London’s The O2 has today (Monday) announced full-capacity reopening plans with a series of ‘Welcome Back’ events to kick off in August.

The news comes as COVID-19 restrictions in the UK are eased today for the penultimate time before the planned full reopening on June 21. The move has paved the way for many venues to reopen for the first time since closing their doors in March 2020.

The 20,000-capacity venue will reopen to full crowds in August for the first time since last year, with ‘Mo Gilligan and Friends and The Black British Takeover’ as the first show to be announced. The comedian will perform at The O2 on December 8, with tickets to go on sale on May 21.

Working in partnership with O2 to launch and deliver The Welcome Back Shows, fans using the Priority app will have exclusive access to buy tickets for each show 48 hours before anyone else.

Emma Bownes, vice-president of programming for AEG Europe, the owner and operator of The O2, said: “The Welcome Back Shows mark a really exciting moment for The O2 and for our fans, as we get ready to welcome full capacity crowds back to the venue after such a long period.

“We’re planning a stunning string of events that will bring the best in comedy, dance, afrobeat, rock and pop to London and give fans what they’ve been waiting for. We’re delighted to be launching our return season with the very best of British comedy and know that hearing The O2 arena roar with 20,000 laughs is the tonic we all need.”

The announcement comes after the London venue last week hosted The Brits awards ceremony welcoming 4,000 people 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 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.

As live music begins to grace UK stages once more, Jon Davies, managing director, Levy UK + Ireland, said the firm has been doing a “tremendous amount of work” behind the scenes with its venue partners.

Levy runs the catering for venues such as The O2 arena, Wimbledon Tennis, Twickenham, Chelsea FC and Tottenham Hotspur, among others.

Davies said cashless technology, dynamic queuing and digital screens will play a key role in managing social distancing and other health measures as fans return.

He said: “After a tumultuous year, the confirmation from the government that fans will be able to return to sports and entertainment venues from the 17th May is very welcome news. We have done a tremendous amount of work behind the scenes with our venue partners in order to prepare for the safe return of fans, and to ensure that they are offered the exciting and memorable experiences they have been waiting for throughout the lockdown.

“We’re working hand in hand with all our teams to ensure they feel safe and confident to come back into the workplace with extensive re-induction and training programmes alongside our ‘See, Care, Share’ approach, which empowers them to speak up about any anxieties and to inform improvements that can be made across all areas of the company.”

Image: William Hook / CC BY-SA 2.0 / Edited for size