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Stealth lockdown brings Live Events Supply Chain back to the brink

£70billion contribution to the UK economy at risk once again – Government support needed to bounce back.

#WeMakeEvents urges Government to regard the live events sector as a highly viable industry worthy of investment and support.

With Government advice putting the decision-making onto the shoulders of the public, and consumer confidence eroding as a consequence, yet again we see the live events sector stressed to the limit.

Live events are traditionally the model of a robust sector, employing hundreds of thousands of personnel. A festival stage for example can employ upwards of 450 staff, a typical pantomime 50-100 staff. With record revenues in 2019 of £70billion, and reductions during 20/21 of up to 90%, businesses worked hard to bounce back and exceed revenues of November 2019 by November 2021. However, the current climate has already reduced this by 80% during December 2021 and is forecast to continue through January 2022.

From Lockdown-One in Spring 2020 until summer 2021, companies in this sector only received around 12% of Cultural Recovery Fund (CRF) awards. And the ‘army’ of over half a million world-renowned, freelance, technical specialists were also largely denied support, with many still playing catch up having had no work for over a year with consequent debts and mental health issues mounting rapidly.

Whilst we are pleased to see the Government recognise the existence and critical role of freelancers in the entertainment sectors, the Chancellor’s announcement last week of £1.5milion support will have little to no effect whatsoever. Added to this, local government grants are not sufficiently targeted to reach the supply chain, compounded by the ‘postcode lottery’ of these grants by the issuing local authorities, and exclusion for many within the recently announced CRF criteria. Over 25% of people had to leave the sector they loved over the past 20 months for more regular and dependable income to support themselves and families. Another talent drain like this will be fatal.

Whilst we feel the pain for our colleagues in hospitality, widely covered by the media as being 40% down, the Live Events Supply Chain, (which traditionally feeds a significant level of hospitality revenues), is already facing cancellations of 80% and rising during December and January. The UK’s sector, regarded as the best in the world, is once again at risk of collapse. This does not only affect music events, festivals and tours but prevents others such as corporate, trade shows, conferences, sporting events and broadcast from proceeding.

According to Peter Heath, Managing Director of PLASA (Professional Lighting and Sound Association) and Steering Group member of #WeMakeEvents: “The incredible efforts made by this sector when it was on its knees for 16 months is testament not only to the belief and dedication of its people, but also evidence that this is a highly viable industry. But having taken so many body-blows it will need short-term support for its manufacturing and production companies, as well as its staff and freelance communities to recover.”

#WeMakeEvents urges the UK Government not to ignore this sector once again but to provide appropriate support for companies, personnel and freelance staff so it can bounce back to being the UK’s world-leading jewel in the crown.

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Press Release

#WeMakeEvents amplifies support for post-Brexit touring in open letter to Grant Shapps

#WeMakeEvents is joined by over 150 industry players to call for crucial government support for the specialist transport vehicles – carrying artists, crew, and equipment involved in touring productions – which have been rendered inoperable due to Brexit.

Read the open letter to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps

An essential component to music, film, and TV tours, passenger transportation relies on operating freely in the EU. Under the current post-Brexit EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) hauliers are restricted, stopping the 30 companies in the sector from returning and UK artists from being able to tour. This is instead opening up opportunities for trucking companies to be set up in the EU and sacrificing specialist jobs. The industry is now writing to the Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, urging the government to negotiate exemptions or waivers to the TCA and/or provide short term work arounds.

Without freedom of movement to work across the EU, the demise of sleeper bus and splitter van businesses will threaten the UK’s entire creative export ecosystem and position as a recognised global leader in live events. Unless the TCA is negotiated to provide an exception to the cabotage hauliers, the industry faces another competitive disadvantage against EU-based competitors.

To raise awareness, over 50 musicians have co-signed the letter including Frank Turner, Two Door Cinema Club, Maximo Park, Blossoms, Ghostpoet, Public Service Broadcasting, Melanie C and Jamiroquai. Also supporting are the producers and crew involved in music, film, and TV productions that rely on the customised vehicles operated by these live events businesses.

