Fans react as Sam Fender opens UK’s first socially distanced outdoor venue

"It’s the future! At least for the foreseeable"

Sam Fender performed the UK’s first socially distanced outdoor show this evening – and fans have taken to social media to give their verdict.

The ‘Hypersonic Missiles’ artist headlined the new Virgin Money Unity Arena at Newcastle Racecourse tonight (August 11), with 2,500 attendees watching on from 500 platforms which were spaced two metres apart from one another.

Throughout the event, those in attendance have posted images and footage online while offering their thoughts on the ‘new normal’ for live music.


One fan on Twitter said that the gig felt “very civilised”, adding: “Seems to work. [500] pens with 5 family/friends per pen. Sensible loo/bar/food arrangements. It’s the future! At least for the foreseeable.”


Commenting on a photo of the arena, a second wrote: “My hatred for human contact with people I don’t know really, realllyyy approves of this.”

Meanwhile, audience member Tracy said she had a “fantastic night” and that the event was “brilliantly organised”. Captioning an image of the stage from her platform, Alisha posted: “The first socially distanced concert was absolutely surreal but really well thought out.”

Others, however, weren’t so sure about the post-lockdown concert format. “Love Sam Fender but if that’s what the future is, count me out,” wrote Ashley Smith. “That’s not what gigs are for me. It’s the atmosphere of being surrounded by others captivated by what’s going on on the stage loving life.”

Another fan, Vicky, said: “It’s a huge venue so it’s possible to social distance but. Y’all it’s not time.” Elsewhere, Twitter user Sarah wrote: “It all looks very strange but fair play to the organisers for finding a way to get live music out there again.”

You can see those posts and more reactions below.

Also scheduled to perform at Virgin Money Unity Arena throughout the month are the likes of The LibertinesTwo Door Cinema Club and Supergrass – you can find more information here.

Headed up by the team behind Newcastle’s This Is Tomorrow Festival and SSD Concerts, the new outdoor venue has a one-way system in place, allowing for the safe and full use of toilet facilities.

Steve Davis, the managing director of SSD Concerts, said of the gig series: “Since all of our scheduled concerts have been postponed to later in the year and all venues in the city closed, the staff at SSD had a willingness to continue.

“We can’t be without music during these times so our only thought has been how can we bring music back to the British public safely and responsibly.”

This comes after the first government-backed socially distanced show took place last month, which saw Frank Turner performing to just 200 fans at the 1250-capacity Clapham Grand.

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