What Co-op Live's ex-boss told the M.E.N. two weeks before he quit

Gary Roden has dramatically quit as general manager at Co-op Live
Gary Roden has dramatically quit as general manager at Co-op Live -Credit:MEN

With two weeks to go before what should have been opening night at Co-op Live, positivity radiated from Gary Roden. The 23,500-capacity venue's general manager was eagerly awaiting the opening of the UK's newest and largest arena.

He told the Manchester Evening News: "I'm in the luxurious position where I've got a brand new state-of-the-art £365m venue, which by definition will revolutionise what is going on in the UK entertainment scene, it's not a Manchester thing, it's a UK and Europe thing. We're going to supersede what any venue in the UK does."

Sixteen days later, on Thursday (April 25), Mr Roden sensationally quit from his position. The former Ticketmaster UK executive had been in post for 12 months before Co-op Live should have opened with two gigs from Bolton comedian Peter Kay.

READ MORE: Co-op Live blasted for 'taking advantage' with £25 parking fee

But the Eastlands venue has endured a turbulent week. Thousands saw their invitations to Saturday's test show revoked less than two hours before the event amid a power issue - cutting capacity for the night from 11,000 to 4,000.

The M.E.N. revealed that police and fire officers had concerns prior to that decision being taken. Two days later, Co-op Live confirmed that Peter Kay's two shows had been postponed by a week, with the venue still not ready to open.

Gary Roden
Gary Roden -Credit:MEN

Mr Roden then faced scorn for comments made this week in response to calls for a £1 levy on arena tickets, to go towards grassroots music venues. The BBC reported that Mr Roden believed that solution was 'too simplistic', and suggested that some venues are poorly run.

During his interview with the M.E.N. on April 9, Mr Roden also discussed the balance between grassroots and arena venues in Manchester, insisting it was 'something the whole industry has to focus on'. He said: "Everyone knows that talent grows through grassroots and we need talent at the biggest scale.

"I think the focus needs to be across all areas, there needs to be grassroot venues artists can play in, but then it's also an education issue, so access to instruments and lessons. Ultimately, we're very supportive of those small music venues getting the VAT cut that all of the small arts venues seem to be getting across the country. It seems strange that music and popular music isn't recognised.

"We can deliver to it though we can support and we're doing that, we're a founding partner of Beyond the Music, and work our place in that, we support the Mayor's artist of the month campaign as a starting point, and when we open we will work on our own way to support that. Nationally we're also part of the national arena's association and the industry at large is getting better at communicating on it."

Bosses at Co-op Live have confirmed Saturday's show is going ahead
Bosses at Co-op Live insist Saturday's show is going ahead -Credit:ABNM Photography

Fire and police bosses have not publicly divulged their concerns around the arena ahead of launch. The M.E.N. understands bosses are working to satisfy various agencies on concerns around safety and that work is ongoing.

Tim Leiweke, OVG managing director, told the BBC on Tuesday the venue was in 'hourly contact' with the emergency services ahead of Saturday. Mr Roden discussed the issue of safety at the venue with the M.E.N., particularly in regards to the risk of terrorism.

Manchester will always remember the 22 people killed in the Manchester Arena bombing in May 2017, including Martyn Hett, whose mum Figen Murray has tirelessly campaigned for safety in large venues since the atrocity. Mr Roden told the M.E.N. that Co-Op Live has been working with her 'since the conception of the venue' and safety is a key concern for bosses.

He added: "It's a thing that everybody in the entertainment industry in the world is focused on and from our perspective we are leaving no stone unturned. The scale of investment is significant but there is no excuse.

"We're starting from scratch so our security focus has been designed into the building, how we've built it and located it. There's state-of-the-art scanning barriers, the volume of security staff is very high, and we're working with all of the key responsible authorities, we've done over seven table-top exercises."

Mr Roden also told the M.E.N. he was 'very confident' in the venue's travel plans, and claimed promoters for major arena shows were 'trying to make the entry level price as affordable as possible' when shows were announced.