As an industry on the edge campaigns for aid, should its fate rest on Government intervention, or can real recovery only be driven organically from within?

Unlike other industries, the events sector has been unable to safely reopen and with no government support on the horizon for the event supply chain, redundancies have already begun. Research indicates that a quarter of companies will have served redundancy notices by the end of August, rising to 70% by the end of the year as the Furlough Scheme winds down.

Back in August, the #WeMakeEvents campaign spearheaded by the Professional Lighting and Sound Association (PLASA), issued a Red Alert day of action across the UK to raise awareness of over a million professionals working in the technical side of the entertainment industry who have either lost, or are at imminent risk of losing their jobs – 600,000 of whom deliver live events, and around 70% of the workforce are freelance.

The government’s recent £1.57 billion cash injection into the cultural and arts institutions has not reached key industry workers, and the imminent closure of the final self-employed income support scheme on 19th October further threatens livelihoods.

Over 19 trade associations from the live events sector collaborated for the first time to help 20 UK cities host events to raise awareness of the struggling supply chain. 715 venues from The Queen’s Hall Edinburgh, Principality Stadium Cardiff and the Millennium Forum Northern Ireland all lit up in red to symbolise this danger, while in Manchester, 200 technicians pushed flight cases through the city centre.

Peter Heath, PLASA Managing Director, said: “PLASA stands by its initial plea which is for the government to provide the entire event industry supply chain with grants as well as extensions to both the Furlough Scheme and the Self-employed Support Scheme. From the start, government grants were not explicitly made available to the event supply chain, with only one out of six PLASA members surveyed successfully receiving grants.

“Although the Furlough Scheme was a great relief, the tapering off by autumn does not bode well for companies who will have not seen any business until October. The situation has been even more bleak for our freelancers who make up nearly three quarters of our industry. Many immediately fell through the gaps and will soon have no income whatsoever.”

Tom Critchley, MD of pop-up event accommodation supplier Caboose & Co is one of thousands of events businesses in support of the campaign, yet remains unconvinced Government intervention is the answer: “It’s a fantastic initiative but I do worry, as every sector is calling out for help right now. I’m not going to start complaining that the government can do more; I believe there is little extra they can do when things are still so unknown and changeable.

“I agree with this plea to extend the Furlough Scheme, as I think freelancers are struggling the most and have little support. Perhaps the most optimistic step forward would be for government to create conditions allowing the events sector to get moving again, rewarding innovation that facilitates these over handouts.

“While #WeMakeEvents is calling for grants, not loans for businesses in the events supply chain, I think the only thing the government can do is underwrite events so they can plan as if it is a normal year. I’m hopeful we will see something similar extended to our area, and it is looking promising with more innovative ways to hold socially distanced events emerging – but that’s still a challenge.”

As Treasury statistics claim the recent Eat Out to Help Out initiative propelled August’s hospitality trade to twice last year’s levels, Michael Begley, Managing Director of venuedirectory.com is just one industry figure proposing a ‘meet out to help out’ scheme. “The success of the government-backed dining sector promotion needs to be replicated with a campaign to boost the events industry. All sides of the industry – corporates, agencies and venues – need to unite to drive it, because the government is unlikely to back it.”

Just as high streets have received a boost, Michael suggests the events sector now needs a sales incentive scheme to generate momentum: “If people are confident enough to eat out, they should be happy to meet out. Between next month and the end of the year, I would suggest corporates need to commit to booking their next meeting or event and put down a deposit with the venue to demonstrate their commitment. If they can do this, then the venue can pass on 50% of the commission to the booking agent immediately after the booking is confirmed and the deposit paid.

“This will not only generate momentum to keep the sector moving in what is an incredibly tough trading period, it will also boost the cashflow of agencies, many of which are vulnerable at this time. To further boost confidence and minimise risk, the corporates should be able to receive a refund up to 14 days prior to arrival if they choose not to hold their event. Many businesses in the travel and hotel sector are already doing this to encourage bookings.

With schools having returned and venues primed with Covid-secure best practice, Michael is confident that now is the time for event planners to drive business: ”I am confident that the venues are ready – we have over 20,000 on our database who have uploaded their safety protocols. What we now need is the confidence and liquidity and that can only come from the incubator of most events – the corporate client.”

One of these venue owners in support of the ‘meet out to help out’ proposal is Nick Hartland, director of the National Conference Centre based at Birmingham’s National Motorcycle Museum: “In these extremely bleak times facing the business events sector, it’s imperative that we think outside the box and regain confidence from corporates that face to face events can be held safely and provide a tangible ROI. Michael’s idea of venues, agents and corporates all working together is going to be the only way our beloved industry can rebound.”

When the events sector is just one of a multitude of voices clamouring for dwindling support from Downing Street, it is inevitable that industries must take it upon themselves to foster communities from which they can draw on their own reserves to safeguard a viable future in such times of crushing uncertainty.

Following ‘Sunak’s suppers’ it’s now time for ‘Sunak’s seminars’!

