October will see the opening of an ‘immersive’ live music event at a new London venue. Its creator, Tim Wilson, talks to Christopher Barrett about the challenges involved in opening a new live music venue and show series against the backdrop of Covid-19-related restrictions.
Having founded the Vault Festival and collaborated on the Punchdrunk and Secret Cinema event series, Tim Wilson has considerable experience of creating immersive shows. His new project, the One Night Records events brand and venue on Union Street near London Bridge, will begin hosting live music show series Lockdown Town on 2 October.
Running at the venue for three months, Lockdown Town will feature live performances from a rotating group of artists who will play a mix of music from genres including jazz, blues, rock & roll and country. The themed event will see groups of socially-distanced audience members move from scene to scene around the venue as they take a journey back in time through music-related landmarks, culminating with ragtime and Spanish Flu.
The 30,000-square-foot venue has a capacity of 360 but the audience will be separated into groups of 40, with each group arriving 15 minutes apart. Tickets are offered for purchase in groups of two to five, and range in price from £102 to £252 per group.
“It is not a free roaming experience, you go through a pre-set journey – that is the only way to keep it safe,” says Wilson.
Having found the government’s guidelines for indoor events, with social distancing, to be too broad and vague to be of any use, Wilson says he has found it more beneficial to look at what hospitality businesses, such as Wetherspoon, have done to safely reopen.
He says, “The government guidelines have been no help at all. When planning something like this you have to put yourself into the shoes of the visitor and walk step by step through the experience to ensure it is safe. Now that the power is in the hands of the councils to run pilots and instigate lockdowns, those relationships are key. Southwark Council has been very supportive.”
While the Covid-19 crisis has presented obvious challenges to the production team, Wilson says the situation has bolstered the team’s creativity: “The show is not what we originally pitched last year to investors but we were determined to press ahead with a live event and the extraordinary circumstances led to its evolution.
“The audiences will see that the music is speaking about issues and challenges to humanity, challenges people have been fighting since the last pandemic and ones we have not yet overcome.”