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Music makes us feel good. It lifts our spirits and brings us together. And there’s no greater way to experience music than at a live gig: the connection with the artist on stage, the electricity of the crowd, the little imperfections that make it perfect.

However, since March 2020, these stages have fallen silent. Venues closed. Tours cancelled. It’s been tough on even the world’s most successful bands. But then the Virgin Money Unity Arena launched in August 2020, a ground-breaking, world-first, socially distanced gig venue with a stage higher than Glastonbury’s Pyramid stage. It was a glimmer of hope in a pandemic-stricken year that captured the imagination of people around the world.

All taking place in a field in the middle of Newcastle, the Virgin Money Unity Arena started out as an innovative response to Covid-19 restrictions at a time when a new model for live events was desperately needed.

Thousands of people from across the country travelled into Newcastle to enjoy history in the making. The Geordies were the pioneers of an incredible month of live music and events, with socially distanced platforms for pods of five people, able to cheer, dance and sing along to live music from some of our favourite artists…

To kick things off, Newcastle’s homeland hero and Brit award winner Sam Fender performed an incredible set, critically acclaimed by the press on site.

At Tom Grennan’s show, not even the rain could stop the party as the crowd showed up in force with their ponchos and umbrellas. Tom lit the stage up with his charisma and a joyful (albeit soaked) audience refused to head home until his final encore performance. Hear him talk about the experience here Link opens in a new window.

Another highlight: The Libertines took to the stage, performing two shows in one day. Their sold-out evening show was everything rock and roll is about...filled with unabashed energy, insane guitar riffs and rebellious flair. The undeniable chemistry between the band's frontmen Carl Barat and Pete Doherty shone through each song. Their unique sound is truly something that needs to be experienced live.

Bongo’s Bingo brought hilarity to the proceedings, through their raucous bingo nights. This isn't bingo as you know it: this is bingo with dancing men in neon coloured tutus performing detailed choreography to pounding chants of excitement from the crowd, and offbeat prizes such as mobility scooters, Disney princess doll collections and, of course, the grand prize of £2,000. Craig Charles delivered an incredible funk and soul DJ performance – you can listen to some of the tracks he played here Link opens in a new window.

The great nights kept coming. Ronan Keating, Becky Hill, Van Morrison and the closing act Chase & Status, drum and bass legends. They closed the Arena with a high-energy and vigorous set to a sold-out Arena of thousands, giving Newcastle the send-off it deserved. It was the perfect end to what had been an incredible summer, and we’ll always remember the unbelievable feeling of bringing live music back in 2020.

Bosola Ajenifuja