At Grapevine, our focus is to stay local and support the arts within East Anglia – which of course we love to do. However, as lovers of the arts I’m sure many of you will agree that we love to travel too. Wherever the music goes, we follow right?
When I was just 11 years old, I attended my first ever concert at The O2 arena in London – as the band I adored most were in the peak of their career at arena status. You can imagine what an exciting experience this was for a youngster, finally discovering live music and the thrill it gives. Ultimately, that event played a huge part of how I’m here today, being the arts and live entertainment enthusiast that I am.
As a result, The O2 arena has always remained pretty special to me – and it helps that it’s closer to the East Anglia side of London too. Therefore, when I stumbled upon the opportunity to book in for a backstage tour, I couldn’t resist.
When you think about it, it’s quite amazing to have a venue that is only just over 20 years old be so well-known and iconic. The sheer number of stars to have stood on that stage is countless – from rock legends, pop icons, sporting heroes, beloved comedians and many more.
I can’t say too much about the experience, as it would be spoiling the point of paying for it – but it was so fascinating to learn more about the venue and its timeline, hear anecdotes of the stars and events there, explore the unseen, and have a general insight into how the space can be used. You get to sit in some of the best seating spots, and use your mind to imagine what it would be like if you were sat there for your favourite band (even if you know full well that you couldn’t afford those best seats in the house!) and walk through the famous backstage corridor, which contains 25 dressing rooms and walls filled with signed memorabilia. Probably my favourite part though, was standing on the empty arena floor where the standard stage would typically be. It was bittersweet, as it felt sad to be stood in an empty arena when normally it should be filled with the crazy hustle and bustle of excited fans having that special experience of a live show; but it was a magical feeling too. It made me really long for the arts to be back soon, and hopeful that they will return at some stage.
At £25 per person, it could become costly for a family – but for a 90 minute tour, giving access that would never normally be allowed due to the chaos that comes with running such big events, I thought it was well-worth the price for doing something different. Also, it’s supporting a venue in trying times. Sure, it may be a huge venue with a lot of support but they still will have faced monumental financial losses this year too. I thought it was a clever initiative in these trying times, not only to help bring some income but to allow fans to feel connected to the music again. I wonder if other venues will consider similar options – I know a few venues offer tours when shows are open, so I’m sure it’s possible in some cases to run them anyway.
Also, to those who were wondering – we were in a small group, face masks were worn throughout with the option to remove in the more spacious areas where distancing was easier, and social distancing was adhered to as much as possible.