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UK stars weigh in on ‘final countdown’ for insurance

UK superstars have joined the chorus of industry experts and trade associations calling on the UK government to commit to underwriting cancellation costs of events such as music festivals and tours, to enable the restart of the live entertainment sector from this summer.

Jools Holland, Depeche Mode, Johnny Marr, Sir Cliff Richard, Robert Plant, Roger Daltrey, Amy McDonald, The Chemical Brothers, Frank Turner and Judas Priest are among those who have weighed in on the ongoing petition for a government-backed insurance scheme, similar to those launched in Norwaythe NetherlandsGermanyAustria and Belgium.

The industry’s call-to-action comes days before chancellor Rishi Sunak is set to unveil the Budget. Alongside a government-backed insurance pot, the industry is also urging the chancellor to grant extensions on the 5% VAT rate on ticket sales; employment support; and business rates relief for shuttered venues.

The industry deems event cancellation insurance the ‘last remaining barrier’ to planning events this summer after British prime minister Boris Johnson announced a ‘cautious’ reopening roadmap that could allow festivals to take place after 21 June, but says the window of opportunity for this summer ‘will slam shut very shortly’.

“With the cut-off point for many organisers at the end of the month, this really is the final countdown for many businesses”

Paul Reed, AIF CEO, says: “The prime minister has set out a roadmap and a ‘no earlier than’ date for festivals, and audiences have responded, demonstrating a huge appetite to be back in the fields this summer. But we need government interventions on insurance and VAT before the end of this month when festivals will need to decide whether they can commit to serious amounts of upfront capital.

“Now that we have a ‘no earlier than’ date, insurance is the last remaining barrier to planning. We know that government is aware of the insurance issue and AIF has provided evidence and data to support the case. Having injected huge consumer confidence, government should intervene at this stage and ensure that our culture-defining independent festivals can mobilise and plan for this summer. With the cut-off point for many organisers at the end of the month, this really is the final countdown for many businesses.”

AIF, whose members include Boomtown Fair, Shambala, Boardmasters, End of the Road and Bluedot, recently conducted a member survey in which 92.5% of respondents confirmed they cannot stage events without insurance and described insurance measures as ‘vital’ not optional.

“The window of opportunity for this summer will slam shut very shortly. The government needs to act now”

Tim Thornhill, director of Tysers Entertainment and Sport Division, is working closely with the live entertainment insurance industry and live music industry umbrella organisation Live, to urge the government to work with industry to find a solution.

Thornhill comments: “The government has successfully created a scheme that has enabled the film and television industries to get back to work. Now they need to do the same for the live events industry. But the window of opportunity for this summer will slam shut very shortly. The government needs to act now.

“The live events industry is a massive employer and a significant generator of economic activity. Music alone employs over 200,000 people, with music tourism contributing £4.7bn to the UK economy*. The new YouGov survey shows that demand is there – they will buy tickets and spend on accommodation, food and drink. The government can unlock this boost to the economy at no cost to themselves, just a commitment to help underwrite the cost of cancellations should they occur.”

“This cover will allow our business to function as soon as it is safe for us to do so”

Jools Holland comments: “The solution to this problem could be simple – and what’s more, it doesn’t involve the government paying out money now. Maybe not even in the future, unless Covid strikes again. All we need from the government is the commitment to help if necessary.”

Roger Daltrey CBE comments: “The music business and arts have been enormously affected by the Covid-19 virus, with the ongoing health issues plus the problems thrown up by the government’s essential decision to close our places of work. The government however needs to understand how our industry functions. Promoters, especially those with festivals, bands and any touring acts have enormous outlays before commencing a tour, so insurance for these costs is paramount.

“Insurance companies will no longer cover these costs for Covid-19, which will render much of our business unviable as no promoter can risk setting up an event or tour without this cover. All we ask of our government is to put in place an insurance policy that, in the event of this situation happening again, will cover these costs. As it may be 100 years to the next pandemic it is extremely unlikely that this will involve the government paying out any money, but this cover will allow our business to function as soon as it is safe for us to do so.”

