Red alert from Gloucestershire's events businesses: 'Save our Industry'
It may have been a gentle protest, but every building that turned red last night as part of a world-wide campaign was a warning light about thousands of jobs under threat in the events industry.
Buildings in Cheltenham including the Town Hall and Sandford Park Lido were lit red, with others following suit virtually, as a town famed for its festivals hit the emergency button.
The many hundreds of small businesses which enable everything from ballet, music gigs, pantomimes, weddings, conferences, sporting celebrations, Christmas light switch-ons, parties of all kinds, films, live-streaming, carnivals – the list is endless – were represented in person.
On ice, due to the shutdown imposed by Government as the nation battles the pandemic, the placards on show at the #WeMakeEvents' protest said it all - ‘Save our industry’.
Catherine Mountain, who runs Cheltenham-based Evenlode Films with husband Tim, produced a short video of the protest – and interviews – to help raise the profile of the campaign.
DRUM ROLL for @WeMakeEventsoff #weMakeEvents ! This is how our CREATIVE #EventProfs did it in #Cheltenham - Hey #LightItInRed .. here's our #SHOUTOUT for our industry #RedAlert #RedAlertRESTART #LetTheMusicPlay #SkyNews #BBCNews #itvnews #channel4news #SaveOurStages #Covid19 pic.twitter.com/IAQimNVkyG— Evenlode Films | Evenlode Productions (@Evenlode_UK) September 30, 2020
“We are a film production company which also stages events and create visual content for events. When we do that we come together with numerous other professionals from Gloucestershire and beyond,” said Mrs Mountain.
“It is an industry where people work in partnership. We are all an integral parts of the event and we work as part of a team.
“If people lose their jobs they will have to go off and find other work, which means all those skills will be lost. It would be a terrible waste of talent.”
Fortunately for Evenlode its skills are range far and wide. While contracts to write scores for touring ballet companies are postponed and event-related work – bar last night’s campaign – is on ice, it is still busy making and producing films.
Pictures above by Gloucestershire-based photographer Mikal Ludlow
Its biggest fear, like everyone else in the sector, is if the there is no support forthcoming and the restrictions continue, when someone does ask for the lights to come back on, music to start playing, and the champagne corks to pop, no one will be there to make any of it happen.
And that could topple the final piece of the jigsaw, impacting on those businesses which do survive.
Dany Fremantle, director and event manager at Oasis Events Limited, which is headquartered in Stow-on-the-Wold, was part of last night's event.
By way of demonstration of how the industry depends on collaboration her business also lit-red a modest bell tent. Planning was provided by Oasis, the tent came from LPM Bohemia, power from Woodlands Generators, photography by Mark Nicholson and lighting by Cheltenham-based Peak Hire.
Thousands of venues world-wide joined in the #LightItInRed. According to the #WeMakeEvents campaign the events sector employs 30 million people in 25 countries, and few see any possibility of a financially viable return for the foreseeable future.
The campaign group claims Department of Culture, Media and Sport’s figures state the Cultural Sector is worth £100 billion to the UK economy and was the fastest growing sector in 2017 and in 2018. Outdoor events industry alone attracted a staggering 141.5 million visitors.
It is a sector which has notreceived any of £1.57 billion arts grant bailout cash.
Key points the campaign hopes the Government will recognise are...
1. Government backed COVID – 19 Insurance Scheme
Why? – To ensure if local lockdowns happen event organisers will recover costs and attendees will receive a refund.
2. Government support for widespread proactive COVID -19 testing for event attendees
Why? – To give confidence to attendees and organisers that the event is safe and COVID – 19 Compliant.
3. A three-year extension to the reduced cultural vat rate on tickets in line with DCMS recommendations
Why? – To stimulate the return of a viable live entertainment sector.
Until gathering for events is not restricted by legislation, we are also calling on the Government for:
4. Grants – not loans – made available to businesses in the events supply chain
Why? – To give companies the flexibility to allocate financial resources where they need it most, to keep their business afloat and to enable them to keep employees, adding value to the UK economy and culture in the future.
5. A specific job support scheme for live events supply chain until the government guidelines change on social distancing to allow a commercially viable return to work
Why? – To allow employers to retain highly skilled people in preparation for a return to work; to support the freelance community, including single director companies; and to support all those excluded by the current government eligibility criteria. This will help us to be ready to kickstart the industry and hence the UK economy.