Going backstage at the O2 Arena

Going backstage at the O2 Arena

Occasionally, something happens that makes me stop and fall over myself a bit at how typing out a stream of thoughts about things on the internet has led to a point where I get to do some amazing things. From eating in some really great restaurants, exploring Leuven, and recently, getting my explorer on and climbing to the summit of the O2.

That last one leads nicely into what I’m talking about in this post. How very convenient! Casually scanning my emails on a lunch break, I found an invitation to experience a backstage tour of the O2 arena to celebrate their tenth anniversary this year. Er. Um. YES. PLEASE.

The O2 Arena, London | Mini AdventuresThe O2 Arena, London | Mini AdventuresAccess all Areas at The O2 Arena, London | Mini AdventuresA backstage tour at The O2 Arena, London | Mini Adventures

It wasn’t the first time I’d found myself walking up to the O2 from North Greenwich Station, after speeding my way along the Jubilee line post-work. In fact, I’d actually been in the venue less than a week before, dancing my feet off and singing my lungs out to Blink 182 – the first time I’d seen them with one of my all time favourite musicians taking on a role in the band.

Earlier this year, I’d also seen Black Sabbath here, and I was actually wearing my t-shirt from that very show on the day of the tour. Half accidental, half my subconscious being a total loser.

A lump in my throat appeared as I spotted Linkin Park on the large listings board inside the arena, in the wake of the devastating news of Chester Bennington’s passing.

Meeting the O2 team in All Bar One for a quick cocktail (they do excellent mojitos) and some snacks (halloumi and avocado: also v. good), we were then taken into the venue’s backstage/staff entrance to get our ‘Access All Areas’ passes. Okay, they weren’t real ones, but still a pretty sweet souvenir.

We were welcomed to the venue by Barney, our tour guide for the evening, and after putting away our coats and bags, we set off on our backstage adventure…

American Express Invites Lounge at The O2 Arena, London | Mini AdventuresAmerican Express Invites Lounge at The O2 Arena, London | Mini AdventuresAmerican Express Invites Lounge at The O2 Arena, London | Mini AdventuresAmerican Express Invites Lounge at The O2 Arena, London | Mini Adventures

The tour goes about its business taking you deeper and deeper into the levels of access found within the backstage reaches. It starts with the American Express Invites Lounge – a VIP bar that special guests and successful American Express-owning applicants can access.

It’s pretty cool, and I’d definitely love hanging out here before a show. The décor manages to somehow fuse industrial style with airport lounge class, and I loved the corner where you can select your perfect pre-gig warm up tunes.

Dressing Room A at The O2 Arena, London | Mini AdventuresDressing Room A at The O2 Arena, London | Mini Adventures

For the ultimate VIP concert-going experience though, we checked out Dressing Room A – a private room in the American Express Invites Lounge that can be booked out by guests. And oh my wow. It was dreamy.

As soon as we walked in, the first thing I did was squeal that the bright pink sofa matched my hair, and immediately had to sit on it for a photo. And how amazing is THAT MIRROR with THOSE LIGHTS. Er, can my living room please look like this?

Alongside being wonderfully decorated, Dressing Room A also benefits from its own private bar and hospitality service. No queues for these VIPS, please.

Backstage corridor at The O2 Arena, London | Mini AdventuresSigned photo of Taylor Swift at The O2 Arena, London | Mini AdventuresTake That at The O2 Arena, London | Mini AdventuresBackstage corridor at The O2 Arena, London | Mini Adventures

The winding backstage corridors are lined with memorabilia from stars that have graced the O2 stage over the past ten years. Pop royalty such as Taylor Swift and Take That, rock stars from Alice Cooper to Led Zeppelin, sporting heroes from the worlds of football and wrestling, and some of the world’s best comedians all feature.

