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Manchester Arena attack: Inquiry publishes first report

There were multiple “missed opportunities” to prevent or minimise the impact of the Manchester Arena bombing May 2017, the public investigation into the attack has found.

The Manchester Arena Inquiry, led by chairman Sir John Saunders, today (17 June) published the first of three reports about the terror attack, which killed 22 people at an Ariana Grande concert on 22 May 2017. The report, which looks into security arrangements at the arena on the night of the bombing, concludes that bomber Salman Abedi should have been identified as a threat on the night of the attack.

In his 204-page report, Sir John found a number of security failures that he says would have reduced the impact of the bombing, if not prevented it completely. The “most striking missed opportunity”, the report details, came from a member of the public, who raised concerns to stewards about Abedi’s suspicious behaviour in the run-up to the attack.

Although the stewards, Mohammed Agha and Kyle Lawler, took steps to investigate the man’s concerns, with Lawler stating that he thought “there was something wrong” with Abedi’s behaviour and trying to get through to a superior on the radio, his efforts were ‘inadequate’, says Sir John.

While approach by a steward or BTP officer may have caused Abedi to detonate his device, “it is likely that fewer people would have been killed” than were on 22 May, says Sir John. (Abedi ultimately set off his bomb as fans were leaving the show.)

Other failings identified by the inquiry include the lack of British Transport Police (BTP) officers in the arena’s foyer, for which there was “no satisfactory explanation”; a CCTV blind spot near the arena’s City room that allowed Abedi to hide from security cameras; and inadequate counter-terrorism training given the stewards.

Sir John additionally found that after the Paris attack of November 2017, the arena’s operator, SMG, should have “sought to push the security perimeter out, beyond the City room” to make “hostile reconnaissance” of the arena (now called AO Arena) more difficult for Abedi.

“We are carefully reviewing the findings outlined in volume one of the Manchester Arena Inquiry report”

Among Sir John’s recommendations are passing ‘protect duty’ legislation (sometimes called ‘Martyn’s law’, after one of the victims) for large venues such as arenas which would require them to consider terrorist threats and implement further protective security and preparations.

The public inquiry was set up in September 2020 to examine the circumstances leading up to and surrounding the bombing, and followed an earlier review headed by Lord Kerslake whose findings were published in March 2018. Though part one of Manchester Arena Inquiry says it holds BTP, SMG and security provider Showsec, “principally responsible for the missed opportunities”, the Kerslake report found that SMG and Showsec’s response to the attack went “above and beyond” the call of duty.

In a statement, SMG (now part of ASM Global), says that while security around live shows, and at Manchester Arena particularly, has “changed dramatically” since the 2017 attack, the company will take on board Sir John’s recommendations after having reviewed the full report in detail.

The statement reads: “On 22 May 2017, 22 innocent people tragically lost their lives and many others were injured when a terrorist detonated a bomb. The attack shocked the nation and the devastating impact was felt far beyond the city of Manchester.

“The impact was also felt across the industry and the environment in which we all operated changed dramatically that evening.

“Since the inquiry began, questions have been asked of SMG and others about the security operations in place that evening. Throughout, we’ve been committed to working with the inquiry to help the families of victims and survivors better understand the events of that evening, as well as look at the lessons learnt.

”During the inquiry process, the experts stated that they did not see evidence that the security operation in place at Manchester Arena was out of step with the operations being used at other comparable venues. In fact, the standards that we adopted were in line with published industry guidance at the time. However, this doesn’t give us any comfort. Our guests came to the arena to enjoy a show but were met with a horrific tragedy. For that we are truly sorry.

”All of us at Manchester Arena have learnt a lot since the events of that night and our security measures continue to evolve to reflect the threats we face today. Since the attack, we have further extended the security perimeter, adopted a more intensive approach to checking and searching including the use of walk through metal detectors and installed a new CCTV and access control system.

”All of us at Manchester Arena have learnt a lot since the events of that night”

“However, out of respect for those who tragically lost their lives on 22 May 2017, and those whose lives changed forever, we can never be satisfied that we have done enough. To that end, we will be reviewing the report findings in detail and the recommendations that have been put forward. Any additional actions we should take, we will take as we continuously challenge ourselves to be better.

“Finally, we share the chair’s admiration for those who responded so selflessly and heroically to this atrocity.”

“The chairman, Sir John Saunders, and the inquiry legal team have put an enormous amount of work and effort into this important public inquiry,” reads a statement from Showsec. “Showsec has learnt lessons from the terrible events of 22 May 2017 and, as the chairman has acknowledged, Showsec improvements are already in place.

