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IPM 12: The Show Must Go On, But at What Cost?

The first session of this year’s ILMC Production Meeting tackled the toll that touring takes on the physical and mental wellbeing of production crews

By Anna Grace on 06 Mar 2019

ILMC Production Meeting, Show Must Go On

The 12th annual ILMC Production Meeting (IPM) kicked off this morning with a discussion surrounding one of the key concerns facing production crews: mental and physical wellbeing.

Guest host Rachel Haughey, of Four Corners of the World, welcomed delegates before chair Chris Vaughan introduced the panel.

“A disproportionate amount of friends and colleagues are not making it to their 60th birthday,” commented Vaughan, presenting the issue that was to underlie the panel.

Vaughan explained that the move from theatre to arena shows has put pressure on crews to work longer hours. A normal working day for crews, said Vaughan, begins at 6.30am and ends 20 hours later.

“If we don’t do something about this, the government agencies will,” stated Vaughan.

Dr Kate Bunyan of MB Medical Solutions discussed the consequences of chronic sleep deprivation for workers’ physical wellbeing.

“We have a group of highly qualified professionals whose lives are shortened just because of their work patterns,” summarised Bunyan, apologising for being the “bringer of glorious doom”.

“If it’s a weakness to admit you’re depressed, who can you turn to?”

‘Deptford’ John Armitage of the Guitar Hospital moved the conversation to mental health: “When I started, rehab was for quitters and sleep was for babies,” said the touring guitar tech. “If it’s a weakness to admit you’re depressed, who can you turn to?”

The loss of friends and colleagues to suicide is a sad reality, which Armitage revealed is all too common for those working in the industry: “no one on tour is getting the care they should get.”

However, some help is on offer, as Chula Goonewardene, clinical consultant for Music Support, explained. “It is possible to find people that pathway into care,” said Goonewardene, speaking of the importance of well-handled crisis intervention.

The psychotherapist also stressed the need for a “dual-pronged approach”, with preventative measures facilitating a culture shift and helping people to spot warning signs.

Production manager, Joanna Hartle, explained the need to educate crew members, allowing them to capitalise on specialist skill sets and move industry if desired. “I could see that my former colleagues weren’t able to get out of the industry,” said Hartle.

The session wrapped up as panellists discussed the mounting pressures and demands for stage designers. “Do we really need all that shit for four people to sing around?” asked a bemused Armitage, as the room broke into applause.


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