WORDS BY NICK GORDON BROWN
It’s so close, you can almost touch it. Australia is partying, Barcelona has had test runs, Merseyside is about to. We talk to Yousef from Liverpool’s Circus, as we look at the test events that are playing a crucial role in the build up to a summer where we all hope to dance again.
“It was part of a very long road and countless requests for support for our industry. I knocked on the door at Liverpool council, asking ‘how do we get back to events?’. This led to many high-profile conversations with lots of MPs, Kier Starmer [UK leader of the opposition], and even a long private chat with Prince William. Eventually when Liverpool got the green light for pilot events, Liverpool council and my excellent team at Circus discussed how we could do this. With 3 weeks’ notice we got the approval to move forward. Making it happen from that point to this has been EASILY the most complicated work experience of my or my team’s professional career.” - Yousef
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Circus is a Liverpool institution, as is its founder and resident DJ, Yousef - and this coming weekend, the eyes of the clubbing world will be firmly fixed on the 21st century house music man and his guests. Circus is hosting two parties as part of the UK government’s pilot scheme for re-launching large scale events. “3,000 people per day are allowed to enter once they have a negative LFT [lateral flow test]. No covid related restrictions apply inside.”
The media interest is intense. “This is my next 24hrs: CNN, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Washington Post, NY Times, NY Times podcast, ITV, Channel 4, Vice, Mixmag, DJ Mag, Pioneer documentary, BBC podcast and TV, Channel 9 Australia, major Indian TV, Anfield Rap podcast [Liverpool FC], Global News channel, Capital Radio, Radio 1, The Guardian, The Times, The Daily Telegraph, The I newspaper, local papers, Radio City [Liverpool], The Liverpool Echo and loads more.”
Last month, it was the city of Barcelona under a similar spotlight. 5,000 rock fans snapped up tickets for an indoor concert by the indie band Love of Lesbian, part of the ‘Festivals for Safe Culture’ initiative organised by Spanish promoters. However, they didn’t have to take all the risk, with a mix of public funds and private sponsorship helping cover the additional costs of running a covid-compliant event.
A previous test run in the Catalan city had taken place in December, when the promoters of the Primavera Sound festival ran a party with rapid tests on the door for all attendees, who then all had follow-up tests 8 days later. Overall, the results (in terms of the events not leading to a spike in transmission of the virus) were very encouraging, as has been the case with evidence gathering in the Netherlands, where the government and nightlife industry have teamed up to support a series of test events overseen by the science research organisation Fieldlab, with mobile apps and motion trackers to the fore.
Hurdles aplenty remain, as challenges and potential solutions are juggled. Can the need for face masks and social distancing be eliminated? Can a more reliable rapid test be developed? Will so-called vaccine passports be demanded / accepted? Can improved ventilation systems really help stop the spread? To what extent will governments support the nightlife and festival industries, be it via grants, loans, or underwriting potential insurance claims?
But let us end on a positive note. Defected’s Director Of Events George Pritchard told us: “The government pilot scheme this weekend for the events programme is a huge step forward for our industry. Hats off to Yousef, Rich and the Circus crew for putting this on. The news really concentrates on the negatives and this is something to really shout about, it is extremely positive and forward thinking. Fingers crossed it goes well and good luck all!”
And how excited/nervous is Yousef on a scale of 1-10?
“10 on both. The responsibility to make this all work has been absolutely unbelievable. We have the finest teams working on this so it will be the best it can be. I’m looking forward to playing music to a proper crowd more than anything.”
Learn more about the upcoming test event here. Our first outdoor event, Defected London on 24th & 25th July at Drumsheds, is sold out, but sign up at defected.com/london for re-sale access and to be the first to hear ticket news.