Last week, on the 19th June 2020, Peter Nicholson and his team at Sound Level Events hosted what by all accounts appeared to be the first gig in lockdown Britain. The gig was held at Royal Victoria Country Park in Netley, Southampton.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the event took the form of a drive-in concert. We think it’s a really interesting example of how a bit of clever thinking and innovation brought people together to experience live music for the first time since the lockdown started. It also highlights the resilience of small businesses.
In this short excerpt, Pete shares his lessons learned from the event. He discusses how they’ve changed his approach to future gigs, both under lockdown conditions and when things return to normal.
Listen to the full interviewThis interview was recorded for our podcast “Are We Rolling?” – you can listen to the full interview below.
About Sound Level Events
Peter Nicholson is one of the founders of Sound Level Events, a non-profit events company based in Southampton. They host intimate music performances in unusual places, which has included Lepe Country Park, Royal Victoria Country Park and Lexus Hedge End. Their mission is to create a sustainable opportunities for the local music industry.
In addition to running Sound Level Events, Peter is also one of the main organisers of Sofar Southampton.
We’ve edited this transcript lightly to add clarity in written form.
Is there anything that you can learn from the event that you’ve just done? What can you carry forward to the next one?
And were there things that you learned on the night as you went along?
Yes, I think we would have been pretty lucky if we got everything spot on the first night.
I mean, it did go absolutely superbly. Better than we could have wished for really. However, there were aspects of it that we will change.
We would have been pretty lucky if we got everything spot on the first night.
There were a couple of instances of pedestrians trying to come onto the site. We have to keep it COVID Secure. So I will put more people around to politely direct pedestrians. “You do need to stay that side. Sit on the grass over there, spaced out and listen, but to get in it is a ticket-only event.”
The only other thing that we’ve learned is how little space the 80 cars that we invited took up. When we were sat there, I was there with the two managers from Royal Victoria Country Park. All the cars were in and parked in place, and they said “ooh, how many more have we got to come?”
I said “this is it” and we looked at the venue. We realised we’d just taken up a very, very small space of it. We can open it up to more people to enjoy. So we’re delighted that they’ve let us increase the number for our next event on the 3rd of July. So we have been able to sell some more tickets for that.
The first show sold out in a day I think because it was the novelty of it and there’s only 80 tickets. We’ve increased that this time and this one’s almost sold out as well which I’m delighted. But yeah, that’s the only change really. It’s the fact that we can invite more people along to the next one.
We’re delighted that they’ve let us increase the number for our next event on the 3rd of July
Yes. So I guess from your perspective – and this is more about your business I suppose – but obviously going from doing the smaller events that you’ve run before to doing something like this, which is a bit bigger with getting a stage in and all that kind of thing, and then maybe transitioning it when things get safe from being a drive-in event to just having people come in and maybe it becomes a bit more of a festival…
Do you think that the whole COVID thing is going to push people into being more open to do this kind of event in the future?
I don’t think in the past there would have been a music festival at Royal Victoria Country Park. But maybe this could now lead into doing something of that level. Do you think that maybe COVID-19 is pushing people out of their comfort zone a little bit in a good way, and showing that you can maybe do things that you couldn’t have done previously?
I certainly hope so.
There there was a smaller festival at Royal Victoria Country Park once before. I think there was one last or the year before. But the appetite is certainly there and I think it can only do good if we’ve now shown how professionally it can be done, and that the demand is there for people to do something like that.
The appetite is certainly there and … we’ve now shown how professionally it can be done
I can only hope so – I think it is.
I think we we all get very stuck in our ways and our comfort zones as you rightly say with every kind of event. Sometimes we need to kind of think a little wider.
Even cinema, for example. They’ve done the same thing for generations. Now suddenly you have cinemas where you go in and you have a load of room and you can recline your seat right back. It’s what people want. And there are cinemas that do autistic friendly showings, showings for the Deaf, and so on. There’re lots of people that want to take part in so many different kind of events.
And I think the kind of festival that I would like to put on would be one that would be very family orientated. One that isn’t a smaller version of Glastonbury, where you’ve just got one particular age group… or demographic – perhaps a better word… that you can you can open up so that people can come along and bring their families to a festival so this… There’s something for everybody.
I’d like to try and think that we can move to that now because the amount of families that came to the show the other night was fantastic. Families in their car coming out and enjoying music. It’s unlikely that those families would have gone out to a gig in the middle of Southampton or in the middle of Bournemouth perhaps before. So now maybe in showing people that they can have a really nice, safe, enjoyable evening at a live music event… Perhaps it will change the audience’s attitude as well.
That we can we can only hope.
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