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IPM 13: Don’t Stop Me Now: The consequences of show cancellations

The topic of the moment – Covid-19 – formed the centre of discussions at the show cancellations panel, the closing session of the ILMC Production Meeting

By Anna Grace on 04 Mar 2020

IPM 13: Don’t Stop Me Now: The consequences of show cancellations

(Left to right) Martin Goebbels, Okan Tombulca and Tim Worton


Eps managing director Okan Tombulca introduced the session explaining that, although production-related cancellations were to form the bulk of the panel, the issues thrown up by the coronavirus (Covid-19) were now impossible to ignore.

Two of the panellists were forced to drop out for coronavirus-related reasons, as GMC Events’ Graham MacVoy was called to an emergency meeting and Benjamin Hetzer of FKP Scorpio joined by Skype due to a travel ban.

ASM Global’s Tim Worton said he was “blown away” by the number of reasons for event cancellations nowadays. Worton referred to the “fairly significant” bushfire crisis that gripped Australia until only a few weeks ago. Events including Lost Paradise, Day on the Green and Secret Sounds’ Fall Festival were cancelled due to poor air quality as a result of the fires.

Although not much can be done to prepare for this kind of natural disaster, said Worton, promoters and others have to be aware that cancelling may be the only option.

Hetzer spoke about different kinds of weather-related cancellations, referencing the storms that lead to the axing of Scorpio festival in 2016 and 2017. Hetzer stressed the importance of cooperation between organisers and the authorities in these situations to ensure the safe evacuation of any site.

“We want to work out how to sort things out before getting to that point”

In terms of deciding to call off an event, Martin Goebbels of Miller Insurance Services said insurers have to trust the judgement of production crews, promoters and local authorities. “I would always advise getting insurance as early as possible,” said Goebbels, emphasising that insurance should be used as a backstop, and not relied upon too much. “This is not an insurance panel, but an anti-insurance panel,” said Goebbels. “We want to work out how to sort things out before getting to that point.”

Worton said there is much more emphasis on verifying who goes in through the back door nowadays, as well as security and safety measures in general. “Productions are getting so big and complex, that the potential for problems increases exponentially,” he said.

Delegates from countries in Eastern Europe discussed the variations with health and safety practices in different countries, with issues such as corruption, market size and local regulations affecting events of all sizes.

Talk then turned to coronavirus, which has caused recent show cancellations in Asia, as well as in France, Switzerland and Italy. Tombulca stated the virus is throwing up lots of questions but no answers at the moment.

“It’s such a nuanced subject,” said Worton, referring to the different restrictions on mass gatherings and cancealltions of some shows. The on sales for a number of tours are being pushed back, said Worton, which “looks like it is going to be a recurring theme.”

Tour accountant Mike Donovan spoke from the floor saying that even losing a fraction of shows in a tour has a massive impact on profits. “It’s impossible to say what’s going to happen, but we will likely have a very serious downturn,” he said.

“As an industry, we should set a positive example and not overreact”

ITB agent Steve Zapp said it is very much about approaching the situation on a daily, or even hourly, basis at the moment.

Tombulca asked that if it came to a worst case scenario of shows being stopped for the next six months, who would be prepared? A resounding no came from the room, as different delegates explained that although board-level meetings, new procedures and hygiene standards were being put in place, uncertainty remained high.

“This is an unprecedented worldwide situation,” added Goebbels. Asked how the insurance industry is reacting to coronavirus, Goebbels explained that most UK insurers are excluding coronavirus from cancellation insurance cover from now on, saying that he imagined it would be the same for a lot of insurers elsewhere.

Tombulca wrapped up summarising the effects that coronavirus is having across different sectors of the industry, but shared information from a senior UK medical advisor saying there is “no clear rationale” for closing events to prevent the spread of the virus.

“As an industry, we should set a positive example and not overreact,” said Tombulca, stressing that currently in most countries, such as the UK, Germany and the Netherlands, no cancellations are being made because of Covid-19. “Let’s hope we can resume normal business soon.”

Tombulca added, “we need to prepare ourselves as much as possible for all potential scenarios, but at the end of the day, people need us and we are a very positive industry – we are working in the best industry of the world and make a lot of people happy every day.”


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