Socially Distanced Events: Birmingham’s Digbeth Dining Club discuss live events in the COVID era

With announcements from the prime minister expected imminently on the fate of live music over the coming months, our attention turns towards the events which are likely to be the first to return safely in 2021 – Socially distanced events.

As part of our latest interview feature, talking to promoters throwing COVID compliant parties, we spoke to the team behind Birmingham’s award-winning Digbeth Dining Club and how to set up socially distant events in Birmingham.

Harry Jenkins, Digbeth Dining Club’s Head of Marketing, agreed to answer a few questions regarding the challenges faced by promoters, whilst organising events throughout the COVID era.

Tell us about your event

“At Digbeth Dining Club as well as having a ‘base’ in Birmingham, we essentially run satellite food and drink events all around the Midlands in a couple of dozen different sites. Some weekends we can be in four or five different places at once, but at the core of every event is a family friendly, easy, affordable event with some of the best street food in the country, a nice soundtrack and some partnerships with local breweries and distilleries.

All of our events are hugely popular around the Midlands, I think, because people always know what they’re getting and we don’t necessarily try and reinvent the wheel.”

Logistically, how did your event change due to COVID?

“Once the first lockdown was lifted, we obviously didn’t know how long the ease of restrictions would last so we were fairly selective with where we wanted to run events over the summer. We opted with a twelve-week run at Warwick Castle and an 8 week run at the Coventry Cathedral ruins. Apart from being really beautiful sites which sell themselves, they’re both very large, open air locations.

With all the of the regulations, rules and red tape that came in, the larger spaces gave us the freedom to be able to really do everything properly and make our guests feel safe. All sites were seating only instead of buying tickets, guests bought tables of six and had to remain seated at all times. We also staggered entry times for all tickets holders to keep things quiet and to avoid a ‘mad rush’.

It sounds silly but with the success that it had and with how few issues we had during the events, we would probably consider keeping this method and some of the formats post COVID. While we couldn’t let as many people through the door, it was a really enjoyable experience for everyone and the overwhelming feedback was nothing but positive.”

Did you face any challenges working with your local council? If so, how did you overcome them?

“Because of the high volume of events that we’ve been running for years, we already have a great relationship with local authorities and councils. The events team were in constant communication with the local bodies and they too were really happy with how everything looked and felt. Most of them ended up coming down to enjoy themselves at some point too. I suppose that’s a pretty good sign.”

What has been the general feedback by attendees for your socially distanced event?

“The reaction was overwhelmingly positive. I think because, like most operators, we were all so paranoid of it going wrong and perhaps the site getting too busy, we really treaded carefully in terms of how many people we let on site and the distance between tables. We didn’t take any risks.

We had some lovely bits of individual feedback from people who hadn’t been out all year or who had been having a really tough time, so that was a really nice thing to read.”

What has been your experience working with Skiddle to promote your socially distanced event?

“It was our first time working with Skiddle and I think the thing I was most impressed with was how hands on they all were. Nothing was ever too much trouble and the pace in which any of the team reply is so fast it’s almost quite worrying. It’s a great service and they also throw a load of promotional support your way too, which undoubtedly helps with sales.”

Would you recommend other promoters to use Skiddle?

“For sure, they’re one of the biggest and best in the country at what they do and after doing a few events with them, you can see why to be honest. It’s a really slick service.”

As a trailblazer in the socially distanced events space, what would you recommend to other promoters looking to set up their own COVID compliant event for the first time?

“I think it would be silly if we started handing out advice – we were learning as we were going along as was the whole industry. I suppose erring on the side of caution with regards to numbers and making sure everyone is left happy, is far more important than trying to squeeze as many people in as possible.”

What can audiences expect to see from your events this year, now that things are looking up with the vaccine roll out and the potential roll out of rapid testing?

“We are just waiting on guidance first but once we know some dates, we’ll be able to start announcing all of our new sites. We’ve used the down time to go and meet new venues/potential partners with a view to rolling out a load of stuff in the summer. We’ll obviously be back at some familiar sites and there’ll be some new ones that I think our regulars will be really intrigued to see.”

A big thanks to Harry and the team at Digbeth Dining Club for this piece, we’re looking forward to hopefully attending these events once more!

About Skiddle

Skiddle is currently the UK’s biggest What’s On guide, providing a free facility for event promoters across the UK to list their events online and sell tickets through our independent ticketing service. We currently work with over 35,000 UK and European promoters, at over 30,000 venues. We specialise in helping events through that critical growing phase by providing the marketing and technology support that you need. Start listing your events today!