In a world that is trying to find a “new normal” during the Covid-19 pandemic, socially distant concerts are among the latest efforts to get the all-important arts sector back on its feet. On Saturday 15th August, I attended one of the first of these new-style concerts in the UK at the Virgin Money Unity Arena in Newcastle.

Whilst I was enjoying the show, I gave some thought as to whether the format could be a potential option in order to stage Eurovision 2021 in Rotterdam with a live audience. As a Eurovision community, we are coming to terms with the fact that unless there is a widely distributed vaccine in the very near future, the Eurovision of years gone by probably won’t be possible.

So when life gives you lemons, you take this as the perfect opportunity to consider how our beloved contest can be rejuvenated and reworked to make its big return in 2021 in the age of Covid-19.

How does the concert work and is it safe?

The new Covid-secure arena is a lot more like a festival setting than an indoor, Eurovision style arena. The stage looks like any other outdoor stage, and the audience, rather than gathering in a large crowd, each gather in individual booths.

These socially distant booths are fit for up to five people (all from the same party, of course), and at our concert one ticket bought you one booth. The booths are equipped with chairs and each both is separated at a safe distance. You don’t need to wear a mask whilst you’re in the booth, but you do if you leave the booth to use the toilet, or visit the food and drinks stalls in the arena. Of course, there are plenty of hand sanitiser and handwashing stations around the arena.

One of the audience booths at the Unity Arena

In order to enter the arena, you must enter by car. Once you’ve parked your car, you’re shown to your assigned booth by a member of staff. Entry is staggered, so it takes a while, but it’s no different to arriving hours early for a Eurovision show in order to be at the front of the audience.

What does this new format lack compared to the Eurovision shows we’re used to?

The obvious flaw with this new format is that it’s outdoor, so the atmosphere is certainly weather dependent. There’s no huddling in the audience to keep warm, so I imagine that a cold and rainy day would seriously dampen the spirits of the crowd (if you pardon the pun), as well as the overall mood of the show.

Of course, if Eurovision was in Tel Aviv or Lisbon next year, it wouldn’t be an issue, but Rotterdam may not want to take this gamble. As well, the EBU requires that Eurovision is hosted in a covered arena, but could they make an exception for the Covid era?

The next unfortunate consequence of a socially distant concert is the there is no community spirit when the crowd is all six feet apart. Every time I’ve attended a Eurovision show, I’ve had wonderful conversations with people from all over the continent, and this meeting of nationalities is one of the fundamentals of the Eurovision Song Contest.

Though as we can all imagine, there’s no way around the fact that mingling and forging new friendships will be a lot more difficult at Eurovision in the age of Covid-19.

That being said, could this format be the best way forward for Eurovision?

Despite inevitable flaws, I really wouldn’t be too mad about it, if Rotterdam decided to build their own arena in a similar style to the Unity Arena in the UK. For starters, I really wouldn’t miss the scramble for a good view in the standing areas of the audience. Or crossing your legs for hours because you think going to the toilet would mean losing your place in the crowd.

Furthermore, I find this format actually works better for a show like Eurovision, which doesn’t require any audience participation. For a band that relies on calls and responses from the audience, or screams for an encore, this new format would force them to find a whole new way of including the audience in their shows. When we’re separated, we simply can’t all chant together as a crowd.

However the Eurovision audience have never been required to participate in this way, we can just sit back and enjoy the show.

The most important factor perhaps, as to why I would like to see a format like this in Rotterdam, is that it ensures an audience has the chance to see the show live. I’d forgotten how happy live music made me after five months in lockdown, and my first concert since lockdown really reminded me.

You get the same buzz as any other show, and you don’t need to stand on your tiptoes, or sweat in a stuffy crowd, in order to enjoy it.

What do you think? Would you like to see Eurovision 2021 as a socially distant, outdoor concert? Let us know in the comments!

Read more Eurovision 2021 news here

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Stevan
Stevan
2 months ago

Absolutely not! Eurovision is a television show, NOT a concert or a festival. You have to first and foremost think how this would look on TV. No roof means no hanging cameras, spotlights. No walls or slopes means no commentator booths, no controled environment, surroundings or lights. If you invest in making all those things possible outdoors, you might aswell just rent an arena. An outdoors event has so many downsides and pretty much no supsides. The booths system can be used even in an indoors arena just with a greater distance or some sort of barriers. I have been… Read more »

Jonas
Jonas
2 months ago

I feel like this article is written from the perspective of an in-person audience member. Not from the perspective of who the show is actually for – the at-home viewers. To completely change the organization plans for a select few is not worth it. A great show can still be produced without them, sad as that may be. I look forward to when we can get back to normal – until then, I’ll take what I can get.

percy
percy
2 months ago

Honestly, if Eurovision got held outdoors, I’d feel like I was watching Glastonbury.

Iván el Conquistador
Iván el Conquistador
2 months ago

I agree with Kieran, the ESC should also be held in football stadiums, not only indoor arenas. It can be a suitable stage in the case a country whose indoor arenas are not big enough ends up winning the contest and having to host the next one. Tons of concerts have been held in football stadiums, so why not the festival?

