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AEG’s Lucy Noble on taking classical to the masses

AEG Presents’ first artistic director Lucy Noble has reflected on her first year in the role and her ongoing efforts to break down barriers around classical and orchestral music.

Noble joined AEG’s European senior leadership team in late 2022 after two decades at London’s Royal Albert Hall (RAH), where she held a hybrid commercial/artistic role at the venue prior to being appointed as its first artistic director in 2021.

At AEG, she has assumed responsibility for setting the artistic direction across the firm’s live touring and events business, and plans are afoot to grow the team.

“I felt like I had a few other adventures in me yet” she tells IQ. “I was working out what to do next, and this opportunity came up. It wasn’t that AEG was looking for an artistic director, we kind of cooked the idea up together – I was saying, ‘I can bring this and cover this whole range of genres you’re not doing.’

“I’m looking at theatrical projects, dance projects, immersive stuff… I’m basically creating a new division. AEG is very supportive because, although it will take time to build, it’s a big area of potential growth.”

Expanding the company’s repertoire, Noble is currently overseeing tours by the likes of Nitin Sawhney and Blue Man Group, and launched All Things Orchestral at BST Hyde Park in London last June as part of its Open House series programme of cultural activities.

“I think there are some barriers around classical music. Everyone needs to feel welcome and know that it is for them – and that it’s not elitist in any way”

“BST was a real highlight,” says Noble. “All Things Orchestral was the first classical offering at BST and it was a very short timeline to put it on – about five weeks or something.”

Presented by Myleene Klass, featuring Alfie Boe and performed by the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra, the event took fans on a journey through classical music, both traditional and modern. With a mission to “bring classical music back for all”, general admission ticket prices were set at £11.45 (€13.38).

“It was all about having that relaxed, family offering with accessible ticket prices,” she adds. “We’re hopefully doing it again this year.”

In 2024, BST will go a step further by welcoming Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli, who will become the event’s first classical headliner on 5 July (“That’s largely gone through the festival team, although I’ve been slightly involved,” clarifies Noble).

Nevertheless, her first year has not been without obstacles, and Noble explains her chief concern is to spread the message that the genre is “for everyone”.

“I think there are some barriers around classical music,” she says. “I think that everyone needs to feel welcome and know that it is for them – and that it’s not elitist in any way. I want to let everyone listen to it. That might mean presenting it in slightly different ways, but it doesn’t mean dumbing it down, because it will still be of the highest quality.”

“I want to take orchestras into new environments… It’s hard, but we will get there”

She continues: “I worked with six of the major UK-based orchestras last year, and I think I’m the only commercial promoter to be doing that. I want to support UK orchestras because they’re amazing, and open them up to as many people as possible, but it is a challenge.

“I want to take orchestras into new environments. I took some into the arenas last year, and it was hard to get those audiences to migrate to different venues, so there’s a lot of work to be done. It’s hard, but we will get there. I’m determined to open it up.”

Under Noble’s direction, the RAH gained a reputation as a promoter in its own right, producing original concerts as well as attracting a wide range of high profile shows, promoters and artists. At AEG, she is tasked with overseeing content creation as well as the production of new events. She is also responsible for promoting and touring shows.

“It’s a completely different world being a promoter to running a venue, it couldn’t be more opposite, and it took me a while to get into the new way of doing it all,” remarks Noble. “And obviously coming from a charity and then going to the commercial sector was quite a change as well.

“It’s been more challenging than I thought, but there have also been some positives that I didn’t expect. I’m basically in a startup – that’s what it feels like – but I’ve pulled a proper business plan together now and now I think I can say where we’ll be in the next two, three, four, five years.”

Other related AEG projects include its films with orchestra series and Video Games in Concert, which brings scores from World of Warcraft, God of War: Ragnarok, The Last of Us and The Witcher III: Wild Hunt, among others, to UK concert halls with The Heritage Orchestra, conducted by Eímear Noone. Noble has also organised a tour with organist and TikTok star Anna Lapwood.

“I work in a world that doesn’t necessarily conform with the traditional styles of promoting”

“The target is to grow the business and do more shows, but it’s about quality, not quantity,” says Noble. “I want to be an integral part of the promoting community so that people come to us as their first choice, because we do things really well.