“Having been provided with the first volume of the report, Showsec will take some time to consider both Sir John’s criticisms and his recommendations before responding as he has requested. As always, the families are at the forefront of our minds.”

Lucy D’Orsi, chief constable of the BTP, comments: “We are carefully reviewing the findings outlined in volume one of the Manchester Arena Inquiry report today.

“I would like to reassure everyone that British Transport Police, as you would expect, has been reviewing procedures, operational planning and training since this dreadful attack took place in 2017. We continue to work closely with our emergency service colleagues, Greater Manchester Police and other experts to strengthen our multi-agency preparedness for major incidents. We are committed to ensuring our staff are supported and prepared to undertake the roles they are required to do.

“We will never forget that 22 people tragically lost their lives following the truly evil actions of the attacker and many received life changing injuries . They continue to be at the forefront of our thoughts as are their loved ones and all those affected by this dreadful attack.”

 


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UK lawmakers call for more investment in young talent

An influential British parliamentary committee has urged the music industry to devote more of its resources to developing emerging talent, warning of the threat posed to the UK’s talent pipeline from chronic under-investment.

In its live music report, which summarises the findings of a live music inquiry first announced in January 2018, the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee – best known for its fight against unlawful ticket resale – calls for the industry to do more to support up-and-coming artists, whose ability to create music is “essential for the long-term health of the industry”.

“Structural problems within the music industry limit artists’ ability to earn a sustainable income, and that in turn risks excluding sections of society from a career in music,” reads the report, released today (19 March), which contains evidence from CAA, the AIF, StubHub, Viagogo, Ticketmaster, DHP Family, the BPI, Music Venue Trust (MVT) and some 60 others.

“The industry needs to ensure a greater proportion of its revenues [are] channelled into supporting artists at the early stages of their careers.”

In a section quoting Gomez’s Tom Gray, who told the committee, “There is now a lot more money in the business than there ever was, but somehow that is not finding its way back down to the bottom,” the report also recommends the British government join forces with umbrella organisation UK Music to establish a taskforce that would explore how the industry could be encouraged to act.

“Structural problems within the music industry limit artists’ ability to earn a sustainable income”

“We recommend that the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and UK Music convene a taskforce this year comprised of [sic] musicians’ representatives and corporate stakeholders,” it reads, “to explore how the industry may be supported and incentivised to invest more effectively in supporting grassroots talent.”

In addition to the lack of support for emerging talent, the DCMS inquiry identified the following as problem areas where action is needed “to safeguard the future of the UK’s live music industry”:

On urban music, the report uncovered evidence of “persisting prejudice against urban music and grime artists”, with the Roundhouse’s Jane Beese telling the committee that – despite positive changes, such as abolition in 2017 of London’s hated Form 696 – a climate of “institutionalised racism” persists in councils’ attitudes towards grime.

“The issues are still there,” said DJ Target, while ShaoDow revealed a venue cancelled on him after learning he was a hip-hop artist, saying: “We cannot do that here – we will lose our licence.”

“The UK government has failed to act promptly to stem the tide of the closures”

“We welcome the abolition of the Metropolitan Police’s form 696 following concerns that it unfairly targeted certain artists and audiences, but it is concerning to hear that prejudices against urban acts persist,” said the DCMS in its response. “The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and the Home Office should work together to develop guidance for licensing authorities, police forces and music venues on how to collaborate on managing risks to ensure that urban music acts are not unfairly targeted.”

The reluctance of venues to take a chance on urban music is exacerbated by the fact many of them are struggling to survive, with the report describing how “unsubsidised small- and medium-scale venues face particular problems attributed to rising rents and business rates and stagnating incomes”.

The UK government, found the committee, has “failed to act promptly to stem the tide of the closures happening on a scale unprecedented in other cultural sectors, a development that presents a significant and urgent challenge to the music industry. Evidence suggests that the UK’s position at the forefront of the music industry could be at risk because the next generation of musicians will be denied spaces to hone their live craft.”

The report also recommended extending relief on business rates (the tax levied on all non-residential property in the UK) to music venues – a proposal supported by UK Music and MVT, along with a growing stable of MPs from both main political parties.

“The UK’s position could be at risk because the next generation of musicians will be denied spaces to hone their live craft”

A third of venues that responded to the recent UK Live Music Census reported having been negatively affected by increases in business rates, which came into force on 1 April 2017. In London, research commissioned by the Greater London Authority showed that 21 grassroots venues face closure as a result of the revaluation, with a further 18 expected to experience significant financial challenges. These 39 venues generate up to £21.5 million for London’s economy.

