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UK nations divide over vaccine certification

UK governments have this week announced varying approaches towards vaccine certification and Covid-19 requirements, in some cases posing new logistical challenges for the live music industry.

Wales
On Tuesday (6 October), the Welsh government announced that everyone will need an NHS Covid Pass to enter nightclubs and large events from next week.

As of 11 October, anyone aged over 18 will be required to show the pass to prove they are either fully vaccinated or have had a negative lateral flow test result within the last 48 hours.

The pass will be compulsory for anyone who wants to attend:

People in Wales will need an NHS Covid Pass to enter nightclubs and large events from next week

Pablo Janczur, director of events at Think Orchard, which operates in more than 20 venues in Wales, says that the implementation of the Covid Pass will add another obstacle in venues’ post-pandemic recovery.

“We’ve got a lot of ground to make up and the Covid pass just adds an extra layer of resources – no matter how small,” he says.

“It’s going to require extra resources to check everybody and deal with the people who didn’t get the memo and turned up without a pass for whatever reason. I think it’s going to make life a bit more difficult for us, operationally, with all the venues we work with.”

Janczur also warns that Wales’s restrictions will put the market at a competitive disadvantage to neighbouring England, which lifted all restrictions on 19 July.

“Since the opening happened, people have been popping over the bridge to Bristol so we’ve been worried about a competitive disadvantage for a while. People can do stuff in Wales, but they can easily get to Bristol or Hereford or anywhere over the border,” he adds.

In Scotland, vaccine passports became mandatory for large events and nightclubs last Friday

Scotland
Promoters and venues in Scotland are facing some of the toughest restrictions in the UK after the government introduced mandatory vaccine passports.

Vaccine passports became mandatory for large events and nightclubs last Friday (1 October) but ‘a vast majority’ of people experienced repeated problems in registering and uploading their personal vaccine status to the app.

The event industry – which warned against the policy – is calling for the scheme to be scrapped immediately to avoid further damage to a ‘very fragile nighttime economy’.

Stuart Galbraith, CEO of Kilimanjaro Live, which works in numerous venues across the UK, said the Scottish government’s position on a mandatory vaccine passport “seems overly draconian”.

“Currently, most shows we are running require proof of vaccination or proof of a negative lateral flow test result to be shown when required,” explains Galbraith.

“We think this is the best approach as it offers customers reassurance and provides a safe environment for our shows to take place.”

N.I yesterday announced a rollback of restrictions which will see the reintroduction of non-seated indoor shows

Northern Ireland
In more positive news, Northern Ireland yesterday (7 October) announced a rollback of restrictions which will see the reintroduction of non-seated indoor shows from 14 October.

In addition, the legal requirement for social distancing in bars and restaurants is to be removed from 31 October.

Nightclubs are also to be allowed to reopen for the first time since March 2020, meaning legal restrictions on dancing in venues will be scrapped.

However, ministers have agreed to retain the mandatory wearing of face coverings in certain settings.

The government has asked some sectors to put in place mitigations including proof of double vaccination or a negative lateral flow test but it is not legally enforced.

Plans for vaccine passports could be revived under the English government’s Plan B for coronavirus

England
As of 19 July, large events, such as music concerts and sporting events have resumed without any limits on attendance or social distancing requirements and attendees are no longer legally required to wear a face mask.

However, the compulsory use of vaccine passports would be implemented under the government’s more stringent Plan B rules, with only double-jabbed gig-goers allowed entry, and negative lateral flow tests no longer allowed.

The proposal will only be introduced if the country faces a difficult winter with rising Covid cases in the colder months, the government said.

Ministers recently warned that the government needed to be prepared to “act swiftly” and adopt measures such as vaccine passports “at short notice” if there were “unsustainable pressures” on the NHS as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

 


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Welsh promoter Climax Live rebrands

The promoter behind some of the biggest music festivals in Wales, including Cardiff’s Inside Out (15,000-cap.) and Colour Clash (10,000-cap.) in Newport, is to rebrand as Escape Records, reflecting an increased focus on its recorded music business.

From today (17 May), all festivals and club nights will come under the banner of Escape Records, a new record label home to three genre-specific sub-brands: Escape Tales (Urban), Escape Jack (House) and Escape Anthems. Escape Records’ signings include DJs and producers such as Glen Horsborough, Peter Chard and Local.

“We are now ready to take things to the next level”

The Cardiff-based company is also behind Escape festival in Swansea, which returns on Saturday 25 September, with another “game-changing festival” set to be announced in the coming weeks, according to a launch announcement.

