Is Social Distancing at Gigs the Future of Live-Music?

On Tuesday 11 August, after almost 4 months of radio silence, there was a glimmer of hope for the music and live events industry.

In Gosforth Park, Newcastle, the UK’s first ever socially distanced concert was performed to an audience of over 2500 people. This remarkable feat of social distancing and crowd control was achieved by using 500 individually raised platforms, spaced out two metres apart to ensure social distancing. Each platform could accommodate groups of up to five people, giving the pop-up ‘Virgin Money Unity Arena’ a 2500 capacity.

With the live music industry contributing around 1.1 billion to the UK economy and employing hundreds of thousands of people, socially distanced concerts and gigs could play a crucial role in getting the live-music industry back on its feet and could potentially provide a model example for other areas of the entertainment sector.


How Did They Maintain Social Distancing?

While your average concert requires immense preparation, risk assessments and health and safety planning, a socially distanced concert presents all these usual challenges plus added crowd control and social distancing management. Besides the unique seating arrangements, the organisers implemented a number of measures to ensure social distancing measures were followed and that guests were safeguarded from coronavirus.  Here’s a quick breakdown of how the concert went down:



After purchasing their tickets online, concert goers were asked to provide their car registration number and were allocated a time to arrive at the venue and park up. Groups sharing one of the 500 raised platforms were asked to arrive together in the same car. Upon arrival, guests were required to show their e-tickets to security staff, who then directed them to the car park. Staggering the arrival times of attendees prevented overcrowding and longer queuing times.



To ensure crowds were safely managed whilst entering the venue, a socially distanced queuing system was implemented. To help aid social distancing, crash barriers were used to contain the queue and marks were painted on the grass at 2-metre intervals. Security staff were also on hand to direct groups to their individual platforms, check bags and ensure order was maintained.


Food and Drink

To keep the concert as authentic as possible, drinks and snacks could be purchased during the performance. To prevent crowds gathering and groups intermingling, drinks and food could be pre-ordered or ordered on the night via an app. The items were then delivered by staff to the platforms for guest to enjoy before or during the concert.


The Concert

Once on the platform, or ‘pod’, concert goers were not permitted to leave their designated area, unless they needed a trip to the portaloos. To ensure all guests could use the shared facilities safely, a one-way system was introduced to prevent crowding. There were also a large number of portaloos available to reduce queuing. These were cleaned regularly throughout the performance to maintain high hygiene standards, with hand sanitiser also readily available before and after use.

To ensure health and safety throughout the concert, posters dotted around the venue reminded concert goers to ‘Please regularly use hand sanitiser’, ‘Please don’t swap platforms’ and ‘Please stay in your viewing area’. To protect both employees and guests from COVID-19 transmission, all staff had been trained in health and safety best practices and were equipped with masks and hand sanitiser.



As the concert came to an end, groups were escorted back to their cars by staff to prevent a large crowd exiting the venue at once. Security staff were on hand to provide further direction and to ensure that social distancing was properly observed.


Is This the Future of Concerts?

Are the days of mosh pits and crowded gigs over? For the time being it would appear so. The realities of living with COVID-19 make shoulder to shoulder contact impossible in more areas of our lives, including at entertainment venues.

Public reaction to the UK’s first socially distanced concert was largely positive, with people preferring this more civilised and ordered approach to the usual crowds.

One regular concert goer commented “I wasn’t sure what to expect but it was an amazing experience. You had your own space, no one was pushing you around, really well organised. Fantastic night.”

Another commented “I really like this! Cannot stand paying £100 to be sweated on and squashed against a barrier”.

Some negative comments included “Imagine sitting still at a rave or metal concert. Pure suffering.”

Of course, those diehard mosh pit fans will no doubt be disappointed, but social distancing is a small price to pay to enjoy live music again. Indeed, a concert critic from Stereogum commented “It feels like it works because the crowd wants it to. There’s a real sense of community evident, dedicated to getting this thing off the ground”.

Some commentators questioned the financial viability of the venue, highlighting “Isn’t this going to put the prices up? Providing and setting up loads of mini stages, massively reduced capacity.” While this could prove true for some indoor venues, tickets for these outdoor concerts range from £30-£50 depending on the size of your group and the artist you’re seeing.


What About Indoor Gigs?

Although socially distanced gigs have been permitted since August 15, two thirds of music venues in the UK either cannot physically adapt their space to accommodate social distancing or are no longer financially viable when operating at reduced capacity. Indeed, some music venues have noted that opening their doors with reduced capacity could cause them to go bankrupt. Other say that accommodating social distancing for toilets or at the bar was impossible for their venue size.

Unlike the success of the socially distanced concert, the UK’s first socially distanced indoor gig was branded “unsuccessful” and proven financially unviable for music venues. The Government-supported gig, featuring artist Frank Turner, was performed at Clapham Grand to around 200 socially distanced attendees, a mere 20% of the venue’s usual 1250 capacity.

Sadly, the performance did not take in enough revenue to cover the venue’s operating costs or the artist fees and therefore provided no viable solution to the struggling live events sector. Given the unpromising result of this trial-gig, both live-music lovers and industry employees will no doubt be relieved that this first outdoor performance proved a resounding success.


Are you looking for qualified security officers to ensure your socially distanced event is safe and successful?

Churchill Support Services has got you covered. No matter what type of event your planning, our SIA-licensed security officers will ensure your guests, employees and performers are safe and socially distancing. We can supply qualified social distancing marshals to supervise your event and to make sure it’s memorable for all the right reasons. To protect themselves, our clients and the general public, all our officers are trained in the latest COVID-19 guidelines and health and safety.


Churchill Support Services is a leading cross-industry security company supplying professional and comprehensive security solutions to organisations seeking expert Security Guards, CCTV & Event Security, Key Holding & Alarm Response, Mobile Patrols and Thermal Imaging & People Flow.

To find out more about how Churchill Support Services can protect your business, contact us today.

Andy Farley

Operations Director

Andy is an experienced operations and sales professional with over 20 years’ experience. As Churchill Support Services Operations Director, Andy is responsible for service delivery to new and existing clients throughout the UK, managing the 24 hour control room, the supervisory team and Operations Managers, and for driving efficiencies and best practice standards within the organisation.