“The government should immediately review the impact of recent business rates changes on the live music sector and introduce new or extend existing relief schemes, such as those for pubs or small retail properties, to lessen the burden of business rates on music venues in order to protect grassroots venues and independent festivals,” says the committee. “Further support should be given by the government by extending tax relief, already given for orchestra performances, to other forms of music production.”

Support for grassroots venues, and the live industry more widely, should come from local ‘Music Boards’, states the report. These boards would comprise representatives from the music industry, policymakers and other relevant stakeholders “to advocate for the live music sector and promote its interests in planning and policy decisions”.

The committee’s recommendations also include a request that Arts Council England (ACE), which has received criticism for allocating just 0.06% of its total funding to popular music venues, “redress the balance” in the way it funds popular (as opposed to classical) music.

“Further support should be given by the government by extending tax relief, already given for orchestra performances”

According to the report, “the difference between public support for live music in the UK and other European countries is stark. In some mainland European countries ‘venues receive subsidies that average 42% of operating costs, or as high as 70% in France.’ The German government recently invested €8.2 million to upgrade equipment in grassroots music venues and in the Netherlands, 51 grassroots venues receive government funding.”

This means, cautioned ShaoDow and 100 Club’s Jeff Horton, that artists might prioritise playing the continent’s better-equipped venues, especially after Brexit.

Addressing ACE’s lack of support for contemporary music venues, the report says: “It is unsurprising that the live music sector has a history of under-engagement with government and funding bodies, given the staffing constraints many venues face and the low rates of support for grassroots venues in Arts Council England’s flagship funding programme. Nonetheless, we recognise that the current imbalance in funding is not sustainable and welcome ACE’s commitment to engage with music venues and learn from its experiences with other sectors.

“We ask that in its next ten-year strategy, the Arts Council makes explicit how it plans to redress the balance in funding for grassroots venues and contemporary music, with a view to securing the infrastructure and leadership that will enable them to maximise business opportunities.”

On ticketing, meanwhile, the committee took the “highly unusual step” of advising the British public not to use Viagogo, which it says is still not in compliance with a court order served last November.

“We ask that in its next ten-year strategy, Arts Council makes explicit how it plans to redress the balance in funding”

“The UK is witnessing a boom in live music, with increasing numbers attending concerts and festivals, giving a boost for the economy, [and] home-grown talent like Ed Sheeran taking that success across the world,” says Damian Collins MP, chair of the DCMS Committee.

“Yet for all its vibrancy, away from the headline acts the music industry is also facing stark challenges. Bad experiences with ticket resale platforms are damaging trust in the industry, smaller music venues are closing at an unprecedented rate and the future of the talent pipeline is at risk.

“We’re calling on the government to review the effectiveness of the law intended to prevent consumers being ripped off when buying tickets for live concerts. The government shouldn’t rely on the work of voluntary groups to take on the giants in the ticket resale market, but make sure there is effective action to end exploitation, and greater transparency and redress for ticket-buyers when things go wrong.

“When it comes to live performance, it’s shocking to hear that grime artists are continuing to face prejudice, which risks hampering the success of one of our most successful musical exports.

“Urgent action is needed if the live music industry is to continue to make a significant contribution to both the economy and cultural life of the country. We also look to the music industry to make sure that enough of the big money generated at the top finds its way down to grassroots level to support emerging talent. It happens with sport, why not music?”

“Away from the headline acts the music industry is also facing stark challenges”

Welcoming the findings, UK Music CEO Michael Dugher says: “This is a landmark report into live music by Damian Collins and members of the DCMS select committee. They have really listened to the live music industry, which contributes around £1bn a year to the UK economy, and their report is a real wake-up call for everyone who wants to safeguard live music.”

Dugher says the organisation “particularly welcome[s] the recommendation that a new taskforce is needed to help and support emerging talent. We urgently need help to nurture the music industry’s talent pipeline if we are to continue producing world-leading superstars like Adele [pictured] and Ed Sheeran.

“With the decline of music in education in particular, there is a real danger that having the chance of a successful career in music means that you have to have access to the ‘bank of mum and dad’.  We are, in effect drawing water from a well that’s getting smaller and smaller.”

Adam Webb, from anti-touting campaign group FanFair Alliance, comments: “FanFair Alliance welcomes all aspects of the Committee’s wide-reaching report, and especially their condemnation of Viagogo.

“What we now need is action. If a restaurant poses a risk to public health, we expect inspectors to close it immediately on grounds of consumer protection. Unfortunately, such powers of enforcement are seemingly absent when it comes to online ticket touting. So despite the huge consumer harm caused by Viagogo’s practices, and despite the best efforts of the Competition and Markets Authority and other regulators, the site has continued to operate in clear disregard of the law. This needs to change.

