Music’s Return To The O2 Hangs On Confidence In UK Events Industry

Up the Junction rockers Squeeze are soon set to play the first live music gig at The O2 arena in more than eight months, with strict social distancing measures in place.

In a recent interview with Access, O2 Arena general manager Steve Sayer said the reaction to the return of live music to the 23,000-capacity venue on December 5th has been “overwhelmingly positive, because everybody can see it’s a small step in the right direction.”

Live music sits under the arts guidance which is currently at stage four, meaning venues - providing they can meet the safety measures - are permitted to host Covid-secure events.

With many frustrated about the guidelines, Sayer said the venue is focused on lobbying the Government hard for a complete return to full-capacity events of every type, including business events.

“What we are trying to do with the Squeeze show, and staging concerts generally, is build confidence in the UK event sector in all its formats,” said Sayer. “I’m talking everything from arts and theatre to business events, massive exhibitions to festivals. Our industry is the envy of the world – we are world beaters.”

The 02 Arena has seen lots of interest from concert promoters off the back of the Squeeze announcement, and is aiming to host a number of events early next year, bridging the period until the venue is able to fully reopen with full capacity shows.

More than 80% of our database, across all demographics, are looking to come back to shows in the current no-vaccine scenario.

Sayer said that he is seeing a convergence of ideas, requirements and technology, and a push from the Government to try and find a workable testing model.

“We don’t just work closely with music venues and the National Arenas Association, we are also talking to sport organisations because sport, probably more so than music, gets the headlines and the attention of Government,” he added.

Measures that have been taken to make the O2 Arena Covid-safe include a reduced capacity, compulsory face coverings, effective management of ingress and egress, social distancing in the bowl, and one-way systems where required.

The venue will use the Squeeze gig - which is on track to sell out - to get a better understanding of the number of personnel needed in order to manage social distancing and staggered entry.

“For the Squeeze show everything has been completely risk assessed; front of house, back of house, the customer journey, the ticket purchase process – we’ve got all of our risk mitigation plans in place,” said Sayer. “More than 80% of our database, across all demographics, are looking to come back to shows in the current no-vaccine scenario.

“It’s been a longer haul than we probably all thought it was going to be but I’m still incredibly optimistic about the future and that the live events industry will bounce back.”