RAAC experts – back on site to do fresh tests on RAAC panels in the building. We expect this procedure could take at least four weeks, and we will look to re-open the Hall as soon as possible, dependent on any action which may or may not be required.”

 


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Wales’ largest indie promoter enters liquidation

Wales’ largest independent concert promoter Orchard Live has ceased trading and has gone into liquidation, citing “enormously challenging trading conditions”.

The company has promoted shows with acts such as Queens of the Stone Age, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, Diana Ross, George Ezra and Sam Fender

But the firm says trading conditions since the onset of Covid-19, compounded by the impact of the cost-of-living pressures on ticket sales, had made it impossible to continue operating.

“Despite the best efforts of a hardworking and very talented team, Orchard Live has been unable to fully recover from the consequences of the pandemic and the ensuing challenging trading conditions,” says a spokesperson for the promoter. “After exploring all possible strategies to avoid this action, the difficult decision has been made to put Orchard Live into creditors voluntary liquidation.

“The past three years have been enormously challenging for the music industry”

“The past three years have been enormously challenging for the music industry and there have been a number of casualties in the sector.”

The statement points out that the company lost summer seasons in 2020 and 2021, and costs increased significantly for rescheduled shows in 2022.

“Despite some great successes, an oversupply of concerts, a slow public return to live events, the cost-of-living crisis and increased competition from national promoters has not produced the required level of sales, leading to unsustainable losses,” adds the spokeperson. “This news will unfortunately be a blow to music lovers in Wales who have been able to enjoy Orchard Live’s work over many years.”

Any ticket-holders for an Orchard Live show are advised to contact the ticket outlet they purchased their ticket from for more information.

 


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Focus Wales unveils 2023 keynote speaker

Wales’ biggest music industry event Focus Wales has announced artist and producer Gerald Simpson, aka A Guy Called Gerald, as keynote speaker for its 2023 edition.

The festival will see over 400 music industry professionals, and 250+ acts descend upon Wrexham for three days of panels, keynote talks, and industry advice from 4-6 May.

Simpson will appear in conversation with BBC Radio Wales’ Aleighcia Scott to discuss his career in music, from growing up in Manchester, being a founding member of electronic group 808 State, and producing records for over 25 years.

Other conference panels include The Future of the European Festival Market, chaired by AAA, Equality and Class Parity in Music, The Use of Music on Screen, hosted by PRS for Music, and Creator to Fan: How are artists reaching audiences with their recorded music in 2023 and how has this changed?, presented by PPL. Power Up Wales will also be hosting a Black music action group roundtable, while additional presenter partners include MMF UK, British Council, Noise Unit PR and Gwyl Cymru.

Focus Wales is supported by Arts Council of Wales, PRS Foundation, and Welsh Government

Speakers and delegates participating include Cindy Castillo (Mad Cool Festival, Spain), Jean-Louis Brossard (Trans Musicales, France), Dev Sherlock (SXSW), Andrea von Foerster (Firestarter Music, USA), Emma Zillmann (Live Nation), Cecilia Soojeong Yi (DMZ Peace Train Festival, South Korea), Joy Warmann (Secretly Group), John Kennedy (Radio X), Ralf Niemczyk (Rolling Stone, Germany), Weining Hung (LUCfest, Taiwan), Chris Barrett (AAA) and Lauren Down (End of The Road Festival).

International showcases will be hosted by BreakOut West (Canada), M for Montreal (Canada), WHY Portugal, Ear Up Music Hong Kong, Catalan Arts, Fira B! (Spain), Music Nova Scotia, Liechtenstein Music Export and The Spanish Wave.

Artists playing Focus Wales 2023 include Billy Nomates, Squid, The Coral, Dream Wife, The Joy Formidable, Jeffrey Lewis & The Voltage, Adwaith, Alaskalaska | Neue Grafik Ensemble, Opus Kink and A Guy Called Gerald, among many others.

Focus Wales is supported by Arts Council of Wales, PRS Foundation, and Welsh Government. Full three-day wristbands for admission to all Focus Wales events are available now.

 


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Green light for new Cardiff arena plans

Construction of Live Nation and Oak View Group’s (OVG) new arena in Cardiff, UK is expected to start later this year after the development was granted planning permission.

