by Kevin McManus, Liverpool City of Music
The joy that music can bring to all of us has just been underlined for me by the text I’ve just received from my niece Jess. She was so excited that my phone almost burst under the sheer weight of emoji’s signalling that I was dealing with a ridiculously happy 22 year old. (To be honest my understanding of emoji’s is limited but I got the broad message the various shapes were attempting to convey).
The reason that Jess was so ecstatic was that she had managed to secure a ticket for The First Dance club night being promoted by Circus at Bramley Moore warehouse this weekend. But it was also a sign of something much more than that. Going to a club or going to a gig is an important part of the lives of many people and these Circus nights will be an important part of learning how we can safely bring club and live music back so that we can all get out and enjoy them again.
Circus main man and local legend Yousef has put together an absolutely amazing line up of DJ’s over the two nights and I’m guessing that he will have had to fend off calls from hundreds of other big name DJs who will have been desperate to play in front of a live audience again. (I have to say I am a little bit disappointed that I didn’t even get a call back on my offer to play an opening set of classic Balearic /Bootle Big Beat, but hey that’s his loss). But in some ways the incredible DJ line up is irrelevant because what is really significant is that this thing is actually happening at all and it is happening right here in Liverpool.
Personally, as someone who has probably spent far too much of my life enjoying the myriad delights of venues and clubs across the city, I have missed live music more than anything else over the last year. I’ve missed that magic moment of when it all comes together and you and the rest of the audience know you are part of something special. Being at a gig or a club on one of those nights is a uniquely uplifting experience and I can’t wait for the chance to experience it again
The Circus club nights and the Blossoms gig in Sefton Park are happening here because Liverpool is taking part in the Government’s Events Research Project (ERP) and these pilot events will help to test safety at mass gatherings. They will play a vital role in helping to provide scientific evidence which will inform plans for reopening later this year and will be crucial in finding ways to get audiences back safely without social distancing. Our event experience and the knowledge gained from acting as a pilot city for mass testing means that we have the knowledge to deliver complicated projects like these safely. As a city we also know the significance of events for our wider culture and economy. We should have some pride in the fact that we are playing a role in hopefully opening up the wider sector across the country.
There was initially a small amount of negativity around these pilot events which to be honest I found baffling. What could be wrong about being at the front of the queue to get events going again? Thankfully the naysayers were few and far between and the overwhelming response from people was an outpouring of joy, excitement and sheer gratitude that Circus were giving them something to look forward to after a long hard year.
I’ve seen at close quarters how much work these events have involved, bringing in colleagues from Culture Liverpool, Public Health, and across the council as well as some big brains of people at the University of Liverpool. The promoters of these events are putting themselves out there too. I can guarantee that the two promoters behind Circus and the Sefton Park gig will never have had to do so much work for one single event of this size. Even the gig goers themselves have to commit to more than just paying their money over for a ticket. They have had to register individually to buy a ticket and agree to taking a lateral flow test at one of the city’s test centres the day before the event. It isn’t compulsory but ideally they will also take a home PCR test within a specified number of days after the event. That’s a lot more barriers than you would normally have to get over to get access to a show, but this didn’t put off fans or Circus or Blossoms and tickets flew out. The reality is that by taking the tests before and after the event these individuals are not only looking after themselves but doing something that will help me, you, and everyone else get back to something like ‘normal’ sooner rather than later.
Look we all know that this whole pandemic related crisis is a long way from over and some people have suffered a horrible year. But thankfully there are some positive signs for everyone with vaccinations under way, restrictions easing, and now as a city we should be proud that we are at the forefront of exploring how events can begin to happen again in something like normal circumstances. By taking part in this research we will be opening the city up to the gaze of the whole of the music and events industry but also to the international media who will want to see how these events play out. I am confident that they will leave with a positive impression of our brilliant city and the people who live, work and party here.
My role involves working with the whole of the music sector across the city region and it is a sector that has suffered more than most over the last year. If venues and clubs aren’t open then there’s obviously no paid work for DJs, musicians, venue staff, and the huge workforce in the background that supports live events. All these people will be anxiously watching this research too because what they need more than anything is a return to full capacity events with no social distancing so that they can get back to doing what they do so brilliantly. Liverpool as a city and promoters like Circus are playing a vital role in making this possible and for that we should all hugely grateful.