“Our mantra is trust and love the process,” comments Escape Records director Mark Hopkins. “This means we’ve had an incredible ride, with many knocks along the way, but we have learnt from them all and improved each time and are now ready to take things to the next level.”

 


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New Swansea Arena appoints general manager

Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG) has announced the appointment of Lisa Mart as general manager of its soon-to-open Swansea Arena.

Mart comes to Swansea Arena with nine years of experience at ATG, initially at New Wimbledon Theatre (1,670-cap.) in south-west London, where she was theatre director, and then at the Alexandra (1,347-cap.) in Birmingham, where she oversaw a £650,000 refurbishment and relaunch that completed in October 2018.

The 3,500-seat capacity indoor venue marks the first arena-sized project for ATG, best known as an operator of London West End theatres. The company is majority owned by Providence Equity Partners, and received an injection of funding from Australia’s TEG late last year.

The new arena, part of the £135 million Copr Bay urban regeneration project in Wales’s second-largest city, is expected to open later this year.

“I am incredibly pleased and excited to be starting as general manager of the Swansea Arena; to be given this huge and rare opportunity of not only opening a brand-new venue, but also being a part of the wider regeneration of Swansea and its transformational project of Copr Bay, is a real honour,” comments Mart.

“The arena has been beautifully designed and will really be able to provide the local community and visitors with a variety of spaces and options to fit any size and scale of meeting or event,” she adds. “I can’t wait to start talking to and working with businesses to really discover how best to support their needs in this area.

“The arena will help strengthen the city’s cultural and entertainment scene further”

“As soon as restrictions allow, I will be re-exploring Swansea and surrounding areas – I’m keen to meet as many people as possible to really learn of the expectations of residents, businesses and locals on how they hope to work with us as we maximise the local impact of this amazing arena.”

ATG is also recruiting for other senior arena roles, including a head of sales and marketing, a building and technical manager and a conference and events manager, which will open for applications in the coming weeks.

Robert Francis-Davies, Swansea Council’s cabinet member for investment, regeneration and tourism, comments: “We are delighted to welcome Lisa to Swansea’s thriving and buoyant cultural community.

“She brings skill and experience that will help the arena complement the programming of other great local cultural venues and locations, such as the Grand Theatre, Brangwyn Hall, Singleton Park and many others.

“The arena will help strengthen the city’s cultural and entertainment scene further for many thousands of residents and visitors. It will act as a catalyst for the city centre’s £1bn transformation.”

 


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Welsh festivals join forces for mega virtual event

Four of Wales’ best-known festivals have banded together to create Gŵyl (Festival) 2021, a free online festival which will assemble both domestic and international artists to mark “a moment of unity” after almost a year of social distancing.

Festival of Voice, Focus Wales, Other Voices Cardigan and Aberystwyth Comedy Festival are behind Gŵyl 2021, which will bring together comedy and music in the form of special collaborations, exclusive one-off performances, podcast streamings and feature films.

Gŵyl 2021 will feature a collaboration between Cate le Bon and Gruff Rhys, an edition of Tim Burgess’ Listening Party and an exclusive, one-off performance by Brett Anderson, Charles Hazlewood and Paraorchestra, featuring special guests Nadine Shah, Adrian Utley & Seb Rochford among other contributions.

Alongside the performances, Focus Wales has programmed a special screening of Eternal Beauty, a new feature film made in Wales and starring David Thewlis and Sally Hawkins, plus a bespoke selection of the best new music from across Canada and Québec, all to be streamed on the Welsh cultural app AM Cymru, 5-10 March 2021.

“We look forward to a brighter future and to coming together and celebrating Wales’ rich and diverse cultural offering”

“We are delighted that Focus Wales has been able to work in partnership with three of Wales’ best-known festivals to create Gŵyl 2021,” says Neal Thompson of Focus Wales.

“After what has been a dark and difficult year for us all, we look forward to a brighter future and to coming together and celebrating Wales’ rich and diverse cultural offering, with a programme of outstanding music and comedy.”

Wales’s deputy minister for culture, sport and tourism, Lord Elis-Thomas, says: “I’m delighted that we’ve been able to support this pan-Wales partnership, which will bring the best of these wonderful festivals to a wide audience.

“Throughout this pandemic, the innovative response in sharing, celebrating and bringing people together from the events and creative industries has been extremely successful – and has provided hope and entertainment during these difficult times.”

Gŵyl 2021 will be available across the UK at www.bbc.co.uk/gwyl2021 on the weekend of 6-7 March 2021.

 


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Live Nation selected for new Cardiff arena

Live Nation has been identified as the preferred bidder to manage a new 15,000-capacity indoor arena in Cardiff.

