‘A taste of normality’: What being in UK’s first nightclub since pandemic began was like

Thousands of revellers ditched their masks and returned to the dance floor on Friday for the first post-Covid club night.

‘The First Dance,’ a pilot event hosted by legendary club night ‘Circus’, sold out for its first night at a warehouse in Liverpool.

No face masks are required and nor is social distancing for the first nightclubs in 14 months.

The event is being assessed by scientists to see how indoor mixing in large crowds impacts the transmission of Covid.

But what was it like inside the party of the year? Our Liverpool Echo reporter Jess Flaherty went to find out.

Tonight, I went to a nightclub event for the first time in more than a year.

The coronavirus pandemic has had a dramatic impact on our daily lives; in some instances leading to the permanent closure of shops, restaurants, bars and more.

Slowly, some businesses and venues have been permitted to reopen their doors as part of the government’s roadmap out of lockdown.

While some restrictions eased, nightclubs have remained dormant, seemingly with no feasible way to adhere to the government guidelines introduced in a bid to curb the spread of the deadly virus.

That all changed tonight.

Confetti is fired into the crowd as Nightclub Circus hosts the UK's first club night post-lockdown
Confetti is fired into the crowd as Nightclub Circus hosts the UK’s first club night post-lockdown

Legendary club night Circus hosted The First Dance as part of the national Events Research programme (ERP) which, over the course of two nights, will see 6,000 people take over Bramley Moore Dock warehouse in an event which requires no social distancing or face coverings.

The events research programme (ERP) will be used to provide key scientific data into how events for a range of audiences could be permitted to safely reopen as part of the government’s roadmap, which aims to see the country restored to normality with all restrictions lifted by June 21.

For tonight and tomorrow’s nightclub pilot, scientists are looking to see if and how crowds mixing and dancing indoors increases the risk of transmission of Covid-19.

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Ticketholders had to take a Lateral Flow Test at a community testing site 24 hours before the event and had to produce a negative result in order to gain entry.

Tonight’s lineup included Sven Väth, The Blessed Madonna, Jayda G, Yousef, Lauren Lo Sung and Lewis Boardman.

Before arriving, I was surprised by how nervous and anxious I felt.

People make their way to the stage area as Nightclub Circus
Revellers make their way to the stage area

Seeing crowds of people gathering without face masks caused a pang of anxiety, even though I knew they had to provide proof of a negative covid test and had been thoroughly checked upon entry.

Entering the warehouse, I was bumped into by multiple people all dancing and losing themselves in the music. It was a jarring experience after a year of zero contact with strangers.

I wasn’t the only one who felt trepidation about the event.

Best friends Grace Halewood and Haidee Booth, both 26, were initially nervous about attending tonight’s event.

Grace said: “We were nervous before. I do tests everyday for work anyways so I’m used to testing but we were still nervous when we arrived. We’re okay now and it was really easy to get a test for this too as well.”

Confetti is fired into the crowd as Nightclub Circus hosts the first dance event, which will welcome 6,000 clubbers to the city's Bramley-Moore Dock warehouse
‘Goosebump-inducing’: The crowd erupted into cheers as the night drew to a close

People react to the camera on as Nightclub Circus h
The pilot event was filmed and assessed by scientists looking into how large indoor crowds impact the spread of the bug

Haidee said: “Social anxiety was in the back of my mind but they’ve been really well organised – everything from booking of tickets, getting your test, queuing and checking your negative test, so we were put at ease.

“We got constant emails reminding us about the event and when we needed to get tested by which I really liked. We’ve seen them going around and sanitising everything so it’s been great so far.

“They had specific allocated testing centres for Circus and they’ve given us two PCR tests too.”

A woman reacts to the camera as Nightclub Circus
The warehouse was packed to the rafters as party-goers broke with a year of social distancing

Other attendees also experienced nervousness but said it was worth it for a taste of normality.

Becca Gray, 22, a University of Liverpool student originally from Leeds, said: “It’s amazing so far, I was a little bit nervous about coming here and I wouldn’t be surprised if I get coronavirus but it’ll be worth it.

“Being in a crowd and being able to dance again is amazing.”

University of Liverpool student Joe Ctori, 20, from Twickenham, added: “I’m excited to be here. I was a bit nervous coming in but I’m excited to get back to normal.”

Feeling music thumping in my chest and seeing that events are actually possible slowly thawed through any feelings of nervousness.

Two woman dance together as Nightclub Circus
The night is part of the national Events Research Programme which provides guidance on how to safely reopen clubs

It did feel bizarre to see people drunk – several had fallen down outside the warehouse and required attention from the on-site medics.

There were also a few people crying, their friends comforting them. The most constant sound, though, was laughter and cheering.

People seemed genuinely happy to be out and about, keen to connect with one another and to celebrate a taste of what life was like before the pandemic.

One moment was seriously goosebump-inducing – Yousef came on stage to Free by Ultra Nate, confetti erupted into the air bang on the line: “‘Cause you’re free, to do what you want to do. You’ve got to live your life, do what you want to do.”

The crowd erupted into cheers, people were laughing and embracing while belting out the lyrics like a battle cry.

Tonight’s event made the prospect of normality feel all the more tangible.

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