Could the UK's example of social distancing events work in T&T?
The layout for the Sam Fender music concert at the Virgin Money Unity Arena, a pop-up venue for the gig in Gosforth Park, Newcastle, northern England, Tuesday Aug. 11, 2020. (Owen Humphreys/PA via AP)
With rising COVID-19 cases delaying the re-opening of the entertainment sector indefinitely, it seems like it may be an eternity before we party or enjoy a live concert again.
If and when live events can be staged, the way they are structured may be different as long as the virus remains a credible threat.
All over the world, promoters have been toying with creative ways to stage live events. There have been drive in concerts in the United States and Europe, where people stay in their cars while a band plays on stage and virtual concerts where artistes perform live to audiences logged in on their phones and computers have almost become the norm.
The first socially distanced venue in the United Kingdom made international headlines last week and gave the industry a look at more possibilities as it drew 2500 patrons to see a band in concert.
According to Variety, the event featured 500 elevated platforms placed on a racing track field on the grounds of Gosforth Park in Newcastle upon Tyne in England. Each of the platforms were spaced two meters apart and held a maximum of five people.
All patrons were required to wear masks and intermingling was not allowed.
The promoters said that walking to and from the bathrooms were marked as one-way to avoid congestion and paths crossing while food and drinks were ordered remotely and delivered to the platforms.
The set up sparked debate all over the world including Trinidad and Tobago where many wondered of it could work here.
We sought the views of those who stage events particularly during the Carnival season and asked about any alternative options they have considered.
Dean Ackin, Tribe and Ultimate Events
If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that our species was created for community. The simplest gesture of a touch, a hug or even a smile, things we took for granted before, are at the top of the list of things we miss.
When it comes to events, we’ve come to see that the social interaction is perhaps the most important element to the fete-goer. Virtual events, and even the in-person one in the UK recently, offer an alternative - welcomed alternatives at that - but in my opinion, these are temporary solutions rather than replacements. The engagement of the five senses - sight, smell, sound, touch, and taste cannot be replicated fully. And for us, especially, Caribbean people, these aspects are essential. The ability to hug a friend you haven’t seen for a few months at a fete isn’t an experience that can be replaced.
As I said from the beginning of COVID, our industry was the most affected by the pandemic as there is no proper alternative for the social aspect of our type of events. We cannot effectively offer curb side pick-up, home delivery, take-away, virtual or other practical solutions as other businesses can.
Our team continues to explore alternatives but I do feel that a vaccine or treatments are the only real fix to our situation and I am confident that it will come.
We at TRIBE are using this opportunity to refresh and reinvent how we do Carnival and how we can expose Trinidad Carnival to the world when Carnival returns. Carnival means so much to the Caribbean people - socially, culturally and in so many other ways. Carnival is tradition. A tradition that itself emerged in response to challenging times. I believe it will return in all its glory, in one form, or another, for the world to see, post-pandemic.
Randy Glasgow, Randy Glasgow Productions and President Trinidad and Tobago Promoters Association
Firstly, the incoming minister of culture and the arts will have to start the conversation immediately whether Carnival 2021 could happen. We firmly adhere to the belief that people's safety and welfare must be the priority.
Judging from what was observed just on Sunday, one day before Government imposed new restrictions for the next 28 days to slow community spread of COVID-19 virus, where hundreds of citizens flock to beaches and rivers for a last lap, myself and other promoters know, you can't leave it up to some fete and culture lovers to make life saving and sensible decisions. Our organisation is presently paying close attention to televised events without venue audiences.
Because most of our events are concert styled, it could be a good option for us, but will have to monetise events to make up for no or limited audience patronage. Before year’s end we are working feverishly to present Chutney and cross over star, Raymond Ramnarine and DIL E NADAN in an international pay per view concert to be seen in USA, Canada, England, Mumbai India, Guyana, Suriname and TT. The success of this will determine how we plan in the event COVID-19 does not go away.
I have seen the picture with mini stages for patrons. It looks good but it will be very costly. Two hundred of those ramps could utilise the entire Queen's Park Oval grass outfield, six people per ramp by 200 gives you 1200 patrons. To be feasible each ticket will have to be in the vicinity of $500 to $600 to cover the cost of scaffolding alone. When you add the cost for talent, COVID-19 Protocols, venue rental, performance stage, sound, lighting, police, fire, copyright, marketing etc, it’s going to cost.
Private Ryan, Soca Brainwash
I think that an event like this will be challenging in Trinidad for a couple reasons, one, the way our patrons interact. It would have to be regulated very strictly that people need to stay in their spaces and just how our Carnival is, it may become difficult.
In terms of the way our laws work with fire, scaffolding and the inspection process, logistically, it will be challenging, not impossible, but very challenging to do. Then you will have to create an ushering system and you also have to figure out how do people get to the bathrooms, what will be the drink protocols because you can’t congregate by the bar. So you have to have a system in place to deal with that or do you do pre-packages for each one? It is something that will take a lot of thinking.
In terms of creative ways that events will be done, you will have to have different templates for different scenarios. So based on what the health protocols are going to be in terms of the number of people that can gather, that will then dictate what type of event you can do. So if you have 50 to 100 you can have small brunch parties and that will take a set of logistics. You have to decide if you are going to isolate people to their tables or cabanas and then going up to the large scale events, what would be the protocols for the sanitisation and when they enter, when they go to the food court? There is a lot to consider. In the absence of a vaccine the world is considerably different for events which is something we will have to collectively figure out.
Kerdyn Moe, Dignitariez Entertainment
In Trinidad we can’t say what we can do because we do not know what is going to be allowed. We have no idea. Until we really get the legislation about what we could do it is very difficult to have a direction.
I do think, however, that something like that could work in Trinidad. I am not going to say no because anytime you say no you are not giving yourself any mind-set to say how could things be done.
Buju’s concert in Trinidad basically had the same setting for the VVIP section with the cabanas on an elevated stage. It was a different concept that wasn’t done in Trinidad before. It is like you are going to an event and you have a whole set of cabanas, only the freedom of movement will be different as you need to have access to the bathrooms, food or a bar.
I would look at his and see how this could be done. What is the cost for scaffolding? We might have to do it in wood or vinyl and once you know what you could do you could get creative to see how it could be done. You might get a venue that costs next to nothing so you could put your money into security, into infrastructure. You could differentiate your price depending on the materials used and proximity to the stage.
There are things you can do with the artistes too, build a fancy cat walk so they could still get interaction from the crowd or let them walk through the crowd. It is all about the creative juices that you have, there is plenty upside to it.
People are so cooped up right now any option to go out they will go.