R. Kelly concert permit denied amid “security concerns”
Illinois State has rejected plans for a spring break concert that would have been headlined by R. Kelly. The organisers of Spring Break Jam planned to hold the concert at Illinois State Fairgrounds in April, but officials have denied the application, citing security issues.
Controversial R&B star R. Kelly was to host the proposed event on 6 April in Springfield, Illinois. The line-up also included Yella Beezy, Young Lloyd and Dre Madison. Tickets for the event cost between US$75 and $150, according to previously released promotional material. Such material, including the event page on Eventbrite, has since been taken down.
“Unfortunately, we cannot control when organisers start promoting an event – there was never a signed agreement to host the event at the Illinois State Fairgrounds, only an application,” says Denise Albert, a spokesperson for the Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA), reports the Chicago Tribune.
R. Kelly has faced allegations of sexual abuse throughout his career. Criticism of the artist has spiked following the airing of the Lifetime documentary series Surviving R. Kelly earlier this month. The documentary exposed detailed accounts of the singer’s alleged physical, sexual and emotional abuse of women, as well as claims that he ran an “abusive cult”.
“We cannot control when organisers start promoting an event – there was never a signed agreement to host the event”
The documentary has prompted many industry figures to denounce R. Kelly. Lady Gaga has since removed her duet with the artist from streaming services, apologising for having collaborated with the singer.
The IDOA claims that the cancellation is down to security concerns spurred by protests against the artist, and not in direct response to the documentary. The proposed event failed to meet the following criteria:
- The security of both the physical premises and persons upon the premises of the State Fairgrounds
- Reasonably foreseeable problems with security caused by either the nature of the usage or the identity of the proposed lessee or his/her patrons
- The welfare of the general community
The IDOA have stated that they could reconsider and approve the concert, but only in the event that R. Kelly will not appear on the bill.
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EAY 2018: Protecting the events sector
“Many years ago, security for concerts and music events was quite simple,” reflects Reg Walker, director of Iridium Consultancy, which works with a number of UK venues and festivals. “It was either, ‘Yes, you can come in’, ‘No, you can’t come in’, or, ‘Sorry, you’re misbehaving, you’ll have to leave’. That was effectively it.
“If you fast-forward to now, security staff are expected to be cognisant in crowd safety and crowd management. Be able to secure evidence. Be welfare officers. We expect them to take part in counterterrorism security measures, be search experts, first aiders, carry out drug detection and deal with organised crime groups and pick pockets. The list goes on and on. The demands on security staff, and their roles, have changed so dramatically that they’re almost unrecognisable from what they were 20 or 30 years ago.”
Driving those changes has been a constant and ongoing focus on improving crowd safety and, in turn, the customer experience. Top of the agenda for many security professionals today is combating the heightened threat of terrorism – a historic danger that became tragic reality following the Bataclan and Paris attacks of 2015, and last year’s Manchester Arena bombing, which killed 22 people, many of them children, and injured hundreds more.
“In the last 12 months, there’s been a massive improvement in standards, with a total revision of how live music venues and sporting venues – or basically, any crowded space – are secured,” says Walker. He cites a “mass uplift in the training of staff and personnel,” extra police patrols, and infrastructural modifications to deter vehicle attacks, as just some of the ways that the sector has adapted and modified to meet the threat.
The demands from touring artists and productions have similarly increased, says Eventsec’s Andrew Murphy, who looks after security at Belfast’s 11,000-capacity Odyssey Arena. “Certainly, since what happened in Manchester there’s been a big surge from touring artists for increased security precautions, extra searches and backstage sweeps taking place,” he explains.
“The demands on security staff have changed so dramatically they’re almost unrecognisable from 20 or 30 years ago”
Costs and the number of security staff employed at the arena have increased as a result, he says, although in his venue’s case the impact has been moderate. “Coming from Belfast, where we’ve had these issues for many years, we’ve always been mindful that the threat exists, and have always had a high level of security at our venues. In light of what happened [in Manchester], we reviewed our security procedures and we continue to constantly review and change things, so that we’re not predictable and make it difficult for someone who has the intention to cause harm.”
“The Manchester attack was a big wake-up call for how we should view events, but what we have tended to do in the past is throw out our carefully prepared plans, [and] it is often not the plans that are wrong. It is just that areas need constant review to make them fit for purpose as threats change,” advises security professional Chris Kemp of Mind Over Matter Consultancy. He advocates a “measured and proportionate” approach that continually evaluates weaknesses and adapts to meet the threat, “so that it destabilises the aggressor and enables us to continue to think carefully about how we make our venues and events as secure as possible during a time of changing terrorist attack methodologies.
“After Bataclan and Manchester, security became very high on the agenda but if we relegate other elements that are just as important, such as crowd management, we are only shifting the problem and not tackling it,” he warns.
“What we’re getting better at is identifying what to do before, during and after an attack. But we all know that it’s not if, but when and where, the next attack will take place.”
How Priavo Security can keep touring artists safe
What long-term impact do you see the recent terror attacks across Europe having on security within the live events industry?
