Music festival organisers consider ‘pig pens’ to maintain social distancing

A artist's impression of audience "pig pens" at an outdoor concert in Newcastle, England.

Outdoor concerts and festivals may have to introduce “pig pens” to ensure organisers comply with new coronavirus-safe regulations for major events.

Gold Coast-based crowd emergency healthcare academic Dr Jamie Ranse said some major events would not go ahead without a major rethink in crowd management.

“What a music festival, a mosh pit might have looked like in the past, at this point of the pandemic we simply can’t have,” he told the ABC.

“There are going to be some sorts of events that simply won’t be able to go ahead based on the way they have been conducted in the past.”

Dr Rance said an outdoor concert in the UK will be trailing 500 individual platforms, each holding a maximum of five people.

“[It’s] almost creating like a pen-type of environment or a pig pen … where they can still enjoy the atmosphere of a music festival,” he said.

“By keeping people apart and preventing people from co-mingling as much as possible we can reduce the risk of transmission.”

Dr Rance worked with government, tourism and industry stakeholders to develop the COVID Safe Industry Plans released by the Queensland Government earlier this month, which are being used by organisers of events for 500 people or more in Queensland.

“Event organisers already develop an event plan; it’s just adding this COVID plan to their event,” Dr Rance said.

The 10-day Swell Sculpture Festival on the Gold Coast in September is one event that is using the new COVID Safe Plans.

“It has actually been a wonderful help to us to develop our strategy for COVID-safe Swell,” festival director Dee Steinfort told the ABC.

“We’re unique that we’re an outdoor festival with lots of space for people to move around freely.

“The site has been curated to encourage a flow of foot traffic and there will be lots of signage. We’ll have volunteer staff to remind people to physically distance.”