Coronafun: Music Fans Isolated in Pens at UK’s First ‘Socially Distanced’ Gig

WEST HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 09: Sam Fender performs on stage at the 28th Annual Elton John AIDS Foundation Academy Awards Viewing Party sponsored by IMDb, Neuro Drinks and Walmart on February 09, 2020 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images)
Mike Coppola/Getty Images

Music fans in “bubbles” of five were placed in pens in Britain’s first socially-distanced outdoor gig in Newcastle, England.

Some 2,500 people turned up on Tuesday evening to see musician Sam Fender play at Gosforth Park, a venue which could ordinarily hold 45,000 people. Likely the first of many events to be held in a socially-distanced fashion, organisers Virgin Money and SSD Concerts set up 500 pens two metres (six-and-a-half feet) apart.

Food and drinks could be ordered for delivery to the pens and a one-way system was in place to stop people interacting, according to a Mirror report on Wednesday. And, unusually for a rock concert, there were ample free toilets.

SSD Concerts’ Steve Davis said: “As you can see, it’s a vast site — 45,000 sq metres, the equivalent of over six football pitches, which is crazy.”

Mr Davis continued: “On a normal day you can get 45,000 people in here, but our capacity for the gigs will be 2,500.

“We’ve also got lots more toilets than we would usually have for normal festivals to keep people apart.

“Hopefully, groups together on their platforms in their own bubbles will have a good time and still get the vibe of a really good concert experience.”

While some said they enjoyed the format, others said on social media, according to The Mirror, that they did not like the future of live entertainment if it looked like this.

“Love Sam Fender but if that’s what the future is, count me out. That’s not what gigs are for me. It’s the atmosphere of being surrounded by others captivated by what’s going on on the stage loving life,” one said.

Tickets for the limited gig reportedly sold out in minutes, with the BBC stating that Van Morrison and The Libertines are also lined up to play in August and September.

This is not the first instance of the strange new world of socialising under coronavirus. In May, restaurants in the Netherlands reopened with tables enclosed in greenhouses to keep people socially distanced, while Germany has seen drive-in discos.

Italy also introduced plexiglass dividers to separate diners, with many shops and hairdressers demanding to take patrons’ temperatures before entering.

For months, citizens across Europe have been subjected to restrictive and sometimes bizarre lockdown rules. In June, the British government effectively made it illegal for people who do not live together to have sex. The government banned “gatherings” inside houses of two or more people not of the same household in measures that were supposed to alleviate the restrictions put down in March.

The law’s small print said that “no person may, without reasonable excuse, stay overnight at any place other than the place where they are living”, or risk facing a fine of up to £100.

Lawyers debated the issue on Twitter, with one pointing out that it may be permissible if one of the people were a prostitute, as it would be “reasonably necessary” for the sex worker to be in a stranger’s house “for work purposes”.

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