Clubbers have returned to the dancefloor after more than a year’s wait – for a COVID safety pilot event in Liverpool.
Some 6,000 partygoers are expected at the First Dance event, which stretches across two-nights from Friday at the city’s warehouse nightclub Circus.
By 2pm on Friday, as it opened to thumping music, elated clubbers ran through the doors cheering.
Ticket-holders have not needed to socially distance or wear face coverings, but they did need proof of a negative COVID test result before being allowed in.
Clubgoers have been seen hugging and kissing each other as some sat on each others’ shoulders for a better view of the stage.
The event is part of the national Events Research Programme to see how venues can safely reopen.
The scheme saw 8,000 fans allowed into Wembley Stadium to watch Manchester City play Tottenham Hotspur in the Carabao Cup final last weekend following an earlier successful semi-final trial.
Sky’s North of England correspondent Katerina Vittozzi has been at the nightclub opening, with 3,000 attending on Friday and another 3,000 on Saturday.
"People are being encouraged to get on the dancefloor, to get hot and sweaty, to act as normal," she said.
"Some have said it’s surreal. They’re definitely very excited."
One attendee said she felt "like a kid on Christmas Eve" as she got ready to go out, while another said it felt "dead weird to be back around so many people and without masks".
Ashleigh, 19, and Katie, also 19, were among the first in the door.
"The atmosphere is just amazing," Ashleigh said.
"We’ve been able to go outside of bars and pubs but the atmosphere going to an event is just so different."
Katie added: "We’ve missed it and this one has been done so well – everyone has tested negative to get in.
"You feel so much safer. And the DJs look so happy to be playing to a crowd again."
Another young woman said: "It feels surreal. Part of me feels like it’s not been any time at all and the rest feels like it’s been forever."
The line-up includes Fatboy Slim, Jayda G and DJ Yousef Zahar, who is also the co-owner of Circus Liverpool.
Organisers have stressed the event does not carry a risk to public health.
DJ Yousef said: "Together with the team at Liverpool City Council, we have safely crafted these events, with a singular focus to help the UK get closer to life beyond COVID, which for myself and Circus has been a great honour."
Scientists will be monitoring the event as part of a programme to see how large events can reopen safely.
Researchers will analyse whether any COVID-19 cases are linked to the event and will also look at air quality and the movement of revellers during the course of the night.
Coronavirus has crippled the nightclub industry with many venues forced to make staff redundant, as they have not been allowed to reopen since closing at the start of the very first lockdown in March 2020.