“I’m trying to think about promoting differently and that’s because I work in a world that doesn’t necessarily conform with the traditional styles of promoting. But also with my experience in the charitable sector, I’m able to add in different strands alongside the concerts.

“I’ve been talking to artists about how they engage with things like music education which could include workshops in schools but then on the other side of things thinking creatively about how they present their material and that could mean us working with arrangers so that artists can perform with orchestras.”

While Noble’s initial focus has been on the UK, there is also an eye on expanding into Europe and other territories.

“I am UK-based mostly but I’m looking at some global projects that AEG will potentially invest in,” she says. “For example, I’m looking at doing a Christmas season at one of our venues, Verti Music Hall in Berlin.”

Outside of AEG, Noble has taken on the role of vice chair of Nordoff and Robbins, supporting newly installed chair Emma Banks of CAA, after joining the music therapy charity’s Board of Trustees last April.

“I’m excited to do that because it fulfils the charitable side, which has played such a big part in my life until now,” says Noble. “It’s great that I can help support them and I’m really looking forward to working with Emma. I’m going to help them with the business overall, but fundraising will be a key element.”

Noble also offers her thoughts on the Women and Equalities Committee’s (WEC) recently published Misogyny in Music report, which concluded that: “Sexual harassment and abuse in the music industry remains widespread” and demanded urgent action to tackle “endemic” misogyny and discrimination in the UK business. ILMC will be hosting a discussion on Thursday 29 February to consider the response from the live sector.

“It’s definitely something that needs to be addressed,” says Noble. “It needs to be addressed front-on and I’m glad that it’s being highlighted. I think it’s important.”

 


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Emma Banks named chair of Nordoff and Robbins

CAA’s Emma Banks has been appointed as chair of Nordoff and Robbins, the UK’s largest music therapy charity.

The agent and co-head of CAA’s London office/co-head of international touring replaces David Munns, who is stepping down after 30 years.

A longstanding supporter of Nordoff and Robbins, Banks has chairing the committee of the charity’s flagship O2 Silver Clef Awards for the past decade. She joined the Board of Trustees in 2019 and also sits on the Nordoff and Robbins Race Day committee.

In her role as chair, she will oversee Nordoff and Robbins’ mission of using music therapy to help break through the barriers caused by life-limiting illness, disability and social isolation.

As part of its new strategy, the charity will continue using music to address injustice across society, lobby for policy change on behalf of its clients – some of the most isolated children and adults across the UK – and encourage a more diverse pool of musicians to train as music therapists.

Supporting Banks in her new role is AEG Presents’ artistic director, Lucy Noble, who will take on the role of vice chair after joining the charity’s Board of Trustees in April this year. She replaces lawyer Howard Jones, who steps down after over 13 years of support.

“I embrace the responsibility of building on David’s legacy with the support of Lucy and the Board of Trustees”

Legendary music agent Neil Warnock, Trustee Board member and chair of the charity’s Fundraising Committee, is also stepping down from his trustee role at Nordoff and Robbins. He will continue to serve on various fundraising committees.

Emma Banks says: “It is a true honour to become chair of Nordoff and Robbins. The music industry has loyally supported and championed this vital charity for many years, and I embrace the responsibility of building on David’s legacy with the support of Lucy and the Board of Trustees, continuing this essential advocacy far into the future. We have an incredibly strong Board that we will be looking to add to in the coming months as our new strategy develops, and I welcome anyone who is interested in becoming involved with Nordoff and Robbins to reach out to me.”

David Munns comments: “I am delighted that Emma Banks and Lucy Noble have agreed to take over the chair and vice-chair positions at Nordoff and Robbins. After 12 years as a trustee and then the chair role I feel it is time for someone else to help steer this wonderful organisation. I have Nordoff and Robbins in my blood because we don’t just use music to entertain, we must also use the power of music to help those who find it difficult, if not impossible, to communicate any other way. There is a huge need for Nordoff and Robbins’ work and the people there are completely dedicated to making it available to as many people as possible – it’s a truly remarkable organisation. Emma and Lucy will make a huge contribution to the future of Nordoff and Robbins and they need your support.”