“This report is a real wake-up call for everyone who wants to safeguard live music”

“Viagogo is already facing legal proceedings for contempt of court. While that case is pending, there is surely a compelling argument for the website to be temporarily blocked and for platforms like Google to cut off its advertising.”

Promoter and venue owner DHP Family, which gave evidence to the inquiry, also welcomed the findings. A statement from the company – whose London venue the Garage is threatened with closure – says: “We welcome the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee report into live music; the conclusions echo what we have been witnessing and experiencing in small live music venues across the country, with London venues facing the greatest risks from rising costs.

“The UK has been developing new talent that has conquered the world since the 60s, but we put at risk our ability to find and develop future talent if we don’t find ways to keep our music venues open. The current situation is perilous: just today there are press reports that the Social in Soho is facing closure – just one in a long line of seminal music venues fighting for its future. We face landlords who are pricing live music venues out of London, massive rises in business rates and, at times, unhelpful licensing authorities – all backed up by the conclusions in the report.

“We urge government and local authorities to do something to protect the future of live music.”

 

For a full list of industry reactions to the report, click here.

 


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Calls for inquiry into Cambridge Live bail-out rejected

An inquiry into crisis-hit Cambridge Live, the trust which runs the Cambridge Folk Festival (CFF) and Cambridge Corn Exchange, will not go ahead. Concerns arose following a £750,000 bail-out from the council.

Last month, Cambridge City Council brought Cambridge Live back in-house, after the trust encountered persistent financial difficulties.

The Council granted a £500,000 support package to the trust in June last year, later followed by an additional £250,000.

The Liberal Democrats tabled an amendment calling for a full inquiry into the reasons for the trust’s failings:

“Recognising the substantial potential public cost of this rescue and the need to decide whether Cambridge Live should in future continue in-house or be re-launched as an independent organisation, it is important to properly understand what went wrong in Cambridge Live and in the council’s relationship with it, both as its founding sponsor and major partner and customer.”

“It is important to properly understand what went wrong in Cambridge Live and in the council’s relationship with it”

“We therefore request officers to recommend terms of reference for a cross party members’ inquiry addressing these issues.”

However, the amendment was rejected by the council. Chief executive of Cambridge City Council, Antoinette Jackson, responded saying: “Our priority at the moment is to stabilise the organisation. We do not have the officer capacity at the moment to support an inquiry.”

This is not the first time such a bail-out has happened. Cambridge council awarded the 2007 and 2008 CFF ticketing contracts to online ticketing platform Secureticket Ltd. The company later went into administration, leaving the council to cover £618,000 in ticket sales.

Launched in 2015, Cambridge Live puts on events including the long-running CFF (10,000-cap.). Speaking to IQ last year, CFF boss Neil Jones spoke of the need to widen the festival’s appeal and the pressure of competing with live music behemoths such as Live Nation and AEG, with the exclusion zones such companies enforce.

Cambridge Live also runs concert and event venue the Cambridge Corn Exchange (1,700-cap.) and family-friendly community event the Big Weekend (15,000-cap.). The council will now be responsible for all services formerly provided by Cambridge Live. All events and concerts will continue as planned.

 


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UK parliament announces new live music biz inquiry

The British parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee, is to launch a fresh inquiry into the UK live music business, focusing particularly on secondary ticketing and the declining number of small music venues.

The new investigation replaces the committee’s previous inquiry into ‘ticket abuse’, which was cut short by the snap general election of June 2017, and will once again invite secondary ticketing companies – including previous prominent no-show Viagogo – to contribute evidence.

“This inquiry will be an opportunity for the committee to revisit the important issue of secondary ticket selling,” explains DCMS Committee chair Damian Collins MP (pictured). “We want to hear from the public about their direct experiences with this issue and what they think can be done to tackle it.

“We’ll also investigate what problems many small music venues face, as they struggle to keep their doors open despite the unwavering enthusiasm from the British public for live music.

“The committee also welcomes the government’s announcement [on 18 January] that the agent-of-change principle will form part of the National Planning Policy Framework for housing. As part of this new inquiry, we’ll be exploring other ways in which the government can support upcoming artists and grassroots venues that form such a crucial part of the music scene in the UK.”

“We want to hear from the public about their direct experiences”

Per DCMS, written evidence is invited in the following areas:

Evidence can be submitted via this link on the committee’s website until 17.00 on 28 February 2018.

 


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