Olivia Rodrigo's Manchester tour dates fall foul of Co-op Live arena fiasco

Rodrigo smiles at the crowd as she plays piano on stage
Rodrigo kicked off the European leg of her tour on Tuesday night in Dublin [Getty Images]

US singer Olivia Rodrigo has expressed her disappointment after becoming the latest act to fall foul of a crisis at Manchester's troubled Co-op Live arena.

She was due to launch her UK tour with two sold-out gigs at the new venue this weekend, but they have been called off.

The decision came after the arena's opening was postponed for a third time on Wednesday when a fault scuppered a gig by rapper A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie.

Rodrigo told fans she was "sooooo disappointed" not to perform her shows.

"I'm so bummed and I really hope to see you all soon," the chart-topping pop star wrote on Instagram, saying she and her team were "doing our best" to reschedule the concerts.

Rodrigo's fans have also had their plans wrecked, with many left out of pocket. Scott Tostevin, from Guernsey, had booked flights and a hotel for himself and two friends to see her on Friday night.

He told the BBC the group had spent several hundred pounds on the trip.

"I can either use my flights and hotel to now sit and watch a film in Manchester or lose the money and just cancel it all with no refunds," he said.

The decision to postpone major shows by one of the world's biggest artists is another big embarrassment for the Manchester arena after a series of delays.

The £365m venue, the UK's largest indoor arena with space for 23,500 people, was due to be opened by comedian Peter Kay last week, but his shows have been postponed twice.

Co-op Live exterior
The venue cost £365m to build and is the UK's largest indoor arena [BBC]

Bosses decided Rodrigo's shows could not go ahead after A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie's concert was cancelled at the last minute on Wednesday.

Thousands of his fans were waiting outside the venue when they were informed about the announcement, which came 10 minutes after doors had been due to open.

The arena's operators blamed an incident during the soundcheck, when "a component of the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, used to direct air, separated from the ductwork".

They said no-one had been injured and that they were "deeply sorry", but the whole system would need to be tested for further defects.

Ticket-holders, many of whom had travelled for miles, were left disappointed, and the rapper wrote on social media: "I'm heated about the situation too, but safety first Manchester, I got you, just stay tuned for further info."

One fan told the BBC it was "very unprofessional", while another criticised the "bad organisation".

The venue's operators, Oak View Group, said they appreciated "the inconvenience" this would cause for "many". The fault had been caused by a "factory defect" with a nozzle used to direct air, they added.

However, staff were unable to verify that other such nozzles were free of similar problems.

Take That on stage
Take That are due to play five nights at the venue next week [Reuters]

Fan Katie Barnsley, who travelled up from Kent for the gig, found out it had been cancelled just as she was about to get a tram from Manchester city centre to the arena in the Etihad Campus.

The 28-year-old insurance broker had travelled up from near Dover with her partner and his sister, and estimated they had spent around £600 on tickets, accommodation and petrol.

She said: "We were going on the tram and were asking the attendant how we got to the campus and he said, 'Don't bother, it's been cancelled'.

"Then I went on Twitter and saw the tweet from the arena."

The letter handed to fans outside the arena
A letter was handed to fans outside the arena [BBC]

Ms Barnsley said she had been apprehensive about travelling to Manchester because of the cancellation of earlier gigs at the venue but had been reassured by recent tweets from Co-op Live saying other shows would be going ahead.

Some fans outside the venue were handed a sheet of paper saying A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie's gig had been cancelled for "technical reasons".

Zack, also 17, had come from Blackpool for the show. "I'm on crutches and we queued up for about two hours, wasting our time," he said.

"They came out with these sheets of paper saying 'we're sorry about this', but we'd found out already from people shouting, people running around shouting that it's cancelled before they [the staff] even came out themselves."

Teoni Kirkham, 21, said: "We literally hopped out of our Uber and just saw everybody turning around and walking the opposite way. We found out literally when we got here.

"It's just messy, really. It seems like there's no organisation. With Ticketmaster on my phone, I thought, surely if it's been cancelled I would have got notification. They've not done a good job I don't think."

Cancellation defended

The next show in the schedule is Keane on Sunday, followed by a five-night residency by Take That next week.

The venue said it understood "the need to reassure fans over future shows", but did not rule out further postponements.

"We are working with artist management and promoters to limit the impact on the opening season schedule," its statement said.

"Where necessary, we will identify alternate dates, and will continually reassess to provide fans with sufficient notice regarding imminent shows.

"Should shows be cancelled or rescheduled, fans will be contacted by their point of purchase and offered a full refund where preferred."

Oak View Group chief executive Tim Leiweke apologised to fans but defended the cancellation.

He added: "The safety and security of all visiting and working on Co-op Live is our utmost priority, and we could not and will not run any event until it is absolutely safe to do so.

"Today was a very unexpected situation but without a doubt the right decision."

Sponsors seek explanation

The Co-operative Group, which sponsors the venue, said it was "shocked" by what had happened.

A spokesperson said: "We are relieved that no-one has been injured, but we share the disappointment and frustration of ticket holders, many of whom are Co-op members, with the continuing delay to the opening of Co-op Live and the disruption that this is causing to everyone who has been looking forward to attending events.

"We will be seeking a full explanation from Oak View Group, who are responsible for the building, to the obvious questions arising from this, together with a clear plan from the Co-op Live venue management team at OVG for opening the venue and postponed and future events."

Last week, Co-op Live's general manager Gary Roden resigned following the initial delays and a backlash over comments he had made about some smaller live music venues being "poorly run".

Rebecca Kane-Burton, who has run the O2 arena in London and Sir Andrew Lloyd-Webber's LW Theatres, was drafted in to replace him.

Rodrigo opened the European section of her Guts world tour in Dublin on Tuesday, but now has a gap in her diary before dates in Glasgow, Birmingham and London.

Her tour made headlines in the US when contraceptives and morning-after pills were handed out at a concert in Missouri, where abortion is banned.

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