Leeds First Direct Arena news: Tony Watson goes behind the scenes...

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Tony Watson tells us what his week has been like...

What has your week been like? This week is exceptionally busy. Two things make my days challenging – big shows and big announcements. With Neil Diamond, Bette Midler and S Club 7 announcing on Monday, and Jack White, Kasabian and James at the arena this week, there’s not been a moment to think.

Every time you announce a headline act at the arena, we often think, they’ll never top that... and then you do! How? Big artists bring big artists. The arena is getting a reputation for being an amazing venue to play.

Great acoustics, strong ticket sales and great audiences mean we’ll continue to get big names coming to the city.

Are you surprised by the kind of acts who are now coming to Leeds? It’s always been SMG Europe’s Plan. Back in 2009 we said that if you build an arena in Leeds, you’d start seeing names like Rod Stewart, Bruce Springsteen and Madonna visiting Yorkshire. Two out of three ain’t bad.

Do you think this trend will continue.... and why? If you were planning a tour, why wouldn’t you consider Leeds? Yorkshire had two great arenas in Sheffield and in Leeds, so there’ll always be some tours that go to Sheffield, some to us and some to both but as long as the tour visits Yorkshire, it’s really exciting for music fans. In terms of Leeds – an untapped marketplace, a city that adores music, a great state of the art new venue, it’s hard to imagine a better combination of factors to pull people in.

Are there any grand plans for the new year you are working on? Any big name acts for 2015 and beyond? Absolutely. We’re always working up to two years in advance.

We’re currently working on plans for some major announcements that will come in the next couple of weeks – you’ll hear about them first in the Yorkshire Evening Post.

When the stars come, do you have to make special provision for some of them? Do they make strange requests and what kind of things do you have to do to make them feel welcome? Generally, we provide a blank canvas and the artists management will arrange for all their food, drink and room dressings.

Our back stage areas are intentionally plain to allow them to create spaces.

We’re always on hand too to make sure that artists get what they need, so whether it’s a space to walk the dog they’ve rented whilst in England, borrowing my laptop to watch a football match in their dressing room, or extra gravy for their bangers and mash, we’ll always be able to meet their needs.

Stephen Blake of the CMA  Photo: Vikki Ellis

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