Jonathan Schofield wonders if there are major problems ahead before the new mega-venue opens

During the controversial test launch of Co-op Live last Saturday Danny Jones of McFly sang to an enthusiastic sing-a-long crowd Oasis’ (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? 

For Co-op Live there appear to be unwelcome stories surfacing with alarming frequency.

The crowd at the test launch was much reduced at 4,000 from the anticipated 11,000 due to big issues with the electrics. Thus many of the security and safety features weren’t ready or operational, or even worse, according to some sources, weren’t even installed. 

Roden’s resignation over being rude about smaller venues and how some were ‘poorly run’ rings false​.

The speeches at the test launch were all excellent save one and that came from the CEO Gary Roden. He was halting, repetitious and not very good. Whereas other speakers such as operator Oak View Group’s (OVG) Tim Leiweke and Manchester City Council Leader Bev Craig were enthusiastic and upbeat, Roden seemed almost defeated.

Maybe he knew the sword was dangling over his head on the slimmest of threads.

Roden is British, OVG are American. 

Sources often refer to a culture clash between UK and US attitudes especially over safety and security protocols with the creation and operation of large entertainment venues such as Co-op Live. There appears to have been a surprising lack of awareness from the US side over how local authorities have no control of operational matters of, say, the police. The question is how can they not have known over a £350m project?

2024 04 26 Co Op Live Resignation Gary Roden 3
Danny Jones at the Co-op Live on Saturday 20 April Image: Confidentials

Roden with his years of service at Ticketmaster, the Edinburgh Playhouse and Bristol Hippodrome surely must have been on top of ensuring the emergency services, the city and the agencies were working in harmony with Co-op Live. This has not been the case at all. 

Roden’s resignation over, reportedly, being rude about smaller venues and how some were ‘poorly run’ rings false. It's too flimsy a reason. The postponement of the Peter Kay gigs might have been the final straw. Perhaps his resignation was, shall we say, convenient for all parties given the operational failures in ensuring UK security and safety standards were met.

It's entirely predictable the Peter Kay gig, and Black Key’s gig tomorrow, Saturday 27 April, have been postponed.

The Black Keys will now be performing on 15 May. 

Kay is now due to take to the Co-op Live stage on 23 and 24 May.

Today (Friday 26 April), a joint public sector statement was issued by Manchester City Council, Greater Manchester Police, Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service and North West Ambulance Service. 

It read: “As a whole group we support the decision of Co-op Live to step down the event tomorrow, and we will continue to work together as they move to completion. We have discussed with the Co-op Live venue this week the actions that they needed to take ahead of their planned public opening and while a considerable amount of work has taken place, and learning taken from last week’s test event, we all agree that there is more to complete before the venue can welcome audiences safely.   

“Whilst we understand this will be disappointing, we cannot compromise on public safety. Our focus is, and always will be, the wellbeing of residents and visitors to our city. Following last Saturday’s test event, where temporary mitigations were put in place, we were assured that our concerns about the venue would be addressed before a public opening. That work is continuing as they move to welcoming events with larger audience numbers.  

“The elements outstanding include a fully tested emergency services communication system, and some remaining internal security systems, and fire safety measures.   

“Work is progressing quickly in all of these areas, and all partners involved look forward to the venue being open and able to welcome guests safely once they are completed.”   

A lot of smart money says there may be additional delays to Co-op Live being operational and we're talking months perhaps, not weeks. Let's hope not. 

As stated earlier in the week this will be a magnificent venue for large scale entertainment. Inevitably the venue will get it right.

Unfortunately, right now, the present problems seem less of a bump in the road and more of deep wide sinkhole. As the Oasis song Danny Jones sang goes: ‘Need a little time to wake up, wake up.’

2024 04 26 Co Op Live Resignation Gary Roden 1
Gary Roden being wooden at the test launch speeches Image: Confidentials

Get the latest news to your inbox

Get the latest food & drink news and exclusive offers by email by signing up to our mailing list. This is one of the ways that Confidentials remains free to our readers and by signing up you help support our high quality, impartial and knowledgable writers. Thank you!


Join our WhatsApp group

You can also get regular updates on news, exclusives and offers by joining the Manchester Confidential WhatsApp group.

Join the Manchester Confidential WhatsApp Group