The 17,000-cap venue, which is set to open in 2025, will form part of a wider multi-million-pound regeneration of Butetown, Cardiff in Wales.

The venue is being developed by Robertson Group with a view to bringing “some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry” to the city and cementing Cardiff Bay’s position as a “top-tier” visitor attraction.

“We are delighted with this decision, one of the most significant and landmark developments in the region for some years, and we look forward to delivering our vision for a new arena with our partners and Cardiff Council,” says Graham Walters, Live Nation UK Venues COO. “A world-class arena, with a global reputation for culture, will transform Atlantic Wharf for local, national, and international visitors to Cardiff, as well as facilitate job creation and economic growth in the region.”

“We are now looking forward to working together with our partners and the local community to give Cardiff and Wales the top tier arena they deserve”

Live Nation already runs the existing 7,500-cap Motorpoint Arena Cardiff, as well as converted warehouse venue Titan Warehouse. OVG, meanwhile, is currently constructing the UK’s first all-electric arena, Co-op Live, in Manchester.

“It is exciting that the plans for a new arena at Atlantic Wharf have been approved by the council,” adds OVG COO Mark Donnelly. “We are now looking forward to working together with our partners and the local community to give Cardiff and Wales the top tier arena they deserve.”

Phase One of the development formed part of a hybrid planning application that was submitted in November 2021 and has now been approved by Cardiff’s Planning Committee.

Both the arena and the wider masterplan are in line with Cardiff Council’s 2030 climate neutral aspirations, with energy strategies incorporated into the design and operational elements of the redevelopment set to achieve operational climate neutral positions by 2030.

 


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More European markets set to relax restrictions

Several European countries have begun relaxing Covid restrictions amid hopes the Omicron wave has peaked in certain parts of the continent.

Large indoor events will resume and nightclubs permitted to reopen in Scotland from 24 January in acknowledgement of a “severe fall” in infection rates. Outdoor events were given the green light to welcome back spectators from 17 January.

The tightened measures had been in place since 26 December last year. First minister Nicola Sturgeon told MSPs the country had “turned the corner on the Omicron wave”, as reported positive cases dropped to 20,268 over the last three days compared to 36,526 in the same period last week.

In England, all remaining coronavirus measures – including mandatory self-isolation for confirmed infections – could be lifted as early as March under plans being drawn up by the government.

In Wales, the number of people allowed to attend an outdoor event rose from 50 to 500 from 15 January. From this Friday, crowds will be allowed to return to sporting events and there will be no limits on those attending outdoor events.

The developments provide renewed encouragement for the live sector after a growing number of early 2022 tours were cancelled or postponed over Covid fears

And from Friday 28 January, nightclubs can reopen and hospitality venues will be allowed to operate normally, although Covid passes will still be required for large events, cinemas, nightclubs and theatres.

The developments provide renewed encouragement for the live sector after a growing number of early 2022 tours were cancelled or postponed over Covid fears.

However, in Sweden, a 500 capacity limit is being imposed on live events from tomorrow (19 January), although an event is permitted to host more than 500 people if the organiser divides the room so that participants from different sections do not come into contact with each other. In such cases, the 500-person limit applies to each section.

Research from the Netherlands, meanwhile, suggests the country’s 2G (covering people who have either vaccinated or recovered from Covid in the past six months) and 3G (vaccinated/recovered/tested negative) restrictions are cutting cases by just under 10% and 5% respectively.

The Dutch live sector’s hopes for a swift reopening were dashed over the weekend, with a review on the reopening of cultural venues not due to take place until 25 January.

 


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UK markets announce plans to ease restrictions

Wales and Scotland have announced plans to roll back their Covid-19 restrictions.

In Scotland, restrictions on large outdoor events will come to an end on Monday 17 January.

The move will allow fans to return to outdoor concerts and football matches, after Covid restrictions were put in place on Boxing Day, reducing outdoor events to a capacity of 500.

Event organisers will now have to check the vaccine certification of at least 50% of attendees, rather than the current 20%, or at least 1,000 people, depending on which figure is higher.