Lucy Noble adds: “In my time on the Board of Trustees at Nordoff and Robbins, I have seen first-hand the power of music to transform lives – from adults living with dementia reconnecting with their family, to children with autism finding their voice. I thank the Board for placing their trust in me to take on the role of Vice Chair and am excited to work with Emma as we enter a new phase for this increasingly important charity.”

Sandra Schembri, CEO, Nordoff and Robbins, says: “We are thrilled for Emma Banks to be stepping into the role of chair of Nordoff and Robbins, supported by the excellent Lucy Noble as vice chair. A hugely respected figure in the music industry and beyond, we are grateful for Emma’s time, presence and energy as we now leave the challenges of recent years behind and look ahead to a bright future.

“It is impossible to explain in just a few sentences the transformational impact that David Munns has had to Nordoff and Robbins in his time as a Trustee and Chair. From overseeing the merger with our Scottish sister organisation, and us becoming a UK-wide charity to weathering the storm of Covid-19 and making it through to the other side, alongside many, many unforgettable fundraising events and unwavering support for the clients we work with. We also owe both Howard Jones and Neil Warnock, a debt of gratitude and sincerely thank them for their focus on our mission.”

 


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LIVE appoints radio DJ Steve Lamacq as chair

UK trade body LIVE has appointed radio DJ and live music advocate Steve Lamacq as its new chair.

Lamacq has been a mainstay of BBC Radio programming for over 25 years as co-presenter of The Evening Session on Radio 1 before moving to host 6 Music.

Having stepped back from presenting his drive-time show full-time after 18 years, Lamacq has “decided to steer his career in a new direction in an effort to promote, support and define the live music industry for generations to come”.

Also joining LIVE, as co-opted directors, are Charisse Beaumont of Black Lives in Music, Christine Osazuwa of Shoobs and Lucy Noble of AEG Presents.

The appointments come as LIVE welcomes its 16th member, the Musicians’ Union (The MU). Kelly Wood, National Organiser for Live Performance, will also join LIVE’s board on behalf of the MU’s community of over 33,000 musicians.

“The UK’s live music industry is world-class but faces obstacles in realising its true potential,” says Jon Collins, CEO of LIVE. “With a sector value of over £5.2 billion, the industry is one of our greatest, and most prized cultural exports.

“It is a terrific opportunity to be a part of the future of live music in this country”

“We are proud to support the entirety of the live music ecosystem and represent their interests and the appointment of music legend Steve Lamacq, The MU’s Kelly Wood, Charisse Beaumont, Christine Osazuwa and Lucy Noble to LIVE’s board will enable us to further extend the work we’re doing. Steve will bring to LIVE unrivalled recognition of the power of the UK’s live music industry along with the challenges it faces. We are honoured to have such notable industry figures sitting on our board who will be key to enabling our enviable live music industry to thrive.”

Lamacq, adds: “I am absolutely thrilled to have been offered the chance to work with an organisation which is right at the centre of live music in the UK. As someone whose life has been indelibly shaped by the gigs that I’ve seen, it is a terrific opportunity to be a part of the future of live music in this country, and to be given the responsibility for helping promote, support and define it for generations to come.

“It has been a very difficult time for everyone involved in live music in recent years, with Brexit, the pandemic, the cost-of-living crisis, rising energy bills for venues and many other challenges, which have affected everyone at all levels of the live music ecosystem. With that in mind there are many things we need to address whilst also looking forward to forging a more sustainable and inclusive industry.

“LIVE has already achieved a great deal through a number of important campaigns and I am excited about what we can achieve in the future. It will be a privilege to represent those across the entire spectrum of our sector.”

Kelly Wood, National Organiser for Live Performance at The MU, said, “This is a positive move for the sector and we are excited to join the LIVE board. Joining such a forward-thinking and dynamic organisation, whose priorities are closely aligned with our own will be critical to the industry. I hope that The MU’s presence on the LIVE board brings a new perspective and together with LIVE’s other member organisations, we will reinforce lobbying efforts and hold the Government to account to ensure the dynamism and potential of the sector is unleashed. This will better equip us to support our members working at all levels of the live sector, in terms of their local, national and international tours.”

