Industry and political figures react to news of the IS-claimed attack at an Ariana Grande concert last night which has claimed the lives of children as young as eight
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In the immediate aftermath of the Manchester Arena attack, venue and festival operators are already reviewing their security procedures
By IQ on 23 May 2017
As venue operators around the world begin to process the news about the horrific attack on music fans in Manchester, live event security experts are reporting high volumes of queries from an industry that will have its work cut out to reassure concertgoers in the days and weeks ahead.
With festival season due to kick off in just a couple of weeks, urgent reviews of security measures are happening among production crews around the UK, while National Arenas Association chairman Martin Ingham – like most others in the arenas sector – spent the morning in operational meetings with his staff.
“Each of our member venues has been liaising with their own local police force and their network of counter terror officers and I know of at least three arenas who have had briefings with police today,” said Ingham. As well as UK arenas, Many London theatres were also understood to have spent the morning reviewing security procedures.
BBC Radio One’s Big Weekend festival is due to take place in Hull from 27-28 May. A spokesperson for the festival told the NME, “The health and safety of everyone involved in Big Weekend is now our primary focus and we are carrying out a full assessment, with the police and our partners, of every aspect of the festival.”
“Each of our member venues has been liaising with their own local police force and their network of counter terror officers and I know of at least three arenas who have had briefings with police today”
Security expert Chris Kemp, of Mind Over Matter Consultancy, tells IQ that he had received calls from as far afield as New Zealand and emails from clients around the world in the immediate aftermath of the Manchester Arena bombing.
“We’ve just created a course with Network Rail on identifying behavioural characteristics and trying to stop perpetrators in their tracks. But the difficulty is that the modus operandi of these terrorists is changing and there is no way you can infiltrate where there are lone terrorists who don’t communicate with others and just decide to carry out the act.
“Another difficulty is that you are asking low-paid staff to engage people they might perceive as suspicious, but if you’re getting £7.50 an hour, are you really going to put your life on the line? So it has to be the police, or [Security Industry Authority] operatives who do this.”
Kemp believes that terrorists are targeting precisely the places and events where people least expect such atrocities to happen, while those behind such attacks are also getting more savvy about what to wear and how to behave to avoid arousing suspicion. “Unfortunately there has to be a limit on how far you go with things because the costs of extra layers of security can be astronomical. But we are continuously working to create more deterrents and we’re doing a lot more stuff with venues and venue associations to improve security measures,” he says.
“There has to be a limit on how far you go with things, because the costs of extra layers of security can be astronomical”
Iridium Security director Reg Walker observes that “there has clearly been some hostile reconnaissance done beforehand for this bombing.” Although early reports state that it was a lone bomber using homemade explosives, Walker speculates that he would have to have had a support structure and that police and security services are already working hard to identify the bomber and any potential collaborators. At press time, reports were already emerging about the arrest of a 23-year-old man in connection with the Manchester attack.
“There are a lot of lessons to be learned from this tragedy,” says Walker. “It appears that this individual waited outside and attempted to walk into the venue on egress before detonating the device with a hand switch. But the fact that he was in a sort of no-man’s land, in a concourse between the venue itself and the train station, is significant.
“Most venues already have security in depth and the cooperation between venue operators and the security services is very good, so that most venues have become hard places to attack – but at the same time this person targeted an area on the periphery.”
Walker warns that it is virtually impossible to make any venue completely secure. “Even somewhere like Buckingham Palace, with its state-of-the-art security, still has incursions,” he says. “But on the flip side, this is the first mainland bombing in the UK since 2005, so the number of incidents that have been prevented is significant.”
Advising venue operators on how to strengthen security measures, Walker concludes, “It’s vital that venues reach out to the National Counter Terrorism Security Office (NaCTSO) for advice on how to enhance or adapt their security. And it’s also imperative that venues carry out regular drills so that new staff can benefit from that training and everyone knows what to do if there is an attack.”
“It’s vital that venues reach out to the National Counter Terrorism Security Office (NaCTSO) for advice on how to enhance or adapt their security”
While a number of live music operations declined to comment in the immediate aftermath of the attack, one expert points out that what happens both in the short- and long-term will depend on the outcome of the UK government’s emergency Cobra meeting.
“The information that filters down through the SECOs (security coordinators) will determine the response of promoters and event organisers,” said the source. He added that the police and security services would determine what additional measures may be required for summer festivals and concerts in general, but this may not be communicated for a number of days. “Obviously, trying to get hold of counter terrorism experts in the police today isn’t possible, but they are very effective at sharing information with us, so we expect to be briefed in the next day or two.”
Paul Reed, general manager of the Association of Independent Festivals in the UK noted that security at music festivals, as well as venues, is continuously reviewed as the top priority of promoters is the safety of their audiences. He tells IQ that in recent years, there has been a vast increase in dialogue and intelligence sharing between police and festival organisers, while initiatives such as NaCTSO’s counter terrorism Argus exercises are also helping to strengthen security efforts.
“In the aftermath of this dreadful attack in Manchester, audiences attending festivals this season may understandably have some concerns”
“In the aftermath of this dreadful attack in Manchester, audiences attending festivals this season may understandably have some concerns,” says Reed. “I must emphasise the excellent security record of UK festivals. AIF members are experts in organising safe and secure events for between 800 and 60,000 people and a highly effective private security industry has built up around events in this country.
“In addition, organisers have a constant dialogue with law enforcement and other relevant agencies at a local, regional and national level and there is increasingly more intelligence sharing between these agencies and promoters through initiatives such as Operation Gothic and the Project Argus training events. Security measures at festivals are reviewed constantly and the top priority of promoters of festival and concerts is always the safety and security of audiences. If additional measures need to be introduced, we are confident that they will be.”
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