With all but no live events being able to take place in the EU for over a year, the letter follows a recent #WeMakeEvents’ survey further highlighting the complexities of Brexit:

  • Almost a third of respondents generated 30% or more of their revenues from Europe in 2019
  • 62% see the new EU relationship as a problem for business and income
  • 36% are expecting increased EU competition

Duncan Bell, steering committee member of #WeMakeEvents said: The UK is geared up to hold around 85% of Europe’s touring capacity in terms of the live event supply chain and without solutions to the EU Touring obstacles we face, these businesses and individuals are in jeopardy.  Over one year down the line since tours were taken from under our feet, we are witnessing an imminent destruction of the UK’s position as a supplier of skills and technology to touring. Without urgent intervention, we may well see the invisible army of touring staff have to permanently sacrifice their beloved careers and choose more stable jobs.”

Tarrant Anderson, the founder and a Director of Vans For Bands Ltd, said: “What we need the government to recognise is the irreparable damage that will be imposed upon touring production unless counteractive support to new EU laws is made accessible. The Brexit deal means the only work companies like ours can now do in the EU is make one delivery stop, one interior move in that location, then one more movement within the EU before being forced to return to the UK. The pandemic has exacerbated this in taking away all touring work before the law was imposed. In normal circumstances Vans For Bands services over 100 tours per month and transports around 10,000 musicians and crew every year – not being able to do what we do best, even when lockdown restrictions ease, will be devastating.”

Frank Turner, British singer and songwriter, said: “The restrictions which have become apparent in the wake of the Brexit deal are completely restrictive, to the point of negation, of the touring world I know and have worked in for the last two decades. If these restrictions had been in place for the last 20 years, I simply would not have been able to tour, establish my audience, and grow my career on the continent, to the point where I now (in usual times) headline arena shows and festivals across Europe. I have proudly employed many skilled UK crew members and musicians and generated revenue and tax from my business in Europe as much as any other overseas territory. Facing its removal from my touring schedule is unconscionable.”

Two Door Cinema Club, Northern Irish rock band, said: “When we were starting out, cutting our teeth in clubs and broom closets around Europe we struggled to make ends meet. Everything we had, we put into pursuing our dream. We crammed into a van and off we went. After a show in Paris got critics talking, we were asked to join a European tour with a weeks’ notice and the rest is history. Now 12 years and thousands of tickets sold later, we play at European festivals every summer where every single one has talented and brilliant artists from this country. If these restrictions were in place when we were starting out, pursuing our dream, I have no doubt that we wouldn’t be where we are today. This country exports incredible stories, art and pure jubilation, we must protect that otherwise we risk never having the next Adele, Artic Monkeys or Stormzy.”

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#WeMakeEvents gives evidence at DCMS hearing on UK festivals

On Tuesday 2 February, #WeMakeEvents gave evidence during a DCMS Select Committee inquiry into the future of UK festivals, represented by the leader of the campaign’s political group Duncan Bell who detailed the ongoing challenges faced by the live events and entertainment industry.

When asked if there is a problem with people leaving the industry due to COVID-19 Duncan answered that, “Freelancers have been forced to find work elsewhere. In a recent survey of 2,800 people over 30% of freelancers said they have had to leave the industry, and 20% say they hope to come back but are very unsure whether they are able to because of the lack of certainty.” #WeMakeEvents is currently verifying the data from this survey and will be publishing the full report in the coming weeks.  

One of the central aims of #WeMakeEvents is to get government-backed cancellation insurance for events, and following a question on the financial processing Duncan explained, “In many cases there will be payments in the planning stage but the majority of funds will not be paid until the event has gone ahead…It’s one of the reason the insurance discussion is such an important discussion for us.”

Duncan continued, “Conversations have been going on for some time and we have put forward various schemes. think the urgent requirement and benefit of the insurance is to bring certainty to being able to plan and book equipment, making it the first link in the chain, not the last.”

A road map still has yet to be presented by government on how and when the events industry is liekly to re-open. Duncan commented, “We need the clarity and engagement. It’s not about a definitive date, it’s about a plan of what the picture could look like – how do we think a safer event could happen, how does insurance allow that to happen, how does rapid testing fit in to that process? One of the points that is missed in many conversations is that unlike certain sectors we have not been forced to close legally and therefore many support systems aren’t triggered. Many businesses in our sector have been operating on 5-6 percent income over the past 10-11 months.”