 


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The Dragons’ Den: Women in Live report

Three senior female business leaders in live music discussed their lives in music, career progression and learnings along the way in a unique Dragons’ Den session at ILMC.

Lucy Noble of AEG Presents (UK), Jacqueline Zich from DEAG (DE) and Jolanda Jansen from Rotterdam Ahoy (NL) sat down for an up-close conversation with host Marie Lindqvist of ASM Global.

Noble, who was hired as AEG’s first ever artistic director last year following a two-decade stint at London’s Royal Albert Hall, discussed some of the challenges that have shaped her career.

“I look back and I can’t think of any major hurdles to get where I’ve got today,” she said. “I think that all the experiences you have are learning experiences and I wouldn’t change anything.

“But I remember over over a decade ago, there was a director position at the Royal Albert Hall. And the chief executive took me into the office and said, ‘Look, I don’t think you can do this job as a mother.’ I should have said, ‘You can’t say that.’ But I was in this position where I was saying, ‘No, I really can, give me a chance.’ But that was a moment where I realised that people do make judgments because you’re a mum.

“We have a very good relationship now, but he just had that very old school way of thinking around these matters.”

“Lots of people moved out of our industry because they wanted a better work-life balance”

She continued: “Being a working mum with three young children is not easy when you’re working in our industry. We saw during the pandemic that lots of people moved out of our industry because they wanted a better work-life balance.”

Jansen said she agreed with a comment from CAA agent Emma Banks that there is “no substitute for hard work”.

“It’s great to be hardworking because you also get the results,” she said. “It is not about working three, four, five, six or seven days a week, it’s about how you balance your own life and what you get your energy from. I think that is what makes it healthy. The kind of old school working mentality that you need to be on your phone responding to emails 24 hours a day is perhaps not healthy for anybody in the end. But it’s also not bad to work hard.”

Linqvist recalled a stressful period in her career during the last decade prompted her to make positive changes.

“I was getting all the signals of having too much negative stress: I had horrible headache, difficulties in sleeping, and was always tired,” she said. “I just came to the conclusion that, ‘Something needs to be changed here.’ And it was quite difficult because when you’re used to working very hard and it’s a passion, it sometimes puts you in a position where you forget about your own welfare. So I had to take a serious review of how I spent my days and my energy.

“I delegated more responsibilities to people that could do much better than I, and also looked through my calendar and went through meeting-by-meeting: ‘Do I need to be in this meeting? Am I adding any value?’ And being more conscious about my own time.

“The positive effect of that was not only my health getting better, but also that it made people around me feel better and gave them the opportunity to grow and take more responsibility.”

“We came up in the business at a time when there were fewer females in senior roles. Hopefully, that is beginning to change”

The panel also discussed the importance of strong role models and mentors, with DEAG’s Zich complimenting the company’s founder and CEO Peter Schwenkow for his support in the early days of her career.

“Of course, you have to work hard and make sure you work on your own position,” she said. “But he gave me the chance and the trust and the feeling of, ‘You can do that,’ and being confident enough to do it. I think women tend to be not too confident on things and that was very helpful, and still is to be honest. That played a huge role in my path.”

Noble namechecked live music veterans such as Phil Bowdery, Neil Warnock, Dennis Arnold and Paul Crockford.

“I’m very aware that there are no women [on that list], probably because we came up in the business at a time when there were fewer females in senior roles,” she acknowledged. “Hopefully, that is beginning to change a bit. Now, I definitely think there is more of an even split at the entry levels. At the senior level, there are still more men than women, but I do think the industry has done a great job in recent years to improve those figures.

“I’m a mentor for two young women and I like to think that I’ve helped and given guidance. I really love doing that and it’s really fulfilling for me to be able to give back in that way.”

She added: “There shouldn’t be a difference between men and women…. I am very supportive of women in the industry, and at the Hall, we did a Women in Music Day, which had hundreds and hundreds of young women and other people along. I’ve had people like Emma Banks, Lucy Dickins and Becky Allen from EMI speak at that.

“All the people I know at that level really do champion women in music, and it’s about doing that and making sure we bring them up along with us.”

