Chris Markland, Production Manager explains why we need urgent action now to start planning our events, not in two months time!
Over to Chris:
Having seen Glastonbury festival announce its cancellation for the 2nd consecutive year really brings home the need for the government to give our industry a clear indication of when restrictions on live events are to be lifted.
If 2020 showed anything, it demonstrated that changing restrictions with days even weeks’ notice leads to massive financial hardship for not just the artists and crews involved but the numerous support businesses. Lights, sound, instrument hire, videos caterer’s security and transport companies.
Taking the example of Glastonbury first. Organising an event of that size is a full time task. Emily and Michael’s team spend all year, booking the acts, organising the technical production, and arranging ticket allocation.
In addition to the work involved directly in putting the acts on stage there is the even bigger task of building the infrastructure. The allocation of concession pitches, provision of toilets and hygiene facilities, the arrangement of parking and camping areas, security and stewarding, and the liaising with broadcasters.
Now these tasks don’t just fall on the shoulders of 2 people and a large workforce are employed to do this. Given the above, you cannot contemplate starting this task committing time and large sums of money to something that may get barred from happening at a week’s notice.
In this situation the organisers would be liable for: deposits to suppliers, refund of tickets (to people who don’t want to take rescheduled dates). They would still be responsible for site rental and to pay the staff who have spent months putting all of the above together. Now if you were facing the prospect of losing hundreds of thousands of pounds would you risk trying to organise an event?
In the past you could negate the risk somewhat by taking out cancellation insurance. With Covid this is not possible. Insurance companies also do not want to risk losing money in claims. And who can blame them, are the Government willing to underwrite these costs?
Then we have the acts themselves. They don’t just book one show at a time, a whole summer is mapped out around festival dates to optimise travel and to make these tours viable. Air tickets have to be booked in advance and when dealing with large numbers of people you cannot afford to be booking refundable tickets. Therefore, if a festival is cancelled due to Covid it does not only affect that particular date but will have a knock on effect to the rest of the itinerary. Do you bite the bullet and rebook different flights having wrote off 1 leg already and risk more money on getting to the next booked date, hoping its allowed to happen?
No, you simply cannot tour under these circumstances.
Now the larger more established acts can weather this storm for a year but even they, (with record sales being a negligible source of income) cannot sustain it for any length of time. Many smaller acts have already had to disband as festivals are really the only way to get their music out to an audience of any size. Festivals like Glastonbury are not just about the main acts appearing on the big stages with vast production, its more about the new acts who have driven there in a van, are appearing for nothing, just getting expenses covered these are the future headliners and we are losing the future of music.
Aside from the staff employed directly by the festivals there are the secondary businesses who indirectly rely on events for a large part of their income. The local guest houses, hotels The local land owners who supply camping pitches. Taxi and mini bus firms. These people rely on this income for a large chunk of their annual budgets.
Aside from the businesses involved, the human cost is massive. Many people on low income, students augmenting grants and people who rely on this casual work, now have this money taken away from them.
We realise that restrictions are not going to be lifted immediately and we are not asking for that. What we need is notice of when we can start to plan. It’s no use keeping us shut down until April then saying “you can open in May’ so you can stop furlough and SIESS. that is to short notice. All the above CANNOT be put in place in a month. There is going to be a clamour for venues and those companies that have survived are going to have to reorganise and ensure the business is ready to go.
The foregoing being said, the foremost concern has to be the strain being put on people’s mental health. You simply cannot expect people to survive without hope, without some sign of light at the end of the tunnel. We are on our knees here and the government doesn’t seem to acknowledge or care about us.
We need some signs that there is a future. To many people have succumbed to the strain of the uncertainty regarding the future and whilst ‘experts’ bandy figures around they forget that its real people being affected, its real people whose livelihoods have been taken and whose families are struggling to pay their bills.
It’s easy when your salary is guaranteed and unaffected to talk about us all ‘in it together’ it’s easy to talk of the greater good when you know your pay cheque will be there. We don’t know when we can next expect a wage packet and for how long we will be able to earn.
Boris mentions that hospitality industries will be last to be released from restrictions! Why? Surely we should be amongst the first as we were 1st shut down. We have suffered longer than ANY other business.
We have lost most of our venues due to the lock down (which again will hurt the smaller acts), we cannot travel and (if we could its unviable due to Brexit) the majority of us were excluded from aid.
Haven’t we ‘done our bit’ and it’s time we were helped?
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