Virgin Money Unity Arena Closes

New UK Government COVID-19 rules bring an abrupt end to the Virgin Money Unity Arena shows.

Becky Hill performing at the Virgin Money Unity Arena.

Organisers of the Virgin Money Unity Arena venue and show series have confirmed the cancellation of a series of socially-distanced live events as of 19 September, due to the UK Government’s newly-introduced local lockdown measures in the North East of England.

Created by SSD Concerts, in partnership with sponsors Virgin Money and production company Engine No 4, the venue was able to accommodate socially-distanced audiences of up to 2,500.

Considered as the UK’s first socially-distanced arena space, the temporary venue has hosted shows by an array of acts including: Sam Fender, Van Morrison, The Libertines, Jimmy Carr and Ronan Keating, among others at Newcastle racecourse, Gosforth Park. Collectively, the events were attended by over 50,000 music fans.

Event Organiser, Steve Davis explained: “It is extremely disappointing to have to cancel these final shows at the end of what has been an incredible six week run of successfully socially-distanced concerts. We’re honoured to have been able to provide a little happiness and joy to thousands of music and comedy fans throughout the region and the UK in what has been such a tough 2020 for everyone.

Since opening its doors with Sam Fender on 13 August 2020, Virgin Money Unity Arena has provided a safe environment to enjoy live entertainment and allowed artists to perform live at a time when the music industry is effectively closed. Davis said: “We have complied with all government guidance to ensure the safety and enjoyment of our audience, artists and crew throughout. We’d like to thank all who attended these genuinely heart warming and uplifting events. For the last six weeks, Newcastle has been the leading light for the live music industry and for that, we should all be very proud.”

As well as hosting global superstars, the project has provided a platform to new and emerging artists including Heidi, Mosa Wild, Andrew Cushin, Beth Macari and Bare Roots.  Davis added: “Unfortunately, due to the rise of infection in the North East, we must comply with the council’s and the government’s latest advice. This should not take away from the fact that the people of the North East and from all over the world have embraced this pioneering run of shows.”

Virgin Money Unity Arena has employed a crew and staff of over 200 people. Davis concluded: “On behalf of everyone involved – our sponsors Virgin Money, Newcastle City Council, the dedicated crew and staff who have worked so hard to make this a success – again I thank you so much. Sadly, the new lockdown measures will bring an end to our run, but the safety and the wellbeing of the people of the North East is our prime and utmost concern.”

The venue’s closure follows the UK Government’s announcement that around two million people in the North East of England will be banned from mixing with other households due to a rise in COVID-19 cases in Newcastle, Sunderland, South Tyneside and Gateshead.

Discover more about the kit and crew powering Virgin Money Unity Arena in the forthcoming October print edition of TPi.