Hundreds of maskless and non-socially distanced business professionals met in Liverpool yesterday (Wednesday) for a landmark conference as part of the UK government’s pilot programme.

More than 400 delegates attended the Good Business Festival at ACC Liverpool as part of the government’s Events and Research Programme (ERP).

Attendees were required to take a rapid lateral flow test at a local testing centre prior to entry to trial the role these facilities could play in the return of large-scale events. Proof of a negative test result was needed in order to enter the event and people have also been asked to take a test after the event to gather further evidence on the safety of indoor business conferences, reduced social distancing and the removal of non-pharmaceutical mitigations like face coverings.

The data collected in this pilot event will be analysed at four UK universities, with results to be used to determine how festivals, gigs, conferences and sporting events can take place again with large audiences.

Speaking at the event, Nigel Huddleston, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Sport, Heritage and Tourism, said, according to the Liverpool Echo: “This is an important landmark in the recovery of the sector. I know the extent to which businesses in the city have really been affected by the lockdowns over the past year.

“This sector is one of the worst hit by the virus and one of the most challenging to recover. But I’m confident that we can do that. Thanks to the amazing efforts of all of those involved in the vaccine rollout I am confident we are on track to opening more of the economy on May 17.”

Tickets for the event were open to all Liverpool City Region residents, with the event the precursor to the main Good Business Festival event, which produced a digital event in 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions. It is a business summit in Liverpool’s city centre and is delivered in partnership with Culture Liverpool and Hemingway Design.

The main festival will be taking place in multiple venues across Liverpool City Region on July 7-9, 2021 and expects to welcome some 6,000 visitors.

Wayne Hemingway, the designer and businessman who organised the Good Business Festival, told the BBC: “This is also a test for events that have nothing to do with business because nobody really knows what’s going to happen.

“But I am pretty confident that as human beings we enjoy getting together… it’s made us what we are.”

Earlier this week, Liverpool City Council announced it is seeking a new ticketing system provider for The Good Business Festival in 2021. More information on this can be found here.

In addition, as part of the ERP, a live concert to trial the safe return of fans with no social distancing will be taking place in Liverpool this weekend. The event, in partnership with Culture Liverpool, will welcome a maskless crowd of 5,000 people to the 7,500-capacity Sefton Park on May 2.

In similar fashion to the conference pilot, ticketholders will need to provide a negative test result ahead of entry. Fans hoping to buy tickets to see headliners The Blossoms must be over 18-years-old, living in the Liverpool City Region and registered to a local GP and showing no sign of COVID-19 symptoms.

Other events that have kicked off as part of the pilot programme include the World Snooker Championships, which are due to run until May 3 and will welcome up to 1,000 spectators a day to the Sheffield Crucible Theatre to test an indoor seated setting. The Brit Awards was also recently added to the programme with plans to welcome 4,000 people to The O2 on May 11, and the FA Cup final on May 15 is expected to see up to 21,000 fans at Wembley Stadium.

Image: Rodhullandemu / CC BY-SA 4.0 / Edited for size