UK to Test Non-social Distanced Music Festival With 5,000 People

This concert is a test to see what a post-pandemic future might actually look like.

People are eager to get back to "normal" after over a year of COVID-19 restrictions, but some activities will require some extra testing to make sure they're safe.

In the UK, music promoter Festival Republic, in collaboration with the British government and Culture Liverpool, will be testing out a non-social distanced, outdoor music festival at Sefton Park in Liverpool on May 2, according to CNN. With over 5,000 people expected to attend without requiring masks or distancing, the concert could provide crucial data about how much longer the world might have to go without big gatherings.

Festival Republic is throwing this massive event in accordance with the government's Events Research Programme, which will test out how major venues, including sports stadiums, theaters, wedding venues, conference centers, and nightclubs, can operate as safely as possible in the coming summer months. With the COVID-19 pandemic still happening (despite ongoing vaccine distribution), people are looking for some glimpse at normal life after over a year of quarantines.

"We're one step closer to a summer of live events now our science-led programme is underway. Testing different settings and looking at different mitigations is key to getting crowds back safely," said Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden in a statement on the British government website.

A view of fans wearing protective masks while Spanish rapper Rayden performs on stage at La Riviera
A view of fans wearing protective masks while Spanish rapper Rayden performs on stage at La Riviera as part of the Live Nation's Crew Nation charity concert series on July 25, 2020 in Madrid, Spain. Mariano Regidor/Redferns

Other countries are also testing out these large events, including Spain. In Barcelona, 5,000 music fans attended a concert at Barcelona's Palau Sant Jordi concert hall back in March. Medical-grade face masks and same-day rapid tests were required for attendance, though social distancing was not required.

Ticket holders for the Sefton Park Pilot concert will be asked to observe mask and social distancing guidelines before arriving at the concert and submit proof of a negative COVID-19 test before entry and give contact details for the NHS Test and Trace program, according to a statement from the British government website. Attendees will also need to take another COVID-19 rapid test after the concert as well in order to provide data to the Events Research Programme.

"These pilots will inform our approach to ensuring future big events can take place safely. By trialing a range of measures to reduce transmission, we are able to gather vital evidence to inform our plans for allowing events in the future," said Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock in the statement.

Other events have been planned as part of the program. The first event, World Snooker Championships at the Sheffield Crucible Theatre, began on April 17 and will be ongoing through May 3.

Only Liverpool citizens may attend the Sefton Park Pilot concert on May 2. Blossoms, an indie rock band from Stockport, will be headlining. Tickets are £29.50 GBP (about $41 USD) per person and can be applied for online. More information about the Events Research Programme can be found on the British government website.

Andrea Romano is a freelance writer in New York City. Follow her on Twitter @theandrearomano.

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