Party pods: The way forward for festivals?

An Adelaide festival has found success with the bold social distancing concept.

The thought of attending a large-scale music festival might be a daunting one for many right now – sweaty strangers standing shoulder-to-shoulder certainly doesn’t scream COVID-safe.

But the team behind Summer Sounds Festival in Adelaide has found a way to bring thousands of music fans together in a safe way, with the use of ‘party pods’ to maintain social distancing among large crowds.

Touted as Australia’s first month-long, COVID-safe outdoor music festival, Summer Sounds is hosting some of the country’s biggest acts over 18 shows, for audiences of more than 2,000 people at Tulya Wodli (Bonython Park).

In order to maintain social distancing, the audience is separated into pods of up to six people, which offers space to sit or stand (and dance) during the event.

Party Pods in action
Party pods in action

To make it happen, promoters and organisers Five Four Entertainment, Groove Events and Secret Sounds partnered with suppliers Novatech Creative Event Technology and Nexstage on the bold concept.

After six successful shows, Novatech managing director Leko Novakovic said the party pod system has been “fantastic”.

“While some people were apprehensive about being ‘penned in’, all doubts were removed after the first weekend,” he said.

“About 80 per cent of the feedback we’ve heard is that this is the way all festivals should be staged from now on, COVID or not.”

Based on a similar concept seen last year in the UK, the party pods come in a choice of VIP, Gold, Silver, or Bronze seating packages. Punters who opt for the VIP Pod secure a spot in the first five rows, their own toilet block, faster drink service and a choice of premium drinks.

Novakovic said there’s an option suited to everyone.

“The VIP and Gold sections are really nice, with their white picket fencing and vines, and everyone has tables and chairs,” he said.

“The Silver and Bronze pods that are further back are on raised decks, so everyone has good sight lines.

“Audiences need to experience this system for the first time to appreciate how great it is.”

Organisers innovate for the return of events

Party pods aren’t the only way organisers are bringing large-scale events to life safely.

In Queensland, Comiskey Group held its annual Bonfire Night for more than 4,500 people, using line-marked areas for families to sit in, to ensure social distancing.

In November last year, Great Southern Nights hosted a total of 1,000 COVID-safe gigs across Sydney and regional NSW, each with smaller seated audiences.

Great Southern Nights opted for smaller, seated gigs

Novakovic said government support, in particular from SA Health and chief public health officer Professor Nicola Spurrier, was crucial to making Summer Sounds Festival a success.

“Professor Spurrier came down to see the festival herself, and loved how it was planned and executed,” he said.

“SA Health have been granting special exemptions for artists like Bernard Fanning to travel in from NSW, and we have exemptions covering the rest of the festival.

“Bernard gave Professor Spurrier a shout out during his set, and we’ve even had South Australian Premier Steven Marshall talking about Summer Sounds at his media conferences, drumming up support.”

Summer Sounds will continue until the end of January, with a high-calibre line-up including Ocean Alley, Hot Dub Time Machine, Ball Park Music, Ruel and Lime Cordiale.

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