HarpyDarper
HarpyDarper
2 months ago

Whatever happens with the world I would imagine contracts have been signed any money has been paid for the Ahoy arena. Could they do booths on the arena floor? And distanced sections in the stands?

Either way I’m gutted the Netherlands won’t be able to host a “normal” show

WannaEatMySpaghetti
WannaEatMySpaghetti
2 months ago

Big nope. Great technology is part of the contest.

Kieran
Kieran
2 months ago

If Wuhan can have massive raves and pool parties right now, Eurovision 2021 can be done as normal without the “New normal” next year.
If they do need social distancing, I’d say have it held in a massive football stadium a bit like what Arnhem submitted last summer, just so you can get the 10,000 people in their with extra room, to keep the vibe alive because an outdoor event would be subject to weather conditions, lack of roof infrastructure and limited staging opportunities. It will look to low of a budget and the Netherlands deserves better.

Whisker
Whisker
2 months ago
Reply to  Kieran

Where exactly in Wuhan are those “massive raves” and “pool parties”?

Whisker
Whisker
2 months ago
Reply to  Whisker

I was only asking because I wanted to go.

Jimmy
Jimmy
2 months ago
Reply to  Kieran

The slight difference is that China has handled their outbreak much better than Europe has so the virus isn’t circulating as widely there now. If we still have high numbers of people infected, or of the virus is still circulating widely come May next year, there’s no way we can hold mass events “as normal”.

AdD
AdD
2 months ago
Reply to  Kieran

All he means is that Eurovision can be held provided everyone/everything is drenched in chlorine to kill potential viruses. I agree 100%. There’s no reason why this wouldn’t be an issue. Just throw any electronic device into a swimming pool and you’ll get the idea.

Héctor
Héctor
2 months ago

I don’t think it would work. It would look just like a pre-party held in Tel Aviv, Madrid, London, etc. So i hope this isn’t consider as a solution at all.

I do think the “VIP” boxes could work well inside the stadium. This way you could have public and feedfack while also enjoying the technical commodities of a stadium. They may have to rearrange the stands.

Hyunwoo
Hyunwoo
2 months ago
Reply to  Héctor

You’re right!

Mr Vanilla Bean
Mr Vanilla Bean
2 months ago

I watch Eurovision partly because of its big stages and LED screens. Just saying.

Last edited 2 months ago by Mr Vanilla Bean
Denis
Denis
2 months ago

One of the issues is that Rotterdam has already paid for arena. And that arena is already confirmed to host it. you want to tell them their preparations are for nothing? Another issue is the weather. If it was somewhere warm it could be outside for sure, however in Rotterdam like most Europe it’s continental and rain is a factor that can’t be ignored. You can’t just hope for sunny days.. Would the technology work for outside? Would an audience really go to an outdoor concert in pouring rain? I don’t think it’s suitable for any ESC. It is great… Read more »

Last edited 2 months ago by Denis
Hyunwoo
Hyunwoo
2 months ago
Reply to  Denis

I agree with you!

esc2021rotterdam
esc2021rotterdam
2 months ago

It’s not a bad way but there are a lot of problems with it. what happens if suddenly there is a rain? (even though it’s not likely to happen in May) could the planned staging work with the technologies outside? And also the city of Rotterdam has already paid the money for Rotterdam ahoy to host eurovision 2021, But I think these socially distant booths could be great fot the standing area. I don’t have any problems with outdoor concerts but I don’t think it’s how eurovision should be held.

Una
Una
2 months ago

When I read this article I remembered what happened at Wimbledon. Players on court and fans that didn’t manage to get court tickets gather outdoors yet inside the premises of the championships. Shine or rain they were there happily. So I could think of a contest with the shows indoors as we’re used to at a smaller scale. Then the audience outdoors as Katie explained, or maybe crowd management could be improved? An audience not in the 12 thousands but less as deemed appropriate and safe. I am trying to picture how this would work – maybe not that aesthetically… Read more »

Esc addict
Esc addict
2 months ago

Why not if it’s possible to find an enough large place outside with all the accommodations around needed for an esc to welcome it. If the show itself is not impacted, in terms of productions, big stage and lights effects, cause an esc which would look like an average outside summer festival it wouldn’t work. Esc is not a simple concert or festival, you need dress rooms for 42 countries, productions and soundcheck rooms, a press room, rehearsal rooms, a green room, and 42 little rooms for the 42 broadcasts tv and their commentators, it would be a big extra… Read more »

Last edited 2 months ago by Esc addict
Iván el Conquistador
Iván el Conquistador
2 months ago
Reply to  Esc addict

The more participants, the bigger the budgets.

Esc addict
Esc addict
2 months ago

Unfortunately yes, but more participants means a bigger event and a better and interesting contest which is not a bad thing .

Iván el Conquistador
Iván el Conquistador
2 months ago
Reply to  Esc addict

Not all countries can afford to go to the contest. Remember, all participations are funded by taxpayer money.

Esc addict
Esc addict
2 months ago

Yeah I know, but countries as Hungary, Turkey, Slovakia can afford it for example, and if San Marino which is the smallest country can afford it each years, it must be not so expensive. Of course if you want to come with a big staging, dancers, fireworks and a choregraph, it will be very much more expensive.