“Pig pens” could replace heaving mosh pits at outdoor concerts and festivals as organisers navigate new coronavirus-safe regulations for major events, says an Australian mass-gathering expert.
- New COVID Safe Industry Plans released by the Queensland Government bring the curtain down on mosh pits
- Event organisers are looking to ‘pens’, pods and drive-in concerts for safe audience experiences
- Events for 500 people or more in Queensland must now factor COVID-safe rules into planning applications
Crowd emergency healthcare academic Dr Jamie Ranse said new COVID-19 safety regulations had brought the curtain down on packed and sweaty mosh pits and some major events would not go ahead without a major rethink in crowd management.
“What a music festival, a mosh pit might have looked like in the past, at this point of the pandemic we simply can’t have,” he said.
“There are going to be some sorts of events that simply won’t be able to go ahead based on the way they have been conducted in the past.”
Gold Coast-based Dr Rance founded Griffith University’s Mass Gathering Collaboration, which brings together experts in emergency services, public health and event management to strengthen crowd security and responses at major events, planned and unplanned.
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He worked with government, tourism and industry stakeholders to develop the COVID Safe Industry Plans released by the Queensland Government on July 3.
Dr Ranse said the outdoor festival experience would be very different under COVID-safe plans.
Event organisers, he said, were already looking at innovations, including large-scale, socially distanced arena concerts featuring 500 individual platforms, each holding a maximum of five people at Newcastle, in the United Kingdom, from next month.
“[It’s] almost creating like a pen-type of environment or a pig pen where they can still enjoy the atmosphere of a music festival,” he said.
A artist’s impression of audience “pig pens” at an outdoor concert in Newcastle, England.(Supplied: Virgin Money Unity Arena.)
The NRL and AFL had already given Australia a taste of how COVID-safe large gatherings could be managed in partially filled stadiums, Dr Ranse said.
Another possibility was a drive-in concert with people staying in their cars to enjoy live music.
New industry safety rules
Dr Rance said organisers of events during the pandemic would have to comply with principals outlined in the COVID Safe Industry Plans, including physical distancing, one-way foot traffic in and out of events and ensuring people had adequate access to hand washing and sanitising stations.
“By keeping people apart and preventing people from co-mingling as much as possible we can reduce the risk of transmission,” he said.
One major Gold Coast event navigating the new COVID Safe Plans is the 10-day Swell Sculpture Festival which 55 sculptures along a kilometre of Currumbin Beach and foreshore from September 11, .
Swell sculpture on Currumbin Beach(Source: Swell Sculpture Festival)
Festival Director Dee Steinfort said the new framework was relatively easy to follow.
“It has actually been a wonderful help to us to develop our strategy for COVID-safe Swell,” she said.
“We’re unique that we’re an outdoor festival with lots of space for people to move around freely.”
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Changes to this year’s event will include the omission of any interactive works.
“The site has been curated to encourage a flow of foot traffic and there will be lots of signage. We’ll have volunteer staff to remind people to physically distance,” said Ms Steinfort.
Dr Rance said events for 500 people or fewer could go ahead without official approval but organisers were still required to follow the safety framework.
Organisers of events for more than 500 people had to submit a plan that included COVID-safe features to the council or landholder and Queensland Health
“Event organisers already develop an event plan; it’s just adding this COVID plan to their event,” Dr Rance said.
People who want to organise an event should visit the Queensland Tourism and Industry Council (QTIC) website.
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