In addition to the huge loss of earnings throughout 2021, Duncan also raised crucial points regarding Brexit and the future potential for loss of work: “There is a fear that technicians and crew will come in from the EU because of their passport status…We will see UK companies being less favourable and staff will be sourced from the EU and therefore will only have one country to work out for their work permit.”

Later in the inquiry, Duncan got to the crux of why the events industry has struggled to receive adequate government support:, “One of our biggest frustrations is that we represent the hidden bit – we are invisible and go out of our way to be invisible. People go to the theatre or a festival and take for granted that it happens magically. People are not aware of the thousands involved over a period of time, in many cases for festivals it’s a year-long process.”

Following the inquiry, the BBC reported on the future of festivals, quoting Duncan and his fellow witnesses: tour manager Tre Stead, Nottinghill Carnival chief exectutive Matthew Phillip, and Wild Rumpus director Rowan Cannon. Moreover, this crucial evidence will be evaluated and considered by top-tier government officials when developing safety procedures for live events in the future.

Read the BBC article: www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-55900788
Watch the DCMS inquiry: parliamentlive.tv/event/index/e4cf0a19-99c6-4177-9c3e-fad00caf0548

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Over 100 organisations and figures ask for insurance support

#WeMakeEvents along with over 100 organisations, MPs and key figures have signed a letter calling on the Government to urgently back cancellation insurance for live events. The letter warns that organisers will be unable to risk financial losses unless events can be insured against cancellation.

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Global Day of Action planned for 30th September

The #WeMakeEvents campaign has been ramping up activity in order to highlight how the global live events industry urgently needs to get back to work. Over 30 million people in 25 countries would usually work in the events industry, but with social distancing measures in place, there is no possibility of a financially viable return for the foreseeable future.

Over the past weeks, events have happened around the world, including in the U.S., Canada, Sweden, France, Germany, Spain and UK, to raise awareness of those impacted in the event supply chain, from manufacturers, production companies, catering, transport, security and others, to the huge freelance community that works within the industry.

The majority of the industry has had no income since the beginning of the crisis in March, and with a global second wave of COVID-19 imminent, a date to return to work has become impossible to predict, leaving many companies and individuals devastated, both financially and personally.

“The situation in Spain is terrible and we’re working very hard to highlight that to our government,” says Juan Jose Villa, from Spanish trade association, AFIAL. “Our event on 17th September got coverage on most of Spain’s regional television and radio stations, and we believe that we have shown how important live events are to the Spanish economy.”

The industry is now joining together as a worldwide force on the 30th September for a Global Day of Action. This marks the start of a new phase of the campaign which will continue to alert governments to the disastrous situation the sector faces.

In the UK alone, the DCMS’ figures state the Cultural Sector’s value exceeds £100 billion and was the fastest growing sector in 2017 and in 2018, the outdoor events industry attracted a staggering 141.5 million visitors. Despite this, the sector does not receive arts grants, which means that the recent £1.57 billion bailout is not reaching the highly skilled people, manufacturers or the huge supply chain of businesses that enable the sector to operate. When this supply chain is taken into account, the number of people affected nears one million and threatens to destroy all of their livelihoods, as well as the future of live events in general.

“In 2019, we turned over between £3 and £4 million in the corporate events market,” says Bryan Raven, Managing Director of White Light. “This year, in the same time period, we have turned over just £8,000. At the beginning of the year, we employed 260 people. It doesn’t take an accountant to do the maths and realise it’s not financially viable to keep a company going under such circumstances. The result is that we have already had to make 67 staff redundant and, unless the Furlough scheme in the UK is extended or replaced, a further 50 roles are at risk. It’s tragic to see our company go from being highly successful to this in a matter of months.”

#WeMakeEvents is now calling on governments worldwide to extend significant financial support for the people and companies in the events sector supply chain until they can viably return to work.

At 8pm local time on 30th September, event professionals from thousands of cities across more than 25 countries will come together to Stand As One for the Global Day of Action.

