Engine No. 4, a Manchester-based events production company, has been behind two of 2020’s most high-profile socially distanced events spaces.

The Virgin Money Unity Arena and Escape to Freight Island, in Newcastle and Manchester respectively, were both spearheaded by Engine No 4. The former is the UK’s first socially distanced outdoor gig venue, while the latter is its first socially distanced dining concept.

Engine No 4 would have been producing events including Parklife, bluedot, Lost Village, and Kendal Calling festivals this year. However, cancellations forced them to adapt and stage new kinds of events.

Engine No.4’s production team worked with the team behind Escape to Freight Island on reimagining the space at Depot Manchester. Jon Drape, a Director at Engine No.4 who led on the Escape to Freight Island build, commented: “As lockdown happened, we were in the middle of production for a series of Warehouse Project shows, at Depot, in Mayfield. It has clearly hit this world-class industry very hard, from suppliers to freelancers, so getting Freight Island off the ground and open was something I was very passionate about.

“When the government legislation looked like it had moved enough, we mobilised a team of our trusted suppliers and crew and set about realising the designers’ vision of Escape to Freight Island.”

Virgin Money Unity Arena is a dedicated socially distanced music venue offering a month of gigs by musicians and comedians with 2,500 fans per performance, watching from hundreds of raised viewing platforms.

The space was launched by artist Sam Fender on August 11th. Sam Fender’s management team, Owain Davies of OD Management, commented: “It was a pleasure working with Engine No.4 on the first socially distanced arena shows in the UK, incredible attention to detail, we couldn’t have asked for more.”

Jim Gee, a Director at Engine No.4 designed and produced the site in Newcastle for Promoter SSD. Commenting on the project he said: “It was a challenge dealing with the Government’s evolving legislation, but when SSD approached us to do something at the racecourse we knew we could make it work.

“Engine No.4 worked closely with the promoter, with SSD booking the artists and promoting it – our remit took on the responsibility of site management, managing full technical production and local authority liaison. This was a real team effort in Newcastle, delivering an innovative concept that is shaping our times.”