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Co-Op Live staff member “couldn’t stop crying” after venue’s chaotic failed opening

May 4th, 2024

Staff at the troubled Co-Op Live Arena in Manchester have said they “couldn’t stop crying” while living through the venue’s “chaotic” two weeks.

The venue, set to be the UK’s largest indoor arena with a capacity of 23,500, has had a disastrous two weeks after a series of events that have stopped it from being able to open its doors.

It was supposed to debut with comedian Peter Kay on April 23 and 24.  However, following a test event featuring Rick Astley on April 22, his gigs were pushed back to the end of April with the venue citing technical issues.

Later, a gig from The Black Keys that was scheduled for April 27 had to be moved to May 15, and the Peter Kay shows were moved for the second time. They are now expected to be held on May 23 and 24. Following the second postponement, Kay shared a statement with fans, explaining that he was left “disappointed” by the news.

Photo of Manchester’s Co-Op Live (Photo by Jeff Spicer/Getty Images for Co-op Live)

Initially, organisers ensured those with tickets that all other shows scheduled for the new venue would be going ahead as planned. However, they announced on Wednesday (May 1), just 10 minutes after doors had opened, that A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie‘s show had been cancelled due to a “venue-related technical issue”. Shortly afterwards, they also axed Olivia Rodrigo’s upcoming gigs – which left her “so disappointed” – as well as shows by Keane and Take That, with the latter relocating their dates to the rival AO Arena.

And now, in a new report from the BBC, some of the people working behind the scenes at the venue have spoken out anonymously about the disarray.

One staff member, who works in operations at the site, said: “Yesterday I went home and couldn’t stop crying. It’s not just me, it’s the same for a lot of the team, we’ve put in so much effort.”

“The root cause of all the problems is coming from the building, not the operations,” they added. “From an outside perspective, people presume it’s being run badly. In reality, we have a building that isn’t ready, and we’re being told it is ready – then things happen out of the blue that cause cancellations”.

The A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie gig was called off when a piece of ventilation equipment fell from the ceiling during a sound check. “From an operational side of things, we saw that and went: ‘Thank God that’s happened 1714849000, we were about to potentially let in thousands of fans into a building that isn’t ready,” the staff member said.

Another staff member, hired as a premium VIP host, said that just 24 hours before that show, the venue was “full of cardboard boxes”, with “wires everywhere” and “exposed lighting on the floor”.

“I think we were very sceptical: that was my first time in the arena and it did not look ready at all… They’re doing everything with crossed fingers: it’s a bit chaotic,” they said.

A spokesperson for the Co-Op group was forced to clarify that they “do not own or run” the Co-Op Live Arena and share the same feeling of “disappointment” at the opening problems.

A view of the Co-op Live arena in Manchester. The £365 million venue, the biggest indoor arena in the UK. CREDIT: Peter Byrne/PA Images via Getty Images)

Following the chaos, Co-Op Live addressed the cancellations in a formal statement, explaining that the decisions were made to secure the safety of concertgoers. They also added that the time they have gained from the postponements would “allow for an independent inspection of all elements of the arena ceiling”.

They also issued a formal apology to fans, saying that they are trying to “find a way to help make it right”.

“We are aware our actions have frustrated and angered ticket holders,” read a statement from the arena on Thursday. “We know you’ve incurred significant disruption, and are finding a way to help make it right. We are taking the pause to think about the best ways to do that.”

NME spoke to a range music lovers that have been directly affected by the chaos, many of whom expressed their frustration at the postponements, and branded the venue as “Manchester’s own Fyre Festival”.

“We travelled like two hours… it’s just poor, if you’re gonna cancel it, cancel beforehand, so we don’t spend money on getting here,” one fan told NME. “There’s thousands of people stood outside and you cancel it half an hour after the doors were meant to be open?” added her friend. “It’s stupid.”

Another said she was left abandoned after her mother had dropped her off and drove back home, the original plan being for someone else to pick her up after 11. “It’s a two-hour drive,” she explained. “There’s nowhere for me to go.”

Last week, it was confirmed that Gary Roden, the boss of the new arena, had resigned following the plethora of issues. He had come under fire in particular for his comments about grassroots music venues, arguing that some smaller venues in the UK are “poorly run” and dismissed calls for a £1 ticket levy on all gigs arena-sized and above.

In response, Mark Davyd, CEO of the Music Venue Trust, told NME that he believed Roden’s comments were “disrespectful and disingenuous”, while also highlighting the irony of making such “ill-judged, unnecessary and misleading” remarks on the week that their own venue was forced to postpone their own launch.

This content was originally sourced and posted at NME »
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