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Prince’s O2 residency record more than doubled by NHS’s 44 night stand

By | Published on Wednesday 27 May 2020

The O2

For years, the O2 Arena in London has handed out awards to artists who perform on its stage 21 times – because that matches the number of shows Prince did during his 2007 residency at the then new venue under the old Millennium Dome. Now there’s a new target though, with the venue announcing the NHS as the new holder of the record for the longest residency there.

In April, the O2 Arena was converted into a training facility for staff who were required for the temporary NHS Nightingale hospital that was built in the Excel conference centre on the other side of the Thames to help provide extra beds during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although it initially offered the space for NHS training up until the end of June, the O2 was officially relieved of its duties yesterday, after 44 days. This follows the announcement earlier this month that the Nightingale itself would no longer be accepting new patients.

With the NHS now clearing out, the arena took the opportunity to announce the health service as a new residency record holder. And, OK, I know it’s not really the same as Prince getting up on stage 21 times and playing a different set every night. But I don’t think this is really the time for your cynicism, do you? Honestly, don’t you know there’s still a health crisis on?

To commemorate their time there, NHS staff who worked at the venue have signed their names on an illustration of a nightingale with rainbow wings, created by artist Madeleine Floyd.

“We’ve hosted some real heroes during these past few weeks and it has been a privilege for AEG, along with our partner O2, to have been able to play our part during these challenging times”, says Deputy General Manager of the O2, Danielle Kennedy-Clark. “This has been our most important residency to date and we’re grateful to the team for this special piece of artwork to remind us of such a poignant time”.

Artists who have matched Prince’s 21 shows at the O2 – albeit none in one single residency – include Take That, One Direction, Michael Buble and Drake. To date, all artists who have reached this milestone have been presented with the keys to the venue (a big framed key, anyway). Whether they’ll now be locked out until they’ve matched the NHS’s 44 nights isn’t clear.

Maybe whichever artist is first to come up with a COVID-19 vaccine will be allowed to keep their key oblivious of the number of shows they perform. My money’s on Mark Owen.