The Co-op Arena

Late Opening - Comedian Peter Kay and indie rock duo the Black Keys have rescheduled dates at the Manchester Co-op Arena due to the venue still not being “ready”. The £365m venue, which is meant to be the biggest indoor arena in the UK, was meant to open on Tuesday 23 April, with Kay set to perform an opening show. But the date has been pushed back several times amid safety problems and technical setbacks.

Writing to his fans on X on Friday, Kay said: “To everybody with tickets, my apologies once again but unfortunately the Co-op Live still isn’t ready and so, as yet, remains untested for a large-scale audience. Consequently, they are having to reschedule my two shows yet again (I know I can’t believe it either).”

On Monday the arena said that Kay's performances would take place on 29 and 30 April, but that has now been moved to 23 and 24 May. Ohio rockers the Black Keys were due to play on Saturday 27 April but have now agreed to perform on 15 May.

The Co-op Arena's general manager Gary Roden announced his resignation on Thursday over the delays. In an interview with the Manchester Evening News, Tim Leiweke, the chairman and chief executive of developer Oak View Group (OVG), laid out a number of safety issues holding back the arena's opening.

"The biggest bugaboo has been the request [for] a special radio system that is for the police only on their system," he said, adding that the system was being installed ahead of policy testing it out. Now, that was a bit of a curveball for us. That wasn't something that people were telling us three years ago, or two years ago, or a year ago.

"We get why the police want it. We're the only arena in the UK that will have this exclusive secure line just for the police department. But it takes a couple of extra days."

In a joint statement, Manchester City Council, Greater Manchester Police, Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service, and North West Ambulance Service also said some "remaining internal security systems" also required some extra work, but said work was "progressing quickly" in all areas.

Big Ideas - A plea for theatre to follow in the footsteps of gigs, cinema screenings and books by publishing sales figures has won the Big Ideas debate at this year’s Future of Theatre conference, in association with Moore Kingston Smith. Andrew Ladd, senior product strategist for Ten4 Design, said his proposal was inspired by his "side hustle as a published novelist", which allowed anyone in the world to search his sales online any time they wished to do so. Ladd received 39% of votes for his proposal for "building a shared, totally transparent repository of granular, week-by-week" data on how well productions are selling.

His idea beat proposals including the abolition of drama school tuition fees, put forward by LAMDA principal and chief executive Mark O’Thomas, and wellness coach Crystal Nicholls’ suggestion that productions provided wellness coaching programmes for cast and creatives. Performance Infinity’s founder and executive director Joanna Dong imagined a world in which 3D printing put an end to the expense of transporting set and costume for touring, while Chloe Sharland, co-founder and artistic director of Everything Theatrical, put forth her idea for an artist-to-artist marketplace to resell show materials.

Family-friendly - A ‘family-friendly’ music festival is set to return after a decade-long break. GuilFest will take place at Stoke Park, in Guildford, Surrey, on the weekend of 29-30 June, with the town’s The Stranglers as the headline act on the Saturday. The punk band, which formed as the Guildford Stranglers in 1974, are appearing as part of a 50th anniversary tour. Festival organiser Tony Scott said: “We’ve been waiting a long time to get the show on the road again and everything has come together for 2024."

The festival will also feature Eurovision runner up Sam Ryder, who is the headliner on the final night. Also on the bill during the two-day festival are Black Grape, The Blockheads, the Bootleg Beatles, From the Jam and Eddie and the Hotrods. GuildFest ran for 22 years until its last event in 2014.

In The Mix - The BBC has announced a mega Proms season for 2024, with 90 concerts that mix traditional repertoire with concerts by Florence + The Machine, Sam Smith and Bristol's Paraorchestra. After a lean period during Covid, international orchestras are back in full force, with performances from the Berlin Philharmonic, Orchestre de Paris and the West-Eastern Divan. And there will be a tribute to Sir Andrew Davis, the jovial conductor who led the Last Night concert on a dozen occasions, after his death last week.

Storied pieces like Britten's War Requiem and Verdi's Requiem will rub shoulders with a Doctor Who Prom, a concert dedicated to folk-rock troubadour Nick Drake, and an evening of music by Pink Panther composer Henry Mancini. Florence + The Machine will make her Proms debut, with a new orchestral arrangement of her debut album Lungs, while Sam Smith will give the same treatment to their debut In The Lonely Hour.

Moving Swiftly On - Taylor Swift's latest album, The Tortured Poets Department, has topped the UK charts with the biggest first-week sales in seven years. The 31-track double album shifted 270,000 UK chart units in seven days, eclipsing her previous personal best of 204,000 for her 2022 album, Midnights. The last time an album sold more in its first week was in 2017, when Ed Sheeran's Divide sold 670,000 copies. Swift now matches Madonna as the female artist with the most UK number ones.

(Jim Evans)

30 April 2024

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