From Monday the requirement to be ‘fully vaccinated’ for the purposes of Covid certification will include having a booster if the second dose was more than four months ago.

It will still be possible to gain admission to events and venues covered by the certification scheme by providing proof of a recent negative lateral flow test, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed.

Nightclubs have been closed since 26 December but the First Minister has said that all restrictions, including the closure of nightclubs, could be lifted from 24 January.

Scotland has said that all restrictions, including the closure of nightclubs, could be lifted from 24 January

In Wales, the First Minister Mark Drakeford has announced the relaxing of the rules and stated that the peak of the Omicron wave is now behind the country.

The relaxation will begin this Saturday (15 January) when the number of people allowed to attend an outdoor event will rise from 50 to 500.

From Friday 21 January, crowds will be allowed to return to sporting events and there will be no limits on those attending outdoor events.

From Friday 28 January, nightclubs can reopen and hospitality venues will be allowed to operate normally, although Covid passes will still be required for large events, cinemas, nightclubs and theatres.

From Thursday 10 February, Wales will return to a three-week review cycle as the country returns to alert level 0.

From 28 January, nightclubs in Wales can reopen and hospitality venues will be allowed to operate normally

Northern Ireland is also considering lifting some Covid-19 restrictions next week, First Minister Paul Givan has revealed.

Since 26 December, indoor standing events have not been permitted. For outdoor and indoor events, either proof of vaccination, a negative lateral flow test or proof of recovery from Covid-19 is required.

Nightclubs are currently closed while hospitality businesses are operating under a series of restrictions. Givan said businesses needed to be able to operate “normally”.

He added that relaxation would depend on health advice received by the executive ahead of its meeting next week, but stressed that so far the picture was “encouraging”.

In England, restrictions were last updated on 15 December, from which point vaccine passports and facemasks have been required in order to attend concerts.

The wearing of face masks is mandated in all venues where crowds gather, and Covid certificates are needed for: venues where large crowds gather, including nightclubs; unseated indoor venues with more than 500 people; and unseated outdoor venues with more than 4,000 people.

The introduction of a negative LFT in the certification scheme, meanwhile, followed extended lobbying by the sector to include the measure in any new restrictions.

 


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European markets tighten rules on indoor events

A number of key European markets have tightened restrictions on live music in a bid to combat the new Omicron variant of coronavirus.

In Belgium, music venues are to be shuttered and all indoor mass events are prohibited until at least 28 January.

Outdoor events are permitted to take place but social distancing must be maintained and masks are required. Events with more than 100 visitors must have a one-way circulation plan and a separate entrance and exit.

The new rules were introduced on 26 December 2021. Previously, indoor events in Belgium could take place with a seated and masked audience of no more than 200 people.

In Sweden, indoor events with between 20 and 500 attendees that don’t require vaccinations certificates must now be seated. For events with more than 500 participants, vaccinations certificates and social distancing are required.

In Belgium, music venues are to be shuttered and all indoor mass events are prohibited until at least 28 January

Groups must be able to keep a distance of at least one meter sideways and forwards and backwards from other groups. If a group is larger than eight people, the organiser must divide the party with a maximum of eight participants in each.

The restrictions were introduced on 23 December and the effect will be evaluated on an ongoing basis.

In Wales, large events are prohibited with maximum numbers of 30 at an indoor event and 50 outdoors. Nightclubs must close.

The NHS Covid Pass is needed for entry to concert halls and many other venues. Face masks are still required in most public places.

In Northern Ireland, as of 26 December, indoor standing events are not permitted

In Northern Ireland, as of 26 December, indoor standing events are not permitted. For outdoor and indoor events, either proof of vaccination, a negative lateral flow test or proof of recovery from Covid-19 is required.

In France, as of yesterday (3 January), indoor events are limited to 2,000 capacity and outdoor gatherings are restricted to 5,000 people, while nightclubs will remain closed until further notice.

The government said on 17 December it will present a bill early next year to change the French health pass into a vaccination pass. That means people will have to be vaccinated in order to enter music venues and many other leisure and entertainment facilities.

Under the current rules, a recent negative test can serve as a health pass even without vaccination.

See a full overview of the latest live music restrictions affecting key European markets here.

 


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