With “regular” concerts and mass gatherings on hold around the world in the summer of coronavirus, the Newcastle Racecourse in Newcastle upon Tyne, England is being converted into the U.K.’s first music venue specifically designed for social distancing.
The racecourse, which has hosted horse races regularly since 1882, has been reconfigured for live concerts with personal, raised platforms for each cluster of guests and strict rules regarding parking, concessions, bathrooms, and more to keep fans safe while attending shows during the ongoing pandemic. The 2,500-capacity Virgin Money Unity Arena is set to open this August, with the initial artist lineup set to be released on Tuesday, July 7.
As Steve Davis, the managing director of SSD Concerts, noted in a statement, “Since all of our scheduled concerts have been postponed to later in the year and all venues in the city closed, the staff at SSD had a willingness to continue. … We can’t be without music during these times so our only thought has been how can we bring music back to the British public safely and responsibly. … We have been hosting loads of live sessions and DJ sets across our social media, supporting local artists and raising money for the NHS. Now, we’re taking it one step further as the UK slowly comes out of Lockdown. Working with our brand new partner Virgin Money has been exciting and we think even in these hard times the people of the north east will come out in their thousands to see the artists they love.”
Davis also noted that further announcements will be made in the coming weeks and that they have “several high-profile artists signed up.” This latest development follows the slew of drive-in performances that have begun popping up around the world as an alternative to conventional concerts. Various music venues have also attempted to restructure in order to support social distancing, though the results of those efforts have been decidedly mixed.
Added Newcastle City Council Cabinet member for Employment and Culture Ged Bell, “The city has a great reputation for hosting music and cultural events. While this pandemic has hit the sector particularly hard, the concert planned at the Racecourse is a brilliant innovation where people will be able to enjoy top bands in a safe, responsible and socially-distanced way. It is fantastic to see such a creative response to enable us to experience live performances once again.”
We have MAJOR news. We’ve partnered with SSD Concerts on the @VMUnityArena, a totally unique, socially distanced, drive-in music festival taking place in Newcastle this August – it’s going to be epic. Check out the details by following the link below!
— Virgin Money (@VirginMoney) July 3, 2020