“We have seen the impact on the many people who help make the live shows happen”

The Chemical Brothers comments: “Like many other people we have had to put a lot of work on hold in the last year, and we have seen the impact on the many people who help make the live shows happen. Thousands of jobs have already been lost across the UK live music industry, with many more at risk. The UK government has already provided a financially backed scheme for the film industry, which has allowed production to resume. All we ask is that the same approach be taken to help those in the live events industry, which needs the support too and provides so much to the UK economically as well as culturally.”

Sir Cliff Richard comments: “The live events industry has suffered hugely as a result of the pandemic and has been shut down for nearly a year. Venues, performers and crew have all been badly affected. People’s jobs and income have vanished almost overnight. OUR BUSINESS BRINGS INSPIRATION AND HAPPINESS INTO PEOPLE’S LIVES. WE CAN MAKE THEM SMILE WHEN THEY ARE SAD AND WE CAN HELP THEM SING WHEN THEY HAVE NOTHING TO SING ABOUT! We need the government to help us plan for when it is safe to resume OUR business.”

“The industry is facing near catastrophe without adequate government support”

Amy MacDonald comments: “When people attend a gig they buy a ticket, turn up and enjoy the show. What they don’t always understand is the months of preparation that went on behind the scenes to get to that particular point. Thousands of emails and phone calls, meetings, site visits and not to mention huge amounts of money spent to just get to a point where the tickets are on sale. Another important aspect of preparing for a show is the need to ensure the event but it’s now impossible to get any insurance to cover these shows.

“As we have seen from the recent cancellation of Glastonbury, the live industry cannot even plan to start up again because it is too much of a risk without any insurance. The live industry has been put on hold for nearly a year and with no date for a return and no chance to even plan a return, the industry is facing near catastrophe without adequate government support. Nobody wants to live in a world without live music.”

“Can the PM tell us why he won’t help an industry that contributes billions to the UK economy each year?”

Robert Plant comments: “We all desperately want the UK live industry back on its feet again, so we can enjoy our favourite bands or sports event. Yet without insurance to cover these events, these things can’t happen. So please, can the PM tell us why he won’t help an industry that contributes billions to the UK economy each year?

“We’re not asking for any money, just a commitment to help if Covid ever strikes again. We don’t want a hand-out, we just need a hand up.. to help us get back on the stage. I’ve spent 55 years performing in halls, clubs, theatres and concerts halls across the UK. Now we’re in unchartered waters, soon there will be nowhere left to play. So I’m lending my voice to this campaign in the hope that the government will see sense and lend support before many of our beloved music venues disappear forever.”

Harvey Goldsmith CBE, promoter, comments: “As promoters and producers of live concerts we cannot produce tours without insurance against Covid. We are the risk takers and often have to pay considerable sums upfront to be able to create the tour. If the government at any time decide it is unsafe to continue, or commence a tour, we must be able to take insurance to protect us, as any normal business would expect. If no insurance is available our business will collapse.”

“The single most powerful measure the government could take is to underwrite any losses from Covid-19 cancellations”

Philip McIntyre, promoter, comments: “I would like to support your campaign to have the government underwrite any losses suffered from Covid 19 cancellations whilst the pandemic is still prevalent. My company is in the top five of all live entertainment groups in the UK we are obviously keen to start operating again but we worry about uninsured risk. Now we have a plan to come out of lockdown the single most powerful measure the government could take is to underwrite any losses from Covid-19 cancellations after June this year.

“This would give the risk takers so much confidence they the live arts would return to normal by December this year. If there are claims they would more than likely be on a regional basis and not onerous and the business generated in town and city centres would more than cover them in my estimation the government would be in profit 12 months ahead of a no action situation.”

Frank Turner comments: “It cannot be exaggerated, the devastation caused in my industry by the pandemic. We’re doing what we can to hang on and plan for a better future. An insurance plan will help us survive and come back quicker, and it doesn’t involve the government paying out any extra money now (or possibly ever). It would make an enormous difference.”

