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Access All Areas editor Christopher Barrett was among an audience made up of key workers, music industry executives and politicians to witness The BRIT Awards 2021 – a major milestone on the road to the return of live events.

Last night’s BRIT Awards not only looked and sounded spectacular, it was in many ways a landmark event that could inspire other large-scale event operators to press ahead with their projects this year despite the lack of commercial or Government-backed cancellation insurance.

For the first time in more than a year, The O2 arena was filled with the sound of live music and the roar of a hugely appreciative audience. It was the first event of its kind to be staged in the UK, without social distancing, since March 2020.

A stunning set by British artist and stage designer Es Devlin, built by Diagon, played a huge part in the visual impact of the event but most remarkable of all was the sight of, and atmosphere created by, the 4,500-strong audience.

The spectacle was all the more impressive considering that up until a month ago The BRITs was being planned as a televised ceremony, with no audience, and much of the content being pre-recorded.

As part of the Government’s Events Research Programme (ERP), data and audience behavioural analysis from The BRITs will be used to examine how events can take place without the need for social distancing.

Not only did the event’s organisers, record industry trade body the BPI, move swiftly to make the show work with an audience of 4,500, the organisation also took the risk of staging a multi-million pound production with no Covid-related cancellation insurance available from commercial operators, or indemnity support from the Government.

As with all other Events Research Programme events, the Government covered the costs of testing but all other costs were covered by the organisers.

Live performances by artists including Arlo Parks, Dua Lipa, Olivia Rodrigo and Griff were greeted by roars of approval from the audience that included 2,500 key workers who were invited to attend for free by The BPI.

Aside from the music industry’s great and the good, there was no shortage of politicos there to not only witness the on-stage excitement but the remarkably efficient way the ERP-related aspects of the experience were carried out.

All audience members had to show NHS confirmation of a negative lateral flow test result, as well as a digital ticket with QR code, to gain entry. The process was handled efficiently and pleasantly by staff and there was no more queuing at egress or ingress than could be expected at a ‘normal’ show.

The BPI collaborated with the teams at the AEG-owned venue and its ticketing platform AXS to create an experience that was not only hugely enjoyable but, most importantly, felt remarkably safe.

Among the politicians there to witness the impressive operation first hand were secretary of state for international trade Liz Truss, parliamentary under-secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) and minister of state (London) Paul Scully, and special adviser to the chancellor at HM Treasury Cass Horowitz. While a number of the DCMS team were also in attendance, Oliver Dowden was not.