How lead safety officer Eddy Grant managed 6,000 partygoers at a Liverpool warehouse as part of the government’s Covid-19 Event Research Programme.
As legal and safety consultant for safety management company Symphotech, it was my job to check everyone involved with the pilot nightclub event held at Liverpool’s Bramley-Moore Dock was doing theirs. Luckily for me everyone was on their A game, even the public, God bless them!
The event was organised by Circus Music and produced by The Events Company UK, both of whom are brilliant and I have longstanding relationships with. ‘The First Dance’ nights ran over two days, welcoming 6,000 clubbers with no Covid restrictions – no masks and no social distancing, just a negative Covid test.
Obviously we had a lot of liaising to do with the local authority in Liverpool and the relevant agencies to create the safest event possible while setting up the ‘experiment’ so the data could be collected – the purpose of these pilot events.
Liverpool was chosen as both Culture Liverpool and the council are ‘event friendly’ and understand the mindset needed. They still want all the test certificates etc. emailed to them on the day (luckily I have a great logging system on my phone) but they have confidence that we can deliver safe events. Liverpool has also been at the forefront of Covid-19 testing and research, and the public has been really on board with voluntary studies.
On the day of the first event, I arrive on site at 9am, having been there the day before going through everything. Because of Covid, loading was done over 10 days, rather than just one, but the stage is built and the infrastructure in place.
My first job is to go through the essentials with the site management team. It’s boring but essential. Things like, are the fire extinguishers out and where are the lights going. Then it is time to place the social distancing dots outside of the venue, where Covid restrictions still apply. In the meticulous way promoter Circus likes to do things, the dots are as beautiful as they can possibly be – exactly 2m apart and 2m from the kerb, snaking 200m from the venue. They look great!
It’s soon 12pm and we have the first inspection by the covid compliance office. The bar staff etc. are not part of the experiment so they still need to wear masks and abide by Covid restrictions and the officer is suitably impressed that we have everything in control.
Then the full joint agencies turn up to inspect and see the security teams are briefed by Titan Risk Management and then us. We show the agencies and every member of staff how the alarm sounds and how the strobe alert lights work. We also ensure systems such as the isolating relay works, turning off the DJ when the alarm sounds. We also check all the house lights.
Merseyside Police attached an officer to us, which shows yet another level of care Liverpool extends to the event. There have been anti vaccination protests in the city and we are made aware of where they are as they move and if they are likely to affect us.
At 1.30pm we start the process of getting ready for doors. We check even the obvious things – is there a DJ, pyro guy, lasers, medical, etc. We go through everything – the whole process of the event and then give the ‘good to go’ to Sam Newson, head of The Events Company UK. Their event management practice has health and safety at its heart – it’s not a bolt on but a positive contribution to making an event brilliant.
At 2pm it’s time to start getting the audience in. There is another layer of intrusion with the checking. There is the Challenge 25 for the age (at least 1,500 of the 3,000 we had on each of the two days needed checking for age) and the lateral flow test where attendees need to show photo ID with their ticket and a negative test result. It was like the first match of the season – everyone was nervous. There were a few examples where people brought photocopies rather than their actual passports and they needed to go back and get their originals.
The whole vibe was like a graduation ball. Most of the medical incidents the amazing Spark Medical had to deal with were alcohol related, which makes sense as it was ‘the first dance’ after all! For many it was their first official night out with alcohol as they would have tuned 18 during lockdown. We made provision for enhanced medical as we knew this would be the case and it was in our briefing, along with the fact that many will have forgotten how to go to a gig!
The medical team was incredible and it was so wonderful to see them in action at an event again after 15 months. You forget that these guys were at the front line of Covid during that time.
There were a few issues with the public leaving; usually you’d get a 20 per cent drift off before the end of the night as people leave to go on somewhere else. But of course there is nowhere else to go so the bump out happens all at once. Liverpool’s taxi licencing department and highways worked with us to create a traffic management plan.
There was a high level of engagement between attendees and staff, and everyone was just so happy. It was reminiscent of the halcyon days of London 2012 and the positive impact the gamemakers had. The crowd temperament that night was special – we were all passing one of life’s milestones together and the buzz went through the whole place. Seeing all the staff together demonstrated what’s involved in creating events – from the bar staff, the security, the cleaners – not just the management. For me it was so wonderful to be able to speak to them all and thank them; it was a privilege to work with them.
The show was amazing. I actually watched from the stage with fellow professionals, all observing this milestone event – Engine No.4’s John Drape, SJM Concerts’ Simon Moran, Festival Republic’s Melvin Benn and Scott Barton from Cream. Usually I only make it up onto a stage at 10.59pm to turn the fun off at 11pm! But this time I did go up and watch the crowd – it was just so emotional to see them partying!
I am now crossing everything and using every form of prayer assistance for the 21 June reopening, which again looks like it might be under threat. These pilot events have shown that our brilliant events industry can do it but we need the government to know it. That said, every official involved was incredibly impressed at the depth of management planning for these pilot events and I am very proud that we had our safety documents and operational plans signed off a whole week early.
Symphotech is dedicated to supporting the delivery of safe, compliant events. It comprises a team of qualified event specialists with combined music and public events industry expertise who work alongside emergency services professionals to provide a comprehensive safety service for event organisers. www.symphotech.co.uk
Eddy Grant is a chartered safety and health practitioner and is Symphotech’s legal and safety consultant. With over 30 years of industry experience, Eddy has worked with the Events Industry Forum and HSE to significantly contribute to the new Purple Guide. Specialising in event safety, crowd management, and trained as an expert witness in this area, Eddy is also Professor of Professional Practice at the University of Cumbria and will lead the University’s new IOSH accredited Diplomas in Event Safety and Counter Terrorism.