First Dance for Symphotech at Liverpool test event
Tuesday, 11 May 2021
will-nicola-eddyThe Symphotech team on site - Will Hodgson, Nicola O’Boyle and Eddy Grant
UK - Eyes in the UK and across the World focused on Liverpool’s Bramley Moore Dock successful test events, at Circus, hailing the return of live music from lockdown, with two nights of dance music (30 April/1 May), with over 6,000 people in the audience and Symphotech managing the health & safety.
Symphotech worked from the conception of the test events, supporting the organisers, Circus Music and The Events Company UK, to create a Covid safe event. With the emphasis on the research and test event aspect of the shows, protocols had to meet the criteria required by the scientists and multiple stakeholders.
Symphotech director Eddy Grant was their project leader, producing a detailed, constantly evolving risk analysis for the staff and the audience. He explains: “When the roadmap out of lockdown was announced by the government, in February, I spoke with Sam Newson (The Events Company UK), Richard McGinnis (Circus Music) and Culture Liverpool, aware that DCMS were favouring Liverpool as a location. All were enthusiastic to ‘Make Events Happen’ and the ensuing months have been spent considering the additional challenges to working a normal gig.
“The almost daily shifting sands of the science meant we weren’t certain which elements the scientists were going to look at, with the additional protocols each brought into the frame adding to our planning.”
Speaking on site, Sam Newson states: “Eddy has worked very closely with me in the weeks leading in to these shows. The science has been changing daily to trigger us figuring out what we had to do; not just for this weekend, but for the whole industry to be able to come back. We’ve been working hand-in-hand with Public Health England, DCMS, local health and licensing officials. All have been on site and scrutinising the details of what we’ve done and they are happy that we have delivered things correctly.
“It’s also about looking beyond this weekend to leave a legacy of protocols to create an event roadmap for others to reference and learn from. Only through collaboration with people across this incredible industry of creative, ‘can do’ professionals, can we produce a sustainable way of working with COVID into the future.
“It is the first COVID-safe dance event for 15 months–so it’s been a lot of pressure on Eddy and I to get it right. It’s a massive risk – not knowing what is going to happen with the COVID results post-event. But it has also been a special moment: it feels like we’re making history. I have picked a production team we have worked with for a long time.
“I’ve worked with Symphotech for seven years, so I trust Eddy implicitly. We have been so tight in planning and delivering this with their team on site. He holds his corner well and we’ve both been learning the science developments on a daily basis and updating plans.”
The audience was drawn exclusively from the City of Liverpool and aware they were taking part in a scientific test. Staff and media came from wider afield across the UK. All had to submit a negative COVID- test 24 hours prior to coming on site. The audience attended a local test centre, to do a lateral flow test, and the result sent via their NHS App, linked to their digital ticket. Staff carried out PCR tests and everyone was asked to submit another test result five days after the event to assess the impact of potential spread.
Eddy explains: “The Events Company UK has always embraced new technology. To make a better, secure, experience for the audience they integrated their ticketing system with the NHS app and the cashless payment system.
“The home lateral flow test is so simple to self-administer: if that’s what it’s going to take to get gigs back on then, I’m all for it.”
Outside of protocols, the science and technology, this was culturally very interesting, Eddy continues: “When I saw Acorn arriving, putting the ‘steels’ in, it was a moment when this felt real and it was going to happen (although some of the final permissions were only released at the last minute!).
Alongside Eddy from Symphotech, for the weekend, were director Will Hodgson and Nicola O’Boyle, Will comments:
“This has been a special weekend of shows for so many reasons, being the first music event with no social distancing or facemasks. I have loved seeing the smiles on young people’s faces as they have come in and clearly been so excited to be finally coming to a live gig. This was a young, fresh audience, who hadn’t been to a gig for 15 months - if ever! It felt like an ‘end of year prom’ having being locked up for so long.”
There will be some incisive debriefing of the First Dance event and the neighbouring Sefton Park outdoor gig with the Blossoms held the following day, as to whether, and how, live music and nightclub events can return.
Sam explains some of the future economic implications; “Arts Council funding allowed us to produce this event to the high standard we’d expect with all the additional requirements for Covid. We have used more freelancers to allow double crews, meaning we’ve had over 400 staff on this “nightclub” test event.
“We’ve had different crews for load-in/event/load-out days, four times as many dressing rooms with enhanced cleaning, a larger press room, 200 hand sanitisers, added screens to bars, fogging overnight, in addition to a time-consuming planning process. All of these things cost money and will affect the economics of any future event.
“I expect there to be a big onus on our duty of care to look after our professional event staff, so a lot of these elements were about staff safety.”

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