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Looking forward to 21 June

Once England reopens on 21 June, International Confex will be the UK’s first major show on 22-23 June. Photo: International Confex.

England is planning to "remove all legal limits on social contact" from 21 June 2021 as part of a roadmap out of the Covid-19 lockdown. To make this happen, there are a number of events scheduled in the government’s science-led Events Research Programme to safely stage audience events.

“We are cautiously optimistic over here for the events industry”, says Tracy Halliwell, Director of Conventions & Major events at London Convention Bureau, commenting the announcement of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson that the UK government is aiming to "remove all legal limits on social contact" from 21 June as part of a roadmap out of the Covid-19 lockdown in England. First, from 17 May, larger performances and sporting events in indoor venues with a capacity of 1,000 people or half-full (whichever is lower) will be allowed, as will those in outdoor venues with a capacity of 4,000 people or half-full. In larger outdoor seated venues, where crowds can spread out, up to 10,000 people will be able to attend (or a quarter-full, whichever is lower). The government expresses its hope that all legal limits on social contact can be removed from 21 June. “Once we had this roadmap of the opening scheduling with clear and specific dates of what we can do and when we can do it, that really gave the industry a huge sense of confidence that they could plan ahead”, Halliwell said. “We’ve had a huge influx of inquiries from people who wanted to start planning events for the backend of this year and in the future.” To bring this about, there are a number of events planned in the government’s science-led Events Research Programme (ERP) interacting closely with local authorities and organisers to undertake studies to readmit audiences safely as restrictions are gradually eased. These events include the Luna Outdoor Cinema in Liverpool from 14 - 16 May with 1,000 people (outdoor, seated) and the FA Cup Final in the Wembley Stadium in London on 15 May with 21,000 people (outdoor, seated) attending. The pilot programme will provide key scientific data and research into how small and large-scale events could be permitted to safely reopen in line with the roadmap out of lockdown.

Venues participating in the programme will test specific settings to collect evidence and best practice data. At the World Snooker Championships, Sheffield’s world-famous Crucible will test a theatre setting, for example. The evidence will then be shared widely so that venues can prepare to accommodate fuller audiences. This review will be crucial to how venues such as conference centres could operate this summer. Researchers at the events will gather evidence associated with different settings and approaches to managing and mitigating transmission risks. The pilots will explore how different approaches to social distancing, ventilation and test-on-entry protocols could ease opening and maximise participation. Covid-status certification will also be trialled as part of the pilot programme. Researchers will also be at the venues to monitor crowd movements at the pilots, to look at how attendees behave in these environments, and to consider the economic impact of any trialled mitigation measures such as changes to the layout. “By piloting a range of measures to reduce transmission, we can gather vital scientific evidence to inform our plans for allowing events in the future”, says Health Secretary Matt Hancock. And Kate Nicholls, Chief Executive for UKHospitality adds: “These test pilots are certainly positive news for hospitality and could start to unlock the safe return of business conferences, festivals, concerts, and larger weddings, helping people safely return to normal life from 21st June and the removal of social distancing restrictions."

“We are all in this together!”

Tracy Halliwell, Director of Conventions & Major events at London Convention Bureau, about coming events in London, a festival with no masks or social distancing, the success of British vaccination programmes, and the importance of collaboration

“It has been enormously tough for the events sector over the past year, but these pilots are a real beacon of hope as we cautiously emerge from the pandemic”, explains Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng. “This programme will not only provide valuable scientific evidence, but also offer confidence to the industry so we can make the most of the Great British summer and host large-scale events in a way that’s safe for everybody.” Once England reopens on 21 June, International Confex, to take place at ExCeL London (22-23 June), will be the UK’s first major show. International Confex has confirmed it will be partnering with Nextech AR Solutions, which will manage the event’s hybrid elements in 2021. The event organisers Mash Media expect to host more than 8,000 event professionals in person with a further 5,000 joining online. The event includes more than 100 speakers, 60 sessions, and 300 exhibitors. The show has never before attempted a hybrid model in its 38-year history.

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International Confex will be partnering with Nextech AR Solutions, which will manage the event’s hybrid elements in 2021.

Nextech said it would increase the event’s reach and global attendance by streaming the programme over its LiveX Digital Experience Platform (DXP). Augmented reality (AR) technologies such as holograms, digital destination portals, 3D models, MapX, and Ad Network will be employed to improve the in-person and virtual delegate experience. Duncan Custerson, International Confex’s exhibition director, explains it would be important for the show to embrace new technologies, which he says would become standard across the industry. “The heart of International Confex has always been a live event and now we have the opportunity to enhance it with a virtual component,” he says. “International Confex has a strong pedigree of showcasing ‘best in breed’ technology and working with the Nextech team has given us the confidence to take this ambitious step in the hybrid world. We look forward to doubling the programme reach to a global audience and enhancing the attendee experience with Nextech’s AR technology.” Tracy Halliwell is also looking forward to the first show after the pandemic. “We have all fingers crossed that this will go ahead”, she says. Other countries in Europe are crossing their fingers as well.

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