“Every effort is made to reduce the costs of a cancelled concert including trying to reschedule a date”

Johnny Marr comments: “The solution to getting music back up safely is easy and it doesn’t involve the government committing money now. All we need from the government is the commitment to help if necessary with an insurance scheme backed by them, and that will get our crews and suppliers back working. The government would only have to pay out in the worst case.”

Barrie Marshall MBE, promoter, comments: “The tremendous work of the NHS and the vaccination programme means that live events can start soon, this gives us hope that we can begin to share those magical moments and wonderful concerts once again. However, we need the government to help us by providing financial backing in the form of an insurance fund. This is needed to cover the costs of an event if it must be cancelled as a result of a Covid outbreak. Every effort is made to reduce the costs of a cancelled concert including trying to reschedule a date in the future but there are some circumstances where this is not possible.”

“We help to get our industry back on track and to help restart live events in a safe, effective way once it’s possible to do so”

John Giddings, promoter, comments: “Our industry has been hit immeasurably over the past year and we need to get it back up and running again. The government has got to help!”

Judas Priest comments: “The world has been more or less brought to its knees because of Covid-19 in this past year. It has affected so many people and businesses in all walks of life in so many ways. Our industry, the entertainment industry (which is a multi-billion dollar business), is suffering massively. It isn’t just affecting us – a band who want to get back out on the road, performing to our fans around the world – but it is affecting mainly our crew (and all the other crews), the venues and their staff, cleaners, security, caterers, local crew, bus drivers, truck drivers, lighting and video personnel, stage set designers and stage set builders. The list is endless.

“We need help, for the venues to be able to put on shows and the artists to be able to perform we all need to get tour insurance that will cover Covid-19 so shows can go ahead. Now we have the vaccine things should be on the way up but we need your help urgently, please!”

Depeche Mode comments: “With the live music industry in the UK shut down for over a year, our crew, our fans, venues, and everyone else who makes shows possible has been badly affected. Jobs and income have vanished almost overnight, and fans and artists alike have been left wondering when live shows will be possible again. We need the government to help us get our industry back on track and to help restart live events in a safe, effective way once it’s possible to do so.”

Government-backed insurance funds will be explored at ILMC during Insurance: The Big Update, while lessons that can be learned from 2020’s lost festival summer will be discussed during Festival Forum: Reboot & Reset.

 


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‘A gentleman and true professional’: Tony Gittins is the Gaffer

Like his predecessors, Tony Gittins has something in common with all the winners of IQ’s highest accolade, The Gaffer Award: he never had any intention of becoming a production manager.

His journey, mirroring that of many other Gaffer Award winners, is a tale of being in the right place at the right time; a little bit of luck; and a lot of hard work. “I’d never even heard of a production manager and I hadn’t thought that people other than the band actually made a living out of touring,” confesses Tony. “But I’ve never had another job, so working with bands was my first job. And hopefully it will be my last.”

Born and raised in Middlesbrough, Tony grew up in a family with teachers as parents: “But nobody in my family was in any way connected with music.”

London’s calling
Leaving school during a time of deep recession, the prospects for teenage Tony were limited. “Unemployment in the north-east of England was really high. My choices were to either move somewhere else, or join the army like my older brother. So I moved to London.”

Jobless and relying on the kindness of friends who had made similar migratory journeys to find work, Tony found himself dossing on people’s floors and couches in west London. His quest to find gainful employment proved tricky, so to repay the favour for his makeshift accommodation, he offered to help his flatmates with their amps and instruments. “I had some friends in a band called Big Boy Tomato, so I’d help them set up their gear,” recalls Tony. And the rest is history…

“A good production manager or a good stage manager is a jack of all trades, master of none”

Despite not being part of any concrete plan, Tony’s voluntary act to become an unpaid stagehand caught the eye of other bands on the punk circuit – a fortuitous move for a man whose favourite band is “a toss up between the Ramones and the Clash.”

