Independent promoter and venue owner DHP Family has brought the curtain down on its summer concert series at Nottingham Arboretum having entertained a combined audience of 10,000, across 17 events, and provided a stage for more than 40 musicians.

DHP Family promotions director Anton Lockwood (pictured) tells Access that “Covid or no Covid”, the intention is no continue with the initiative next year.

It’s a rare success story in an industry brought to its knees by the pandemic. Lockwood says not only did it make money but it was a great way to keep its venue staff “in the game”.

With its head office in Nottingham, DHP Family owns Nottingham’s Rock City (cap. 1,900) and London venues including Oslo (370) and The Garage (600). It also promotes events such as Nottingham’s 25,000-capacity Splendour Festival in Wollaton Park.

Unable to stage Splendour or welcome gigs to its venues, DHP got the backing of Nottingham City Council to run shows, with social distancing, at the Arboretum bandstand in Wollaton Park.

Kicking off on 14 August, the Nottingham Arboretum Garden Bar & Bandstand provided a platform for local musicians, and hosted the Homegrown festival for 450 attendees on 31 August. Frank Turner provided the final shows at the temporary venue over the weekend of 19-20 September.

We would normally have been doing Splendour Festival with more than 25,000 tickets, so it’s not quite a substitute for that but it’s better than zero.”

Turning the park into a socially distanced event space was the idea of DHP Family’s MD George Akins, who saw the potential of the historic bandstand as a stage for local artists. With planning permission from Nottingham City Council, and in partnership with Camden Brewery, extensive safety measures were put in place and a venue created that provided work for more than 65 people.

The initiative gave DHP Family staff a chance to get back to work providing marketing, ticketing and production support for the event, and provided much-needed work for industry contractors such as stagehands, site crew and sound engineers.

Lockwood says it wasn’t just the staff and musicians who were appreciative: “We had a lot of great comments from the public across social media, not only saying that they felt very safe on site but also that they really appreciated the chance to see live music again.”

Despite the vast majority of shows being free to attend, Lockwood says the company did turn a profit: “We managed to make a little bit of money out of it. We would normally have been doing Splendour Festival with more than 25,000 tickets, so it’s not quite a substitute for that but it’s better than zero.”

Buoyed by the results, DHP Family is looking to add the event to its calendar, which in a normal year would also include urban multi-venue festivals Dot To Dot and Mirrors.

Says Lockwood, “We intend to carry on with Nottingham Arboretum Garden Bar & Bandstand. Covid or no Covd, we think it is something worth doing next year. It took a while to get everyone on side, so we didn’t start as early as we could have liked, but next year we are already planning to bring it back come what may. We now have a really nice outdoor bar and gig space.”