The new venue, which will become Live Nation’s second arena in the Welsh capital, will cost around £150 million to build and, it is hoped, attract more than 1m visitors and an estimated £100m into the local economy annually.

A Live Nation-led consortium – which also includes venue company Oak View Group (OVG) and property firm Robertson – was behind one of two offers to Cardiff Council, which was seeking a private-sector partner to “deliver a top-tier UK venue that that will enable events of all sizes to be hosted in the city.”

Live Nation also operates the 5,000-capacity Cardiff International Arena (formerly Motorpoint Arena Cardiff), as well as converted warehouse venue Titan Warehouse. OVG, meanwhile, is currently constructing a new arena, Co-op Live, in Manchester, England.

Russell Goodway, Cardiff Council’s cabinet member for investment and development, says: “The city’s strategy is to establish the Cardiff Arena as a top-tier UK arena and to make it the premier arena in the south-west region of England and Wales.”

“Our combined experience in the delivery and operation of facilities of this nature will result in a world-class facility”

A rival arena in Bristol, in south-west England, YTL Arena, is now expected to open in 2023, after years of delays. It was originally due to open in 2018, with SMG Europe (now ASM Global) managing, but is now under construction at a new site.

According to Cardiff Council leader Huw Thomas, the council will commit less than 15% of the arena’s cost, with the remaining 85%+ of capital investment coming from the council’s private-sector partners.

In a joint statement, Live Nation, Oak View Group and Robertson say: “We are delighted to have been announced preferred bidder today to deliver the new Cardiff arena. We look forward to working in partnership with Cardiff Council to bring this ambitious vision to life over the next few years.

“Our combined experience in the delivery and operation of facilities of this nature will result in a world-class facility that will bring economic benefits to the entire region, both during its construction and for many years to come once it’s open. In 2021 we will embark on the next phase of the planning process, which will provide the wider community the opportunity to see our exciting proposals for the site.”

 


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ATG expands into UK arenas with new Swansea venue

The construction of a new 3,500-capacity arena in Swansea, Wales, began today (Wednesday 27 November) as part of a £1 billion regeneration of the city centre.

Swansea Arena, opening in 2021, is the latest live music venue in the Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG) portfolio, in addition to the Stockton Globe, which is reopening next year.

With almost 50 entertainment venues, Providence Equity-backed ATG hosts acts including Pet Shop Boys, Snow Patrol and Emeli Sandé in the UK, Lionel Richie, Al Green, Lauryn Hill and Lenny Kravitz in the US and Bonnie Tyler, FKA Twigs and Sinead O’Connor in Germany.

ATG also operates the UK’s most visited theatre website ATGtickets.com and overall sells around 11 million tickets a year.

“ATG has nearly 30 years’ experience of managing venues but this is an exciting moment that sees us expanding our portfolio to UK arenas”

“We have been working with Swansea Council for a period of time now to make the Arena a world class venue for music, comedy, conferencing and events in South Wales,” comments Mark Cornell, CEO of ATG.

“ATG has nearly 30 years’ experience of working with councils and managing venues but this is an exciting moment that sees us expanding our portfolio to UK arenas following our success across the UK, US and Germany.”

“Swansea Arena is an incredibly exciting addition to ATG,” adds Katy Arnander (pictured), ATG content development director. “The new arena will be at the forefront of our music, comedy, events and exhibitions strategy as well as presenting new content like gaming and esports which is a perfect fit for such a technologically advanced arena.”

The arena is funded by Swansea Council and part-funded by the £1.3bn Swansea Bay City Deal.

For update of when tickets go on sale at Swansea Arena, join the mailing list here.

 


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Focus Wales gears up for tenth anniversary

Welsh showcase festival Focus Wales has announced dates and released delegate passes for its upcoming tenth anniversary festival.

Taking place from 7 to 9 May in venues across Wrexham, North Wales, the festival will showcase acts from all over the world, alongside conference sessions, arts events and film screenings.

Focus Wales has released a limited number delegate passes at the super early bird rate of £80. Delegate passes give priority access to all live shows, panels and keynote talks, as well as to mixer events and the festival opening party.

Over 200 delegates attended the festival in 2019, with representatives from Glastonbury Festival, Eurosonic, Cambridge Folk Festival and BBC 6Music, among others.

“Focus Wales is a truly international affair”

Performer applications for Focus Wales 2020 are also now open to artists worldwide. The first 50 acts for 2020 will be selected in September, so artists are encouraged to submit applications early.

Over 240 acts performed at the 240 festival last year, including Neck Deep, Cate Le Bon and Boy Azooga.