“Before I knew it, I was working with other acts like UK Subs and travelling around Europe with them. And because they were punk bands, luckily they didn’t notice I had no musical ability whatsoever, so I kind of got away with it,” laughs Tony. “My favourite band of the moment is Sleaford Mods, so I think it’s fair to say I’m still a punk rocker at heart.”

Although he quickly found himself trading the comfort of a sofa for the ‘glamour’ of life in a splitter van, Tony remained unfazed as he became used to waking up in a new place each day. He soon realised that he had found a job that was not the 9–5 career that many of his friends had chosen, but which allowed him to have fun with like-minded souls, while travelling to cities that he would never even have thought about otherwise.

Life on the road suited him well, but in an effort to find more regular pay cheques, Tony began working as a stagehand for Stage Miracles. “I started working as local crew – I think my first show was at Wembley Arena,” he says. “I stayed on local crew for about four or five years and then started working on rigging for them, probably for about another five years.”

“I hadn’t thought that people other than the band actually made a living out of touring”

Tony believes that being part of local crew was a crucial ingredient in the recipe for him becoming a well-rounded crew leader. “A good production manager or a good stage manager is a jack of all trades, master of none. But we need to have a good grounding in each department so that we can know what we can ask of people.

“Being at Stage Miracles was massive for me,” he tells IQ. “I was able to learn what local crews do, but I also got an education in working with lights, sound and video, so I was fortunate enough to get an all-round apprenticeship.”

Comparing his schooling to what is happening in today’s production sector, he states, “I’m not so sure that these college and university courses give the grounding and background that you learn by simply being part of a local crew.”

He adds, “One worrying element is that there are now people coming in to the business that do not have the experience of working on tour production. That’s a problem that, if we’re not careful, could result in things getting more dangerous.”

 


 Read the rest of this feature, along with testimonials from Depeche Mode, SJM Concerts, Brit Row Live Nation, Sensible Events and more, in issue 75 of IQ Magazine:

2017 stadium dates shape up

U2 have just announced an international stadium tour to celebrate 30 years of their seminal album, Joshua Tree, and in doing so join a host of big tours in 2017.

Promoted by Live Nation, the U2 dates begin in May at BC Place in Vancouver, Canada, and will visit multiple stadiums in the US, before playing Twickenham in London, then Germany, Italy, Spain, Ireland, Amsterdam, France and Belgium across 23 dates.

Last year Ticketmaster called 2016 a record year for music in Britain’s stadia, with the number of stadium shows up threefold on 2015.

The ticketing giant also reported a 50% increase in stadium tours in the UK compared to last year. Those included dates by Coldplay, Rihanna, Beyonce, Paul McCartney, Rod Stewart, The Stone Roses and Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band.

Last year Ticketmaster called 2016 a record year for music in Britain’s stadia, with the number of stadium shows up threefold on 2015.

This year looks set to be another blockbuster both in the UK and elsewhere thanks to U2, plus stadium dates from Adele, Robbie Williams, Jeff Lynne’s ELO, Depeche Mode, Guns N’Roses and Justin Bieber. Coldplay and The Stone Roses also have more shows lined up and Ed Sheeran is sure to announce a huge tour alongside his third album.

Adele’s last shows of 2017 will be four dates in June and July at London’s Wembley Stadium, where The Stone Roses will also play one show earlier in June as will Jeff Lynne’s ELO on the 24th.

Depeche Mode’s Global Spirit Tour visits the London Stadium on June 3rd amidst a stadium and arena run across 32 cities in Europe.

Guns N’Roses, meanwhile, will play the London Stadium on June 16th and 17th on the Not In This Lifetime run, that also visits Australia, the US, and 15 dates across venues in Pero, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica and Japan.

Robbie Williams’ 2017 European tour dates encompasses a number of stadium dates throughout June and August, including two at Manchester’s Etihad and one at the London Stadium.

Coldplay play Croke Park in Ireland on July 8, and Cardiff’s Principality Stadium on July 11 and 12. Bieber’s Purpose World Tour, meanwhile, will visit a number of stadiums worldwide from February, including Australia, Cardiff, Ireland and the US.

 


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