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Pop stars, key workers gather for BRIT Awards in London live music return


May 11, 2021

By Sarah Mills and Marie-Louise Gumuchian

LONDON (Reuters) – Singers Dua Lipa and Arlo Parks will perform in front of 4,000 people at the BRIT Awards on Tuesday, in the first major indoor music event with a live audience held in London in over a year.

Britain’s pop music honours, for which the audience will not have to wear masks or socially distance, are taking place at the 02 arena on the River Thames as the country emerges from COVID-19 lockdown.

The ceremony is part of the British government’s Events Research Programme aimed at establishing whether big events can be held in closed environments without social distancing.

“It’s a really important stepping stone on the way back to recovery for the whole of the live music industry,” Steve Sayer, general manager of the O2, told Reuters, adding that it had been 14 months since the venue last hosted a gig.

Ticket holders, of which 2,500 are key workers and their guests, have to show proof of a negative lateral flow test result to enter the venue, which has a capacity of around 20,000.

They will also need to take a test afterwards and provide contact details as part of the UK’s COVID test and trace system.

“It feels surreal because it’s been so long,” Zunaira Faiz, who works at a north London hospital, said upon arriving at the O2. “It almost feels like I’m experiencing something nostalgic because we haven’t been able to do this for so long.”

Like elsewhere, the COVID-19 pandemic shut down music events with live audiences in Britain. Under Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s phased roadmap out of lockdown, entertainment venues can re-open their doors next week.

Wanting to embrace the community spirit and kindness seen during COVID-19 lockdown, organisers have said this year’s winners will be given two awards and encouraged to share one.

“Even if we could have had tables with people clinking glasses, it did not feel right to do that,” showrunner Selina Webb told publication Music Week.

“There won’t be tables, the focus will be very much on that audience of fans and key workers – what they’ve done and the bravery of them.”

Among those awarded two statuettes will be American songstress Taylor Swift, the first female artist to be honoured with the Global Icon award. David Bowie, Elton John and Robbie Williams were past recipients.

In the main categories, Lipa, Parks and Celeste lead the nominations with three nods each.

(Reporting by Sarah Mills and Marie-Louise Gumuchian; Editing by Mike Collett-White)