Among the most remarkable footage on social media from the Events Research Project so far was the sight of 3,000 young people dancing shoulder to shoulder at Liverpool’s Bramley Moore Dock. Symphotech director Eddy Grant reveals the measures involved in ensuring the two Circus nightclub events were safe and sound.

On 30 April and 1 May the eyes of the world were focused on remarkable imagery and videos emanating from Circus nightclub events at Liverpool’s Bramley-Moore Dock warehouse, where 3,000 people per night danced without restriction to acts including Fat Boy Slim and Sven Väth.

The events were managed by Circus Music and The Events Company UK, with Symphotech managing health & safety from the conception phase onwards.

Symphotech director Eddy Grant was project leader, tasked with producing a detailed, constantly-evolving risk analysis for the staff and the audience.

Following the prime minister’s roadmap announcement on 22 February, aware that DCMS were favouring Liverpool as a location for its Events Research Programme (ERP) pilots, Grant spoke to The Events Company UK director Sam Newson, Circus Music co-founder Richard McGinnis and Culture Liverpool about staging an event as part of the ERP.

The following months saw Grant and the team work hand-in-hand with Public Health England, DCMS, local health and licensing officials to get the shows off the ground.

“I think one of the most pleasing things, other than actually working on the event, was the fact that we were signed off by Safety Advisory a week earlier than anticipated because of the quality of the planning.”

He says that working with the Liverpool authorities was remarkably easy: “We had very positive support from Public Health Liverpool, Culture Liverpool, from Merseyside Police, Merseyside Fire & Rescue and all of the joint agencies who wanted to make events happen again – the support we received was excellent

“That underlines why Liverpool was chosen. Some safety processes and consultations with local authorities can be quite challenging but it’s the opposite in Liverpool – they will challenge you to make it better.”

Having worked on Covid-safe e-sports tournament Flashpoint Season 2 at Twickenham Stadium in late in 2020, Grant says he was very aware that it was necessary to create a plan that was not only practical but practicable.

While pre-event testing for all involved was a key aspect of the plan, other measures included integrating the ticketing system with the NHS app, and a cashless payment system by Event Genius.

A key measure impacting all suppliers was a considerably extended build time, with the aim of sharply reducing the number of people on site at any one time.

“It was really exciting to see Acorn putting up the steels but instead of a two-day build they began working about 10 days in advance. Then the riggers came in and then you had the lights come in and the next day it was the video. It was a much slower build up,” says Grant.

Another key consideration was the welfare of the staff and crew, the vast majority of them having not worked on a major event for 14 months.

Grant says, “I think workforce protection will be at the heart of what we all need to do and that will be part of the cost of staging events going forward. Much of it is relatively simple, the use of lateral flow test at home is an excellent process as it offers a degree of comfort and protection particularly if there is a number of repeat tests over the period.”

Naturally, the behaviour and safety of audience members was a major focus. The audience was considered likely to consist of young people, with some rarely having, if ever, attended an event like it before.

Anticipating the potential for people to feel anxious when suddenly finding themselves in an audience of 3,000 people indoors, after a year of lockdown, the event team doubled the number of medics and welfare staff on site. Thankfully, the extra welfare provision was not required.

He says, “I think one of the most pleasing things, other than actually working on the event, was the fact that we were signed off by Safety Advisory a week earlier than anticipated because of the quality of the planning.”

Naturally there were cost implications as a result of the additional measures but Grant says many are likely to be reduced considerably at events post 21 June.

He says, “The slower, staggered build time means your workload is reduced but the number of hours is increased and there’s obviously a cost implication to that. That is something that needs to be thought through. There were some layers of protection that had to be put in place that will not necessarily be required after the 21 June. It’s going to be interesting to see how it develops.”