Edinburgh’s Usher Hall set to stage regular phone-free concerts

The Jack White gig at the Usher Hall in Edinburgh on Sunday when all mobile phones were banned from the auditorium and placed in lockable pouches. Picture: Contributed
The Jack White gig at the Usher Hall in Edinburgh on Sunday when all mobile phones were banned from the auditorium and placed in lockable pouches. Picture: Contributed
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One of Scotland’s leading concert venues is set to stage regular “phone-free” concerts in future.

The Usher Hall in Edinburgh has hailed the success of a show by American rocker Jack White which saw fans urged either to leave devices at home or place them inside lockable pouches.

His promoters had warned fans they would not be allowed into the show if they insisted on using their phone, but urged them to embraced a “100 per cent human experience”.

General manager Karl Chapman said the show, the first time a phone-free pop or rock gig has been attempted at the venue, passed off without any problems and was warmly received by his followers.

He said the venue was likely to explore doing the same again in response to requests from artists who have been turned down in the past over concerns that a mobile ban would have been impractical.

White has joined forces with US tech firm Yondr to stage a phone-free tour. Fans were asked to surrender devices on arrival at the Usher Hall, where staff placed them in foam pouches which were locked before they entered the auditorium. They were allowed to set them to vibrate in case of any emergency calls. Designated phone use areas were set up around the venue, but phones had to be locked back up again before fans returned to the main arena.

Ticketholders were told: “We think you’ll enjoy looking up from your gadgets for a little while and experience music and our shared love of it IN PERSON. 
Repost our photos and videos as much as you want and enjoy a phone-free, 100 per cent human experience.”

Mr Chapman said: “Phones have become a bit like the new cigarette lighter as there are so many of them being held in the air during a show. Bands like Coldplay and U2 actually encourage people to join in their gig with their phones.

“I really get where Jack White is coming from. For a lot of people mobile phones are quite annoying and if you’re using a phone you’re not actually watching the show. It must get pretty annoying for artists.

“It’s the first time we’ve had anything like this with a pop or rock artist. It all went surprisingly well here. We were quite apprehensive about it. It’s a complete social norm to use your phone at a gig. The feedback was very positive. Quite a few people said it was like rolling the clock black 20 years.

“I could definitely see us doing it again. These things are driven by artists. I’d imagine we will see a few requests coming forward having seen Jack White do it. The structures are now in place now.”

In an interview earlier this year, White said: “I thought it would be great if people showed up and found out when they got there that there were these pouches for phones. I thought it would excite them and possibly make some of them upset. It’s funny. I go to movies and everyone turns their phone off. You go to the symphony, there’s no phones. Church, no phones. There’s all these places where it’s already happening.”