“A truly international affair”, each year Focus Wales hosts a selection of dedicated international showcases. 2019 showcases included BreakOut West, Catalan Arts Music, Fira B!, Nova Scotia Music Week and WestSide Music Sweden.

Delegate passes can be purchased here.

 


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LN’s new Titan Warehouse to open next March

Live Nation’s second venue in Wales will officially launch on Friday 8 March with a show featuring some of the world’s leading bass music artists.

UK bass stars including Sub Focus and Dimension, Jauz and Holy Goof, Sasasas and headliner Andy C will be the first to perform at the new Titan Warehouse in Cardiff, in a night programmed by drum’n’bass promoter Bedlam.

Marc Kinchen’s Area 10 will headline Titan Warehouse following night, joined by a host of house music DJs including Jax Jones, Weiss, Eli Brown and Icarus.

Live Nation was last month granted permission to redevelop the warehouse (formerly Splott Warehouse) into a 10,000-capacity venue, with promoter Sam Bush telling councillors a new music venue would address the “huge demand for music” in the Welsh capital.

The company also operates a second venue, the 5,000-capacity Motorpoint Arena, in Cardiff.

 


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Motorpoint Arena Cardiff celebrates 25th anniversary

This September marks the 25th anniversary of Wales’ Motorpoint Arena Cardiff. The venue, which has entertained over 10 million fans throughout its history, is celebrating the milestone birthday with a series of redevelopment projects and upgrades to the space.

The arena, owned and operated by Live Nation UK, has taken many forms over its 25-year history. Its 7,500-capacity (standing) space has at points been transformed into an ice rink, a boxing ring and a motocross dirt track.

To commemorate its quarter-century, a number of investments and regeneration projects have taken place over the last 12 months. Alongside the refurbishment of all bars onsite, the arena’s Exit Seven performance area has been upgraded in a bid to further support the emerging talent that relies on the space.

Two “Wall of Fame” designs have also been constructed around the arena, featuring the names of artists that have performed at the venue throughout the years. Since opening in 1993, acts to have performed include Beyoncé, P!NK, Elton John and Oasis.

“The Arena is a favourite for fans”

Speaking of the anniversary and the refurbishment projects, general manager Phil Sheeran, says: “Live Nation’s investment and commitment to the Arena these past 25 years has brought some of the biggest stars and the very best music, entertainment and sporting events to Wales and the South West.

“The Arena is a favourite for fans. Seeing international artists up-close and feeling part of the action is just one of the reasons why people return time and again.”

Huw Thomas, leader of Cardiff Council comments: “The Arena has been an important entertainment partner in Cardiff for the past 25 years, and was a critical part of Cardiff becoming the UK’s first Music City.”

2018 has seen a number of sold out shows for the venue, including performances from Paramore, Dua Lipa and Noel Gallagher. Upcoming shows include Florence + The Machine, Jess Glynne and the Prodigy.

 


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Live Nation given OK for second Cardiff venue

Live Nation has been granted permission to redevelop a Cardiff warehouse into a 10,000-capacity music and events venue.

In a 31 August meeting of Cardiff Council’s licensing subcommittee, city councillors voted to grant a premises licence to Live Nation UK to hold six events over three weekends annually for up to 9,999 people at Splott Warehouse (pictured), located in the Splott district in the east of the Welsh capital.

Despite some local opposition – largely on the grounds of noise pollution – councillors gave the go-ahead after Sam Bush, Live Nation’s president of UK touring, addressed the committee, stating that ‘the applicants were looking to achieve new opportunities by addressing the huge demand for music in the area,’ according to council minutes.

‘Live Nation has worked in partnership with local authorities and others to ensure that its activities are sustainable, and therefore it is important to build good relationships in terms of sound management and crowd management. Live Nation respect the opinions of other and will undertake to do everything possible to mitigate the impact of any events.’

“We want to try and find a way to satisfy the demand for music in the area”

Legal advisor Phil Crier confirmed Live Nation has signed a five-year agreement with the venue that “would allow for infrastructure to be brought in aimed at minimising impact. That impact would be assessed and mitigated against accordingly.”

“There’s a huge demand in the area for music, and we want to try and find a way to satisfy the demand for music in the area, whether that’s rock music or pop or family shows,” said Bush, adding that Live Nation was looking at several venues in Cardiff, reports Wales Online. “We’re trying to bring a variety of music to the area.

“This is the first step and we want to achieve that by doing things the right way.”

Live Nation operates one other venue in Wales: Cardiff’s 5,000-capacity Motorpoint Arena.

 


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