No masks or distancing – the science behind the Brits

Behind the glitz of this year’s Brit Awards lies an unprecedentedly complex plan in pursuit of overcoming COVID-19 to bring back the joy of live music.

The Brit Awards is always a prominent night in the entertainment calendar but this year it’s a landmark event in the road to recovery.

After 14 months of venues standing closed, to finally be able to bring live music back to the stage is a milestone.

Image: Dua Lipa was among the first to arrive on the Brit Awards red carpet. Pic: Richard Young/Shutterstock

AEG’s chief executive Alex Hill told Sky News it’s been a logistical challenge to make the show not only possible, but completely free from masks and social distancing, with an audience of 4,000 (the biggest indoor event of its kind in more than a year).

It paints a picture of familiarity and freedom which seem almost alien in the shadow of the pandemic.

“There won’t be any social distancing restrictions, people won’t have to wear masks when they’re sitting in their seats. But before that is a very tough regime in terms of testing and hygiene measures to make sure that the event is safe.”

It’s 14 months since the last live event at the O2.

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“The music industry is worth £11 billion to the UK economy and employs 600,000 people… but I’m confident that the industry will bounce back. There is a huge demand for life events like music,” Hill added.

This is the latest pilot event in the government’s events research programme.

Culture Minister Caroline Dinenage said: “Music has been a great source of comfort and connection during the pandemic. Tonight we’ll bring the industry back together… and look ahead to the return of fans to live performances.”

People attend first massive concert since the beginning of COVID-19 pandemic in Barcelona
Image: People attended a trial concert in Barcelona in April

Data from a similar trial event in Barcelona saw no increase in coronavirus cases as a result, and as we await data from the Sefton Park Blossoms concert and Liverpool nightclub event, it’s hoped the Brit Awards will contribute to the scientific evidence needed to get venues open.

I’ve always been amazed at the logistics involved in hosting such big events. The ticketing, security, technology, transport, the roadies and techies, publicity, catering and creative direction behind making an event memorable for the audience makes the mind boggle.

But the effort that has gone into making the Brit Awards this year go ahead with a live audience of 4,000 (many key workers) is notable, because while it’s driven largely by the desire to get the industry back on its feet, it’s also one driven by a passion for live music which so many share.

Most couples have a special song: the tune that was playing when you gave birth, the break-up song, the last track from the most memorable gig.

Brit Awards winners will receive two trophies this year - an extra one to share with someone important
Image: Brit Awards winners will receive two trophies this year – an extra one to share with someone important

The devastation caused to this sector by the pandemic is one I feel personally about and which prompted me to make the Sky Arts and Sky News documentary Culture Interrupted.

One of the interviews from making the documentary that stayed with me was Katie Melua, who said, in an eerily empty Royal Albert Hall. “I don’t even know if I’ve been able to compute how it makes me feel, the fact that our industry is at a complete standstill… 170,000 people out of work, it seems to be completely undigestible to me.”

So today I am ridiculously excited to be invited to be in the audience of the Brit Awards. I am donning a frock and red lippie for the first time since February 2020 to mark the occasion. And if I’m completely honest – even though all attending will have had a negative test AND I’ve been vaccinated (the joys of being a certain age) – I am still a little nervous about the lack of social distancing.

It’s a long time since anyone did the showbiz air kiss with me. I never thought I’d miss all that. But perhaps I have?

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Documentary: Culture Interrupted

But social norms aside, just being back in the O2, where I’m lucky enough to have seen Prince and Fleetwood Mac in the past, will be really special.

It’s getting back that energy that has kept people in the music industry going through what’s been a particularly tough year.

The O2’s vice president and general manager Steve Sayer told Sky News that this feels like a big deal: “It’s a really important milestone, for all venues in the UK and frankly, the whole life of an industry. So, yeah, I guess there’s a little bit of pressure, but we’ve got a really experienced team here.

“The last few days of Brits have been building the set and building the stage and over the last couple of days have been rehearsing. You can just feel that the energy in the building is starting to flow again into the O2 Arena which is the beating heart of the place.”

Source : Sky News