A new venue dedicated to socially-distanced events is coming to the UK this summer. The Virgin Money Unity Arena is slated to open in August at Newcastle Racecourse in Gosforth Park, Newcastle upon Tyne.
Photos of the 2,500-person capacity outdoor venue show sectioned-off platforms with two metres (6.56 feet) distance between them faced towards a large stage. Concert goers will be asked to drive to the venue at the specifically allotted time, where they will find socially-distanced parking (cars 2 meters away from the next). Attendees will be escorted to and from their platforms (which they do not get to choose ahead of time).
Food can be ordered ahead of time and be picked up at the gate, or ordered when you get there and delivered to your sectioned-off platform. The venue will also include dedicated toilets for each row of platforms, as well as hand sanitizer for each platform and trained staff wearing masks and gloves at all times to make sure everything is sanitary and running smoothly.
Managing Director of SSD Concerts (the promoter booking the venue) Steve Davis said in a statement (reported by Kerrang!) about the venue’s creation,
“Since all of our scheduled concerts have been postponed to later in the year and all venues in the city closed, the staff at SSD had a willingness to continue.”
“We can’t be without music during these times so our only thought has been how can we bring music back to the British public safely and responsibly. We have been hosting loads of live sessions and DJ sets across our social media, supporting local artists and raising money for the NHS. Now, we’re taking it one step further as the UK slowly comes out of lockdown.”
“Working with our brand new partner Virgin Money has been exciting and we think even in these hard times the people of the north east will come out in their thousands to see the artists they love.”
The city of Newcastle is also excited about the venue’s opening. Ged Bell, Newcastle City Council Cabinet Member for Employment and Culture, said in a statement,
“The city has a great reputation for hosting music and cultural events. While this pandemic has hit the sector particularly hard, the concert planned at the Racecourse is a brilliant innovation where people will be able to enjoy top bands in a safe, responsible and socially-distanced way. It is fantastic to see such a creative response to enable us to experience live performances once again.”
Aside from concerts, the venue plans to hold DJ sets, family nights and comedy. The full line-up for this summer’s shows, which is said to include “several high-profile artists,” will be revealed on July 7. All tickets must be purchased online.
Various attempts at socially-distanced concerts have taken place over the last couple of months, though nothing as dedicated as the new arena has been created. In June, Live Nation announced a series of drive-in concerts set to take place from late July through early September around the UK. Dubbed “Utilita Live from the Drive-In,” these shows will allow “fans to enjoy concerts in a one-of-a-kind drive-in setting from their own private individual viewing zones next to their cars.” Drive-in concerts have already proved successful in countries such as Germany and the US. Socially-distanced concerts with “pod” seating, such as the show that took place at Fort Smith, Arkansas’ Temple Live, have also proven effective if done correctly.
More information about Virgin Money Unity Arena can be found at the venue’s website.