Undeniably, we are living through unprecedented times and the live events industry we usually operate within is currently unrecognisable. The last few weeks have seen suppliers pull together like never before to lend a hand to our country’s NHS heroes. Despite the lifting of lockdown measures now flickering on the horizon, it is fair to say that our world of festivals may be one of the last to bounce back.
Caboose & Co managing director Tom Critchley looks at what we can still be doing to keep our industry alive.
“The events industry is fighting for its life right now, but so are almost all other industries, not to mention individuals in hospitals and care homes sadly battling against the COVID-19 virus that has turned life upside down for billions of us globally.
As a business we are uncertain if we can survive this economic downturn without government support. We are unashamed to admit we may need help to get back up on our feet once again, safeguard jobs and give us a fighting chance of survival. The government is trying to help all sectors with furlough payments, 0% interest government-backed business loans and grants but some sectors, including the events industry will find it tougher.
Our profession nor the services we provide are essential to the running of the country or required on the front line. As such, we have played our part by just staying at home, being patient and exploring ways in which we can lend a helping hand to those most struggling and in desperate need of assistance.
Our industry is bursting at the seams with grafters, problem solvers, forward thinkers and unlimited creativity, so there is no doubt in my mind that collectively we can be put to good use to make a positive impact. It’s in our nature, and demonstrated on a daily basis, that we are a bunch used to rolling our sleeves up and mucking in. We are rational, on the spot decision-makers that are quick to find logical solutions, which may take other industries days or even weeks to implement. An invaluable skill in any crisis.
Businesses, like Mercedes and Dyson, have displayed forward-thinking creativity and innovation pivoting teams and their available technology to design alternative ventilator technology, factories have converted machines to produce urgently-required PPE supplies and even families at home have crafted bags to store contaminated scrubs for NHS staff. We all need to question what we can continue turning our hand or business to at this time.
The events industry often doesn’t get outside recognition for the skills and professionalism that is required to put on the ‘show’, so this is our time to remind the public how resourceful and adaptable we are. Innovative schemes being set up including Diana Findlays’ ‘People Powered’ initiative which is co-ordinating the events industry’s skillsets and available workforces to where they’re needed most. Also, Secret Cinema has brought their immersive movie concept to our living rooms with an online film club, Big Feastival has launched sessions to keep children entertained during lockdown, Andrew Lloyd Webber is live streaming his West End theatre productions and Burning Man Festival is taking Black Rock City online. Whether you are in a position to volunteer, entertain, innovate or create be it through your business or from within four walls during lockdown – we can continue to make a positive impact in society for those who are less fortunate. It may be tempting to ease away from this new ‘normal’ thinking lockdown will shortly come to an end, but keep in mind that for vulnerable individuals self-isolation may be here to stay for quite some time yet.
Over the past two months, we have seen the monumental logistical challenges required to convert some of the UK’s largest venues and stadiums including ExCel London, The O2, The NEC and the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, to name a few, into temporary NHS Nightingale hospitals to meet increasing medical demand. Who provided the skills to put these together? I bet event people were playing key roles behind the scenes. We can’t overshadow the heroic efforts of doctors, nurses, hospital cleaners, caterers, police, medics, ambulance drivers and everyone else involved in the medical response to Covid-19, but we should also highlight at the right time, how our industry played our part and utilised our unique skills to support the country.
Caboose & Co, as part of a wider project led by Visions Group, have supplied 40 temporary rooms to the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading to accommodate key NHS staff which will operate for a minimum of six weeks at the temporary site. As a team, we’re proud to play our part in these exceptional times and help provide a convenient, comfy place for staff to rest after a physically and emotionally demanding shift.
Sadly, within the events industry it is already becoming apparent that it is the people who are suffering the most. Freelancers underpin so many events and they will be starved of much needed revenue when their clients are taking tough decisions to keep their companies afloat. Where possible we should look after these people.
There’s no denying that this will be an incredibly tough year for the events industry, but I think it is important not to lose hope or our usual positive outlook. We will come back swinging and the events will be bigger, better and more creative than ever.