There’s some amazing footage doing the rounds on social media right now showing thousands of people packed inside a pool party – floating on top of inflatable dinghies whilst electronic music buzzes overhead.
But what’s most striking about these images isn’t the colossal crowd or the pounding soundtrack. It’s the fact that they’re broadcast from Wuhan.
Yes, that Wuhan – the same place where coronavirus first reared its ugly head before ravaging the world.
Just a few short weeks ago, scenes like this were utterly unimaginable. Most of the people in the video were confined to their homes as recently as April – with the city severed from the rest of the country.
But this part of Hubei, once a terrifying picture of sickness and panic, is back partying like COVID never happened.
Seeing the return of the festival in Wuhan has stoked feelings of surprise, astonishment and even envy in the western world.
But these images also offer an optimistic glimpse into the future.
One day, that will be us again.
We’re not there yet, sadly. But, hopefully in the months ahead, full-scale raving will return.
And in the meantime, Social Avenue – the safe dancing event series based right here in Manchester – is helping us get there, one step at a time.
Whilst the UK continues to try and shake off the lingering symptoms of coronavirus; bars, restaurants and exercise centres have all cautiously returned to action.
But parties and festivals have remained largely banned.
Between the loud volume, close contact and big crowds, experts consider music events to be some of the most likely gatherings to cause an outbreak.
However, Social Avenue’s ‘dance at a distance’ series has found a way to tick the safety boxes whilst treating electronic music lovers to their first live raves since March.
Superstar record spinners Eats Everything, Darius Syrossian, Alan Fitzpatrick, Judge Jules and Skream have all signed up to feature on the bills for the socially-distanced events at Trafford Park, which have – against all odds – proven to be a huge triumph.
Social Avenue events see people partying in their own little pockets at allocated tables – with drinks and grub available to order from start to finish.
One-way systems are in place around the car park – as well as hygiene stations and social distancing measures.
Face coverings are also encouraged and handed out to every person on arrival.
The pair behind the promotion, Brian and Jorge, thought about the idea shortly after events stopped completely in March. They couldn’t help but wonder if there was another way for live music to continue.
“We slowly started to work more on the idea of a socially distant event series which seemed very ambitious at the time,” the duo said.
“But once Boris announced that outdoor social distancing events could go ahead, we immediately pushed forward with our planning.”
Two weeks later on July 25 – Social Avenue was born, and summer was saved.
Whilst the first few events were challenging, the promotion soon found its feet.
The team found a way to welcome 500 people into Trafford Park by working closely with local authorities; investing in a health and safety team to go above and beyond the guidelines set by the local council and government.
Brian and Jorge said: “Our Health & Safety Officer, Brian Cleary has taken no shortcuts on our site and has made sure that every possible guideline and more has been covered for everyone’s safety.
“It’s been stressful and the hours have most definitely been excessively more than any other project but our full team at JBM Music have been amazing throughout!
“We are definitely happy with the current outcome, the feedback we are getting from attendees is very positive. We hope to carry on this same momentum and keep building the blocks to the safest socially distant event series in the UK. “
Brian and Jorge say the events industry “has been left in the dark in regards to guidance and help”, and they’ve had to think outside of the box to ensure maximum safely for all ticket-holders at Social Avenue.
Extra measures include hand sanitiser being on tables and toilets – as well as site supervisors and door staff handing out extra masks out in case someone loses theirs.
But of course, all of the measures in the world are still utterly ineffective if the public don’t follow the rules.
Fortunately, so far at Social Avenue, the crowd has been compliant.
“The general feeling and way people have acted have been absolutely brilliant,” explained the promoters.
‘Those who have attended Social Avenue have really embraced the new measures in place, and this really helps us do our job safely and even better.”
Despite the major success of Social Avenue so far, the future still hangs in the balance. Brian and Jorge know everything can change in an instant – which is why they’re doing everything they can to ensure the series continues for as long as possible.
“We want to keep our JBM Music staff in work as well as provide work for bar staff, site crew, security, cleaners, lighting/audio engineers etc,” explain the promoters.
“The whole entertainment industry itself has been turned upside down with no real vision still to how it will return or what measures are going to be in place for the return in the future.
“Lots more events are beginning to pop up with social distancing in place. Whilst these will not be to everybody’s taste, it is really crucial to urge people to support small businesses, as the amount of people it benefits within our industry is huge. Where possible we urge people to hang onto tickets for postponed gigs, too.”
“If social distancing events are something we have to carry in to next year due to the pandemic we are ready to do so.
“We’re also ready to build on our current idea to create something much bigger for Manchester!”
Find out more about Social Avenue and grab tickets for their parties here.