“Let’s Meet out to Help Out” says Michael Begley, managing director of venuedirectory.com

‘Meet out to help out’ proponent, Michael Begley.

The success of the Government-backed dining sector promotion scheme needs to be replicated with a promotional campaign to boost the business events industry, argues Michael Begley, managing director of venuedirectory.com:  “All sides of the industry – corporates, agencies and venues – need to unite to drive it, because the Government is unlikely to back it.”

Just as British high streets have received a major boost from the launch of the government-backed discount dining scheme the business events sector now needs a sales incentive scheme to generate momentum and confidence in the industry,” he continues. “Many of us have enjoyed gathering together in restaurants and cafes as part of the Eat Out to Help Out scheme. These lunch, afternoon tea and dinner guests are tomorrows delegates – and if they are confident enough to eat out, they should be happy to ‘meet out’.”

Inspiring conference confidence

“We want all parties to work together – corporates, agents and venues – to drive activity and confidence in the sector. Between next month and the end of the year, I would suggest corporates need to commit to booking their next meeting or event and put down a deposit with the venue to demonstrate their commitment. If they can do this, then the venue can pass on 50% of the commission to the booking agent immediately after the booking is confirmed and the deposit paid.

“This will not only generate momentum to keep the sector moving in what is an incredibly tough trading period, it will also boost the cash flow of agencies, many of which are vulnerable at this time. To further boost confidence and minimise risk, the corporates should be able to receive a refund up to 14 days prior to arrival if they choose not to hold their event. Many businesses in the travel and hotel sector are already doing this to encourage bookings.

“With schools returning in September, now’s the time for corporates to drive forward their businesses and we know that the best way to do that is to meet in person.  I am confident that the venues are ready – we have over 20,000 on our database who have uploaded their safety protocols. What we now need is the confidence and liquidity and that can only come from the incubator of most events – the corporate client.

‘Meet out to help out’

“I call upon the business events sector to work together to introduce such a scheme and kickstart our sector. Why not call it ‘Meet out to help out’, inspired by the Chancellor’s own dining scheme?!” concludes Michael.

Nick Hartland, director of the National Conference Centre based at National Motorcycle Museum, supports Michael’s proposal: “In these extremely bleak times facing the business events sector, it’s imperative that we think outside the box and regain confidence from corporates that face to face events can be held safely and provide a tangible ROI. Michael’s idea of venues, agents and corporates all working together is going to be the only way our beloved industry can rebound, we are fully supportive of this very meaningful initiative.”

 

#WeMakeEvents

On 11 August, #WeMakeEvents hosted a Red Alert day of action across the UK to raise awareness of over a million professionals working in the technical side of the entertainment industry who have either lost, or are at imminent risk of losing their jobs – 600,000 of whom deliver live events, and around 70 per cent of the workforce are freelance. The government’s £1.57 billion investment to the cultural and arts institutions will not reach the key workers from the industry, and the imminent closure of the self-employed income support scheme at the end of the month further threatens their livelihood.

Over 715 buildings across the UK lit up in red for the event to symbolise the current danger that over one million people in the live events industry face unless the government provides immediate financial support.

Twenty of the UK’s biggest cities hosted events to raise awareness of the struggling supply chain that facilitate events across the country – from theatre to concerts. From Minnack Theatre Cornwall to The Queen’s Hall Edinburgh, Principality Stadium Cardiff and the Millennium Forum Northern Ireland. In Manchester, two hundred technicians pushed redundant flight cases through the city centre as they observed COVID-19 protocols.

Unlike other industries, events, festivals, and performances have been unable to safely reopen due to social distancing guidance, and may not reopen until early 2021 – and opening times keep being pushed back. With no government support on the horizon for the event supply chain, redundancies have already begun. Research indicates that 25 per cent of companies will have served redundancy notices by the end of August, rising to 70 per cent by the end of December.

To facilitate this event, over nineteen trade associations from the live events sector collaborated for the first time to help save their industry. The initial #WeMakeEvents campaign by PLASA issued a ‘Red Alert’, to symbolise the imminent danger the industry is in.

Tom Crithcley, MD of pop-up event accommodation supplier Caboose & Co:

A growing collective of organisations, companies and freelancers have taken to social media, to video, and even outdoor events to get their voices heard and to demand help. #WeMakeEvents is raising awareness of the UK’s 1,000,000 highly skilled industry professionals who have been out of work for months and have to face the prospect of not returning until Spring 2021. It’s a fantastic initiative but I do worry, as every sector is calling out for help right now so we all need to be thinking ahead and working together.

I’m not going to start complaining that the government can do more; I believe there is little extra they can do when things are still so unknown and changeable.

While #WeMakeEvents is calling for grants not loans for businesses in the events supply chain, I think the only thing the government can do is underwrite events so they can plan as if it is a normal year. Unfortunately, the events crowd are being treated like every other industry – only the restaurant industry has been thrown a lifeline with the Eat Out To Help Out incentive. I’m hopeful