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Masks and antibacterial foggers: How The O2 is bringing back live music

Written by on 5 October 2020

The O2 arena has announced details of its first live music gig for nine months – with Squeeze set to play to a reduced audience, with strict cleaning measures in place.

A major step forward in getting the live entertainment industry back up and running during the coronavirus pandemic, the socially distanced show on 5 December will see the London venue’s capacity reduced to less than a quarter – from 20,000 to 4,700.

Electrostatic antibacterial foggers have been brought in to spray across all surfaces around the venue, providing protection for up to 30 days, a media release about the event said. There will also be a “heightened cleaning regime before, during and after” the show.

Image:
Country To Country Festival at the venue was one of thousands of gigs and festivals around the world called off during the pandemic

Best known for hits including Cool For Cats and Up The Junction in the late 70s and 80s, southeast London band Squeeze said it was working hard to ensure a memorable gig.

Lead singer Glenn Tilbrook said: “I am so thrilled to be playing The O2 with Squeeze and to be able to chalk up another first for us on this hallowed ground, previously the site of a gasworks, whose social club featured a double bill of [bandmate and songwriter] Chris Difford and myself with Bucks Fizz’s Cheryl Baker.

“That was a long time ago. We are putting a lot of time and energy into this show to make it one not to forget. See you there!”

During the pandemic, artists such as Frank Turner have hosted online shows and a number of socially distanced gigs have taken place, with Sam Fender opening the Virgin Money Unity Arena in Newcastle, which ran for a month.

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On Friday, Tom Grennan played at Brixton Academy, with the gig streamed to fans.

However, live shows for fans in person have been difficult to bring back, and artists and venue managers have warned the industry is in crisis.

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Frank Turner: 'If small venues go, they'll be hard to replace'

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O2 general manager and vice president Steve Sayer said staff have worked hard to make the gig work, but the restrictions in place will not be a long-term solution.

“We have been working incredibly hard to bring back events at The O2 and put measures in place to ensure our fans will have a safe and COVID-19 secure experience,” he said.

“At the moment, we’re only able to host under a quarter of our capacity in the arena, so this is not a long-term solution for us or other venues and we continue to press the government for targeted support and guidance to get the live events industry and its supply chain back on its feet.”

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Tickets for the Squeeze gig will be contactless using the venue’s app and sold in groups of twos, threes and fours only, with seats left empty between each group and one-way routes in place.

Fans will have to wear face masks at all times, except when eating and drinking, and will only be allowed to take in clear bags.

For six weeks during the pandemic, The O2 was turned into an NHS training facility for those going on to work at the NHS Nightingale Hospital at ExCel London.

Towards the beginning of lockdown, Liam Gallagher announced a gig for key workers to take place at the venue at the end of October, but this was called off as the pandemic continued.