The ‘baton’ will be passed across different time zones and feature creative activities, which include:


• Shine a Light – strategically placed shafts of white light will be beamed into the night sky, with each one signifying potential job losses. 

• #LightItInRed – venues and structures will be illuminated red with the #WeMakeEvents signature expression of Red Alert. 

• Inside Out – images of what would have been taking place inside a venue will now be projected onto the outside of empty venues, reminding us what we are missing and what may never return.

“What people really don’t understand is what events contribute to the world, financially, spiritually and emotionally,” concludes Michael T Strickland, Chair and Founder Bandit Lites in the USA and a leading voice in the US RESTART campaign which is aligned with WeMakeEvents. “We really are a global industry. The impact to us is devastating right now, with 77% of people in our live events industry having lost 100% of their income due to the inability to work due to social distancing regulations, but the impact on the world if the industry disappears will be equally devastating in many ways.

“It’s incomprehensible that governments do not understand the economic value of the events industry as a whole – from festivals, tours, conventions to corporate events. We are a solid financial investment and will be able to contribute far more to a global recovery than we will cost in the meantime.”
  Find out how to support the campaign and what you can do on the 30th .

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#WeMakeEvents builds momentum

September 18th, 2020 – The #WeMakeEvents campaign aims to raise awareness around the current plight of the live entertainments sector and its urgent need for financial support if it is to support the Covid-19 crisis. Last month, it was announced that it would be steered by a collective of industry trade bodies, businesses and freelancers; all working in collaboration with each other. Over the past few weeks, the team has continued to build momentum around the campaign, working endlessly to rally the government for much needed support.  

Following last month’s Day of Action which saw buildings across the UK lit up in red as a show of support, the #WeMakeEvents team has been busy capitalising on the extensive media coverage and attention this received. One of those involved is White Light’s Managing Director Bryan Raven, who comments: “The Day of Action was vitally important for our cause as it finally got people talking. There were a few government figures who weren’t particularly listening to our concerns prior to this and didn’t fully appreciate the scale of the crisis we are in. That certainly seems to have changed now and, whilst it may appear that the campaign has been slightly quieter for the past few weeks, this is only due to us putting all of our energies into the various meetings and surveys we’ve had to conduct to ensure the campaign continues to gain momentum”.

Activities over the last few weeks include meetings with political advisors, who are helping to formulate precise action points of the campaign’s next steps, as well as collating a Briefing Information document which is being used to rally MPs and other people of influence. There have also been several surveys conducted, such as the Freelancer Survey, which will allow the campaign to present the government with facts and figures which show how vital this industry is to the economy. A letter featuring prominent industry heads was printed in The Times newspaper to rally further mainstream support of our plight. The campaign team has also been working hard to determine just who will be able to receive any existing government funding, after receiving confirmation from the DCMS that the Culture Recovery Fund will not apply to event companies.

In addition to raising the profile of this emergency, #WeMakeEvents is implementing its plans to raise funds for those most affected, the first step  is the merchandise store, now available on the new official site and contributions to our chosen industry charities starting with Backup – The Technical Entertainment Charity. Donate here.

There have also been plans made for a Creative Action Protest to be held in Parliament Square on 29th September to continue pressuring the government for support. For this event in particular, the #WeMakeEvents team would encourage as many individuals as possible to attend in order to emphasise the importance of this campaign as well as how the industry is edging ever closer to collapse. Reinforcing the professionalism of our sector, all events observe Covid safety protocols including masks and social distancing, of course. You can register here.

This will be followed by the Global Action Day on the 30th, more information on which will be issued shortly.  Bryan concludes: “It’s safe to say that it’s been an incredibly busy few weeks for all of us at #WeMakeEvents. Unfortunately, we have to be honest and say there is no instant fix available to solve the issues we all face, so instead, our time and energy need to go into well-thought out strategies and ensure we use our resources as effectively as possible. With Furlough ending next month, this is a battle that still needs fighting and we will be at the forefront of that. We will continue our hard work over the next few weeks and hope that our efforts will see the breakthrough we so desperately need”.