ARTICLE: One night only – staging a stadium concert
PART ONE: Strange fans in the stadium
High-pitched screaming is the first warning that the fans are about to enter the stadium. A line of flourescent jackets appears. It’s a single line of stewards with a pack of fans at their backs waiting for a chance to break free and run to the front of the stage.
The stewards keep a steady pace until they reach the bottom of the stairs from concourse level to pitch level, at which point the fans use the space to run around them to grab their spots at the front. One more barrier, to the gold circle in front of the stage, awaits them. The stewards – from a specialist company hired for the purpose – shout instructions to the onrushing fans, helping them find the entrances, where more staff check the wristband type and usher the fans through. It’s the first wave of a crowd control process that will bring 10s of thousands of concert-goers into a stadium more used to ambling sport fans.
Entrance to the spectator bowl is already the end of a long line of crowd control. Stewards from the specialist company have positioned barriers to create a ‘Disney queueing’ system for fans to snake into ten lanes for a two-stage reception consisting of search and ticket-taking. The first checkpoint is a bag search and random patdown. Stewards are politely removing items that aren’t allowed, mainly bottles with a bit of liquid left in them. A woman has left her hairspray in her bag and quickly uses some up before surrendering it. Fans are dropping food and drink packaging on the floor as they approach the search line.
The search depends on the level of security decided by the police and the stadium, based on various intelligence including the threat of terrorism.
At the second checkpoint stewards check tickets at one barrier, issue wristbands at the next and usher fans through to an entertainment area in a compound built around part of the outer concourse. Fans who have arrived early go straight to the doors and queue to get the best spots. Later arrivals use the food and drink concessions while waiting – there are at least two hours between opening the queue and the doors to the stadium. When the majority of the audience arrives after work has finished, the queue is straight through to the stadium bowl. At its busiest the queue temporarily breaks down as barriers are pushed aside but orderly queuing is re-established by the stewards.
The stadium bowl looks very different from a football matchday. The control box end is entirely taken up with the stage complex. The even production crew is using the seating area and walkways for its equipment and the offices and boxes inside for admin. Temporary wi-fi antennas are in the corridors and the catering tent is immediately outside.
There are three spectator areas. On the covered pitch there is a crescent shape of barriers in front of the stage delineating the premium ticket area, the gold circle. Two layers of barrier provide a walkway and then comes the main on-pitch standing area.
There are two light and sound (delay) towers three-quarters back, each with its own secured compound around it. This configuration leaves a clear head-on line of sight from the central seats in the end grandstand.
PART TWO: Right staff for the job