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The Brits pilot marks return of indoor live music events

Large-scale music events have returned in the UK with The Brit awards ceremony welcoming 4,000 people to The O2 arena last night as part of the government’s pilot programme.

The event, which saw performances from Dua Lipa and Elton John among others, was the first large-scale indoor music event to take place in the UK since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020.

The ceremony was part of the Events Research Programme, which is using COVID-19 testing approaches to investigate how live shows can take place without social distancing. Attendees were not required to wear masks in the 20,000-capacity venue.

Reports from the event indicate that everything moved “efficiently, without queues or holdups.”

Some 2,500 tickets were given to frontline workers in the Greater London Area, with the remaining tickets going to the nominated artists, their managers and teams plus other members of the music industry and sponsors.

“Tonight means so much to so many, it’s hope for the whole industry and supply chains. Hopefully the start of many more to come,” said Matthew Zweck, sponsorship sales director at AEG Europe, which owns the long-term lease on the O2 Arena.

The event also saw pre-recorded performances from the likes of Coldplay from a pontoon on the River Thames, and another from best international male, The Weeknd.

In addition, The O2 – which was reassigned as an NHS Nightingale hospital last year – debuted a series of alterations made to the arena to boost hygiene and reduce risk. These include the installation of enhanced air filtration systems and the addition of more than 250 hand sanitiser units through partner Unilever’s Lifebuoy.

Within the arena the use of new electrostatic fogging systems before, during and after events ensure that the venue is thoroughly cleaned with an anti-bacterial product that protects surfaces for up to 30 days.

The O2 also deployed the AXS Mobile ID digital ticketing solution through The O2 Venue App where customers are allocated a digital ID in the form of a dynamic barcode which then regenerates every 60 seconds, preventing fraud and illegal resale of tickets.

The pilot event follows a small outdoor festival and nightclub rave staged in Liverpool last month, which were also part of the government’s programme. The concert, in partnership with Culture Liverpool, welcomed a crowd of 5,000 people to the 7,500-capacity Sefton Park in Liverpool on May 2.

Other events in the pilot include the FA Cup final on May 15, when it is hoped that up to 21,000 fans will be allowed at Wembley Stadium.

Under the UK’s phased roadmap out of lockdown, entertainment venues can reopen their doors next week.

It was also announced that Welsh fans will be able to join in with the sports and cultural events trial, after a series of pilots were unveiled.

The Welsh national football team’s game against Albania will have 4,000 spectators on June 5 at Cardiff City Stadium, and both Newport County and Swansea City will be allowed crowds for their divisional play-off matches.

The first test event in Wales will be an Eid celebration at Cardiff Castle, which kicks off today and will run to May 14. It will welcome between 300 to 500 ticket holders for the religious celebration.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said, according to the BBC: “It’s been a long and difficult 18 months for the events industry in Wales – for event owners, those who depend on the sector for the work – and for those who long to see the return of live events to Wales.

“These events are very different in nature and location but access of attendees – whether participants or spectators – is strictly controlled by the organisers and agreed in advance.”