An outdoor music venue in Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom, is scheduled to open later this summer at the city’s horse racing course, and the organizers have hinted that some big-name acts have signed up to play there.
While the stage of the Virgin Money Unity Arena looks like any outdoor festival stage, arrangements for the audience are uniquely designed to keep them socially distant. A series of raised platforms mean that concert-goers can be grouped together in small numbers and dance inside their own fenced and gated area without coming into contact with the whole audience. Presumably, given the U.K.’s notoriously wet weather (think of the mud photos from the Glastonbury festival every year), the platforms could also have open-sided tents covering each platform. The venue has the backing of Newcastle City Council and is being launched with funding from Virgin Money, a model that could easily be replicated in the U.S.
For meeting planners, this new model offers some ideas that could be repurposed for large meetings, sales events, and product launches done either indoors or outdoors. First, the raised platforms mean open aisles between them are free for attendees to go to a restroom or a different session, with less likelihood of spreading virus droplets while edging between seats in traditional long rows. The same applies for latecomers, since they will walk down aisles beneath the rest of the attendees and won’t block the stage or create other disruptions.
Second, the open aisles make coffee and snack delivery easy for waitstaff. The platforms could be designed with seating, and offer opportunities for sponsors or association chapters to reserve a few and invite their own guests. The venue is also going to use mobile bathrooms with separate entrances and exits, and hopes that pre-ordered food and drinks will avoid lines at F&B outlets.
This kind of innovative thinking can help ease the return of large gatherings until the pandemic subsides, providing safety and potential sponsorship opportunities both now and in the future.