Mirror Online: LONDON, England – Fun-loving Brits made the most of the Bank Holiday weekend and braved the cold to hit pubs and bars across the country.
In Liverpool, thousands of clubbers ditched face masks and social distancing to return to the dancefloor for the second instalment of a huge pilot event.
Taking place on Friday and Saturday night, 3,000 people attended The First Dance, hosted by club night Circus, in the city.
Inside the Bramley-Moore Dock warehouse, crowds packed the floor to dance shoulder-to-shoulder for the first time in more than a year.
Club-goers were seen hugging and kissing each other, with some sitting on others’ shoulders for a better view of the stage.
After months of lockdown, outside areas of bars in Leeds city centre were busy as people enjoyed pints and cocktails.
Temperatures plunged to 3C on Saturday night but partygoers braved the cold to enjoy the long weekend.
As pubs and bars filled up, other drinkers decided to buy booze from local shops as people finally caught up with friends and family after lockdown.
In the queue outside the warehouse, Liverpool University student Elliott Cause, 20, said: “I feel like this is a big moment for the UK.
“I feel like uni students have been struggling without this, I feel like this will do a lot.
“You can already see people are so up for it, the energy’s great.”
The line-up for Friday included Circus founder and DJ Yousef, Lewis Boardman and The Blessed Madonna and Fatboy Slim was among the acts who performed on Saturday.
Sam Newson, the event producer, said the pilot was “vital” after the events industry had been “decimated” over the last year.
He said: “For the last 12 months, it has been a disaster.
“People have moved on, I’ve got colleagues who have lost houses, it has been incredibly hard and so to try and get this back up and running is incredibly important.”
He added: “I stood on stage early on and I had a little bit of a teary eye, I’m not going to lie, it is very emotional.
“Any event is special but with the amount of work that has gone into this and to be the first in the country in over 12 months, it is very special.”
Scientists will be looking to see whether crowds mixing and dancing indoors increases the risk of transmission of COVID.
The night is part of the Events Research Programme, which will also see crowds return to events including the FA Cup final and a music festival held in Liverpool’s Sefton Park.
Liverpool director of public health Matt Ashton told BBC Breakfast on Saturday that the event gave a glimpse of what the future might hold but stressed it was still a scientific experiment about how more events could be opened in the future.
When asked if the data from the pilots will be crucial to opening up society again in late June, Mr Ashton said: “Yeah, don’t forget this is a crucial part of our economy, in Liverpool it’s over 40 percent of our economic output, so it’s really important we start to get the economy opening again.
“But also just in terms of a return to normal life, all of us being social creatures and doing the things we want to do more.
“So the evidence base is absolutely essential.
“This is going to be part I think of a longer journey of understanding how we live with COVID more safely in the future.”