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Event production firms join Covid-19 fight

As touring grinds to a halt and festivals are put on hold, a number of event production suppliers and staging companies are trying their hand at a different kinds of work, delivering emergency supplies and manufacturing disaster relief facilities for those in need.

Event infrastructure suppliers across the world including South Africa’s MGG and Upstaging, Choura Events and Gallagher Staging in the US, are aiding the public health sector as the demand for medical supplies and facilities grows greater by the day.

Mark Gaylard, the managing director of Johannesburg-based company MGG, found himself with 32 idle vehicles, following the implementation of a three-week shutdown of all non-essential businesses in South Africa last week.

After advertising the fleet’s availability to transport goods, MGG’s six full-time drivers and regular freelance staff have found themselves ferrying food, agricultural products, building materials and medical supplies – including much-needed hand sanitising products – from the docks of the coastal city of Durban to Johannesburg.

“I quickly realised that the general transport and freight business is radically different from moving and delivering goods and trucking services in our core entertainment industry world,” says Gaylard.

“What we are working on is to become an instant, rapid solution for hospitals, government agencies and test centres in need of facilities”

“It’s highly competitive and a lot of the work gets outsourced to those who don’t own their own vehicles. It’s definitely not an environment where you can just flip a switch and start moving goods as you might be used to. But it’s been extremely interesting.”

The manufacturing side of company has also kept busy, producing Covid-19 hazard warning signage.

In the United States, Choura Events, which typically builds tents, staging and facilities for events such as Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival and South by Southwest, is also maintaining its production line, erecting heavy-duty triage tents and overflow facilities to help hospital handle increasing volume of patients.

“What we are working on is to become an instant, rapid solution for hospitals, government agencies and test centres [in need of facilities],” says Ryan Choura, CEO of Choura Events. “Usually, at this time of the year, we are building Coachella and Stagecoach and Grand Prix, and so many other things, and instead we are working to try and help in any way we can.”

So far, the company has built four “medical villages” in Los Angeles.

Another LA-based firm, Gallagher Staging, has taken a similar approach, offering disaster relief structures to hospitals across the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles. The company is renting out in-house equipment at no cost, charging only for trucking and labour fees.

“When we come through this I think there will be a massive demand. People will still need and enjoy getting together”

Fellow staging company, Chicago-based Upstaging, is manufacturing lightweight room divider panels for make-shift hospitals, face shields and social distancing floor signage, as well as offering trucking services.

Bon Jovi have tweeted their support for Upstaging’s efforts, writing: “Our long-time touring partner and trucking company has pivoted from Rock N Roll to emergency response services. They’re now working to manufacture high quality face shields at their facility outside of Chicago.”

Althought many event production companies have proved their versatility and shown how their skillsets can be applied to other sectors, MGG’s Gaylard believes the switch will only be temporary.

“Live events is a very vibrant sector, and people do love to congregate and enjoy each other’s company, energy and atmosphere,” says the MGG managing director.

“When we come through this I think there will be a massive demand. While there may be some changes in the way we use remote networking technologies, people will still need and enjoy getting together. We will bounce back!”

Do you know of a production company getting creative in the fight against coronavirus? Email [email protected] to let us know about other industry efforts.


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