No one actually knew who these mysterious hand prints belong to – but I feel like mine are a pretty close fit, right?
The O2 Arena, London | Mini AdventuresThe O2 Arena, London | Mini AdventuresThe O2 Arena, London | Mini AdventuresThe O2 Arena, London | Mini AdventuresThe O2 Arena, London | Mini Adventures

The bowl itself is a part that all O2 visitors will get to see – but usually, it’s crammed with people, so seeing it completely empty is a pretty cool thing for us normal types.

Immediately, I noticed something was missing. Something pretty major that had been there whenever I’d attended before. Er, guys…where’s the stage?

Because the O2 is such a multi-purpose, adaptable space, they don’t actually have a permanent stage or sound setup – these will instead be brought in for each individual show (or run of shows) by the performer’s touring team. The back of the bowl area opens up so deliveries can be brought straight in. The venue actually used to allow tour buses to drive inside – although, as Barney told us, Kings of Leon put a stop to that by smoking on the bus, therefore in the venue. Naughty KoL.

I also realised that when it’s not crammed with people, the O2 bowl feels way smaller than it does on a show night. The floor area can hold up to 6000 people, which felt hard to believe as I stood there. And posed for my ‘headline act’ snap, of course…

Green room at The O2 Arena, London | Mini AdventuresSecret FAB room at The O2 Arena, London | Mini Adventures

The first shot of these two was from the green room, usually used for press conferences or artist meet and greets. It may be the green room, but the lighting is definitely more purple…!

We only encountered one place on the tour where we weren’t allowed to take photos – and that’s the Fab room. Designed for performers to spend their downtime in, few people will ever get to see what goes on in this secret space. Because what happens in the Fab room, stays in the Fab room.

What I can tell you is that there’s a Narnia style entrance, lots of fun and games, hidden secrets and a photo booth that you might just occasionally see room visitors sharing snaps from.

Artist's dressing room at The O2 Arena, London | Mini AdventuresArtist's dressing room at The O2 Arena, London | Mini AdventuresArtist's dressing room at The O2 Arena, London | Mini Adventures

One of the most fascinating aspects for me was taking a look at the artist dressing rooms backstage. Because it’s always kind of interesting to know where your heroes get dressed.

The headliner’s dressing room itself wasn’t what I expected it to be, at all. For a start, it was pretty simply decorated – which made a lot more sense when Barney explained that performers often put their own stamp on it, with décor and rider requests. There’s also a smaller room through to the back as well – which apparently was used as a playroom for Blue Ivy when Beyonce played the O2.

Of course, we had to take a bathroom selfie in a room where MEGA famous people have done their business too…

Twitter Mirror at The O2 Arena, London | Mini Adventures

On our ‘walk to the stage’, mirroring the steps artists and sports stars will take just moments before the show begins, we found the famous ‘Twitter mirror’. Before heading on stage, loads of famous faces have taken a shot here and tweeted it out to the O2’s fans. Unsurprisingly, One Direction doing this still holds the O2’s record for most engaged with tweet…

Executive suites at The O2 Arena, London | Mini AdventuresExecutive suite at The O2 Arena, London | Mini AdventuresExecutive suite at The O2 Arena, London | Mini AdventuresExecutive suite at The O2 Arena, London | Mini AdventuresExecutive suite at The O2 Arena, London | Mini Adventures

Of course, we had to take a bathroom selfie in a room where MEGA famous people have done their business too…

Our final stop was one of the executive boxes, where the tour came to an end and we enjoyed a little of the hospitality experience with wine and canapes. I’ve never had the experience of watching a band from a box, but I’d absolutely love to – even though the arena was empty, it wasn’t hard to picture the crowds, hear the sounds of guitars and screams, and imagine how great it’d be to actually be able to see the stage. Cause, y’know, small people problems.

The backstage tour of the O2 was a fascinating experience, and I’m SO thankful to the guys at the O2 and AEG for letting me in on some of the venue’s secrets. Seriously, it’s by far one of the coolest things I’ve done as a result of this blog, and I’m still fangirling ridiculously that I got the chance to do it.

So make sure you enter the competition before 12th August, so you’re in with a chance to recreate this experience for yourself!

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A VIP backstage tour of London's O2 Arena

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