Words by Ellie-Mae Fenn, interview by Ross Carley.
It’s no secret that the industry has been hit hard by the pandemic, with many of our favourite venues shutting their doors to regular gig-goers for close to 14-months. So, with the Government announcing the go-ahead for venues to reopen on May 17th, a surge of hope has arisen.
After an anticipating wait, venues have been given the green light to reopen their doors on May 17th; this has been followed by a flood of announcements of gigs from our favourite bands & artists, Birmingham based and beyond. To mention a few, Ed Geater is due to headline at the Hare & Hounds on May 21st with support from Faye Smith. As well as the B29 Festival taking place at Nortons Digbeth, with a line up consisting of the Sriracha People, Demelza and Shai Brides. These gigs and many more are all set to go ahead. With these announcements comes the question of how different, or ‘normal,’ are these shows going to be?
The example has been set by the recent festival held at Sefton Park in Liverpool. Accommodating up to 5,000 fans, this was part of the Government’s Events Research Programme. In order to attend, you had to provide a negative test, which, if negative, allowed you to attend and roam with no mask and no social-distancing; a dream for many. This event was a huge stepping-stone towards the return of live music, experimenting with airflow and the ways in which restrictions can be left to a minimum, leaving room for normality to return.
With Stockport based, indie-pop band Blossoms headlining this historic event earlier this month, we’ve had the chance to get insider knowledge of how the venue handled the procedure as a whole, teasing what to expect from events here in Birmingham. Speaking to Collette, percussionist and backing vocalist for Blossoms, she explained “everything from start to finish was meticulously managed and looked after. We all had to wear masks, socially distance and show a negative COVID test, so things were a lot stricter backstage than out in the audience” giving an insight into the procedures for artists back stage. Wearing a mask and sticking to a 2m distance may very well still be the new normal for those behind the scenes.
Walking out on stage was overwhelming, the audience response was deafening, and it was lovely to see people hugging and catching up with friends after providing a negative COVID test. Playing music live again felt fantastic!
Thanks to the success of this event, venues due to reopen mid-May now have a guideline to abide by – “There will be a lot pivoting on the results of this pilot, and we’re all hoping it will give us the green light to get back to what we love. We’ve got the remainder of the UK tour set for Aug/Sep this year so we’re hoping we can get back on the road and finish what we started 14 months ago!”
With Collette being a Music Business and Events Management Lecturer at local University and College BIMM Birmingham where she shares her experience and passion for live music and performance, she explained her excitement for gigs returning to the local area – “I’ve got tickets to see Haim in September and I can’t wait. I’ve got everything crossed that live music returns in full capacity soon and I can’t wait to dance like no-ones watching at this show!!”
There is no reason as to why full capacity events cannot return towards the end of the year as scheduled, as long as venues are playing their part by putting precautions into place to help reach that point. It is comforting knowing places like Nortons Digbeth and the Hare & Hounds are working hard behind the scenes to ensure they can reopen safely on the 17th. Nortons have ensured they can accommodate people effectively in their newly-built outdoor area to allow sufficient social distancing for their upcoming B29 Festival taking place mid-June (and gratefully it’s undercover so the weather is something not to fret about). As well as the likes of Hare & Hounds in Kings Heath, who require track and trace details to be obtained on arrival and offering restricted opening times to keep capacity low.
Although it is not quite ‘normal’, this is a step in the right direction. The fact venues are opening and there is chance to attend live music events brings a ray of sunshine to many, some creativity and entertainment just in time to enjoy the summer months in the true essence of Birmingham and what it has to offer.
Follow Blossoms on Instagram – @blossomsband
Follow Blossoms on Facebook – @blossomsband
Follow Collette on Instagram – @amberskyedrums