Tragically, the security climate has changed considerably in Europe. Crowded places are being targeted to cause mass casualties; coordinated multiple and simultaneous attacks result in emergency response teams and agencies quickly becoming overwhelmed, and fear and panic is being multiplied – a tactic we are well familiar with in the UK, post-IRA. This broadening of IS/Daesh’s modus operandi, from its previous focus on western lifestyles to, in particular, cultural and entertainment sites, is significant. It highlights the escalation in security across Europe and the importance of choosing the correct security option.
The music and events industry must now address security very seriously. Venues need to increase their security to avoid becoming the next target, as attackers will always look for maximum impact with weakest resistance. There is a duty of care and obligation to provide safe travel, not only to the artists but also to the crew supporting them and to the fans attending the shows. Security should be chosen wisely.
How long has Priavo been established in the market and what are your full range of security services? What percentage is within live music and entertainment, both here in the UK and internationally?
I left the military in 2008 after 11 years of service and formed Priavo Security, having gained considerable exposure to various security scenarios across the corporate, private and government sectors. Over 20 years’ experience within the private security sector formed an important array of global contacts, allowing Priavo to be continuously resourceful wherever we operate.
Our first task was on behalf of a renowned LA based event planner, for whom we carried out security at a high-profile celebrity wedding in Cannes. Our client base grew steadily through word of mouth within the music and events industry; however, during the last two years we have witnessed rapid growth and expansion due the global security climate, terrorism and lone-wolf attacks. Clients are nervous and demand for heightened security measures has grown considerably. We have experienced this across the events, entertainments, financial and corporate sectors. Our music business has seen the most significant growth in the last six months, as tour managers feel the need for more specialised security and greater experience. Artists are feeling vulnerable in the current global situation, in particular since the Bataclan and Brussels Airport terror attacks.
Our first music task was for a well known US rock group who had concerns about travelling to higher-risk countries on their tour. Additional security was requested to give the band members the confidence to continue the tour in areas experiencing civil protests and anti-US sentiment. Our first task for the music industry was executed as we would any other, with military planning and precision backed by our global military and civilian networks.
Our security services include executive protection, travel risk assessments, reconnaissance of all venues, media access, crowd control, perimeter security, contingency planning, surveillance, full logistical support of all third parties, secure transportation, co-ordination and deconfliction with existing venue and band security where required.
The majority of our clientèle are US-based, and we carry out confidential security deployments across the globe including South America, Asia, the Middle East and more recently throughout much of Europe.
Until recently only a small percentage of our clients were from the music industry; however, we are seeing an increasing number of enquiries from this sector due to the current climate
How is your workload broken down?
We regularly deploy on a range of security tasks covering mainly music tours, high profile bespoke events, roadshows and corporate travel safety. All of these include the following:
- In-country travel risk assessments (TRA) to understand the current climate and potential threats
- Security advance: to arrive in country and ensure all security protocols are in place, liaise with government, internal security teams and third parties, give real time atmospherics, carry out recces of all relevant areas and give feedback to all incoming production and crew or event planners
- Reconnaissance of all venues, transportation, airports, routes, hotels, safe havens.
- Contingency planning: create a clear and concise plan to deliver to the band/VIP, security and crew explaining what to do in the event of an emergency
- Operational support: we have executive protection operatives with specialised skillsets to complement each other depending on the task, and we will advise on the number and tier of operatives required. Further operational support will be provided from base
What makes Priavo’s services stand out from other security companies who operate within the live market?
Our brand values differentiate us in the marketplace and sum the team up: Adaptability, fortitude, integrity and loyalty.
Priavo Security have a meticulous, military precision and process to managing security. This is audited annually by an independent third party and has been reflected by the award of the ISO 9001:2008 certification. The wealth of security knowledge in the management team comes from hands-on British special forces experience.
Most importantly, Priavo work with in partnership with our clients to really understand how they operate and ensure we deliver flexible, effective security services while minimising the level of disruption to manage and mitigate potential threats.
Our objective is to help bands continue to tour confidently and not let terrorism stand in the way of entertainment
What level of training do your security staff have?
All of our operatives are vetted, licensed and professionally qualified. Exceptional military background and time served undertaking tasks for clients across the globe ensure standards are of the highest level.
The physical skillset necessary for executive protection can be taught over time, but the dedication, adaptability and integrity necessary to do the job well is often harder to find. All of our operatives are respected for their skill, discretion and ability to execute rapid and confidential security deployments. Our teams regularly work across both the private and public sectors and understand how to blend in and maintain a low profile. They have a high degree of situational awareness and are experienced in correctly assessing threats and employing the appropriate countermeasures. All possess strong communication skills and the highest moral and professional standards.
All operatives in the field are fully supported by the Priavo office-based operations team, experienced in logistical planning, account and travel management.
Following your attendance at the ILMC conference this year, what are your business objectives to engage further within the international live music industry?
Our objective is to help bands continue to tour confidently and not let terrorism stand in the way of entertainment.
Our established global network is paramount to deliver in-country support and intelligence. Priavo has the means to quickly deploy additional resource across Europe and beyond, and we offer a range of security services to offer a complete operational package or enhance existing measures for touring artists and bands.