 


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Lucy Noble hired as AEG’s first artistic director

Former National Arenas Association (NAA) chair Lucy Noble is departing the Royal Albert Hall to become AEG Presents’ first ever artistic director.

Noble joins AEG’s European senior leadership team, assuming responsibility for setting the artistic direction across the company’s live touring and events business.

Tasked with overseeing content creation as well as the production of new events, Noble also assumes responsibility for promoting and touring shows, with an initial focus on the UK, followed by an eventual expansion into Europe and other territories.

Noble has served at the RAH for two decades and held a hybrid commercial/artistic role at the London venue prior to being appointed as its first artistic director last year.

“Professionally, this is a huge win for AEG and only strengthens our world-class reputation; I can’t wait to see the creativity and direction she’ll bring to our AEG Presents business as we move forward on this exciting next phase in our journey,” says AEG UK CEO Steve Homer. “On a personal level, I’m extremely chuffed – I’ve worked with Lucy for many years and it’s always been a wish of mine to bring her over to our side of the fence. We’re thrilled this is now a reality.”

Noble, who will assume her new position at AEG in the coming months, is an executive member of UK trade body LIVE, as well as chair of the Live Group’s venues sub-committee, and most recently served as chair of the NAA. Earlier this year she received the NAA Award for Outstanding Contribution to the NAA and the live music industry.

“It was always going to take something pretty spectacular to draw me away from ‘The Hall’”

“I’ve worked closely with the AEG team for many years and have long since admired their work – to join a leader of this calibre, working across live music and events, is something I can’t wait to be part of,” she says. “After a two decade tenure, I count many of my colleagues as dear friends and as such, it was always going to take something pretty spectacular to draw me away from ‘The Hall.’ While it will always hold a special place in my heart, I’m excited about what’s to come.”

Under Noble’s direction, the RAH gained a reputation as a promoter in its own right, producing original concerts as well as attracting a wide range of high profile shows, promoters and artists, while her leadership of the Hall’s engagement programme has seen it increase its reach to nearly 200,000 individuals every year.

“We all wish Lucy the very best in her new role and are sure that she will continue to shine,” says Royal Albert Hall CEO Craig Hassall. “The Hall’s immensely experienced and dedicated staff will continue to present an extraordinary programme of events which have been booked by Lucy’s team, including a heart-warming Christmas season – featuring carols, traditional concerts, jazz, drag, soul, classic ballet and so much more – and Cirque du Soleil’s Kurios, which brings in the new year.”

Hassall announced in August that he is stepping down at the start of the 2023 season to take up the position of president and chief executive of Playhouse Square in Cleveland, Ohio. Dan Freeman, who joined the Hall in June from his previous role as chief financial officer at LW Theatres Group, will lead the organisation as interim CEO until Hassall’s replacement comes on board.

“I am delighted that Dan has agreed to step up to lead the organisation until the new CEO starts in 2023,” adds Hassall. “Dan has already demonstrated great leadership and everyone at the Hall is focussed on ensuring continuity for artists and audiences alike.”

 


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LIVE launches new UK live music awards ceremony

A new awards ceremony has been launched to celebrate outstanding individuals and companies across the UK’s live music sector.

The LIVE Awards will take place at The Brewery in London on Tuesday 13 December, and are being introduced by trade body LIVE to celebrate the highs of the year and toast the endurance of the sector, amid the dual battles of Brexit and Covid.

Categories will be open to all across the industry and will celebrate classical alongside grime, production heroes alongside promoters.

“After a year like no other, the world class UK live music scene is getting together to celebrate the fantastic work delivered in 2022, while looking towards what’s to come in 2023,” says LIVE CEO Jon Collins.

“The awards offer a fantastic opportunity to recognise our world-leading talent and bring all corners of the industry together, while doing what we do best – throwing a fantastic party.”

“It is the right time to celebrate the best in our sector”

The awards will bring the business together in December, serving as an end of year celebration for all of those responsible for stages, venues and festivals across the UK. The ceremony will take place annually, and span a range of achievements including sustainability credentials, marketing prowess and regional performance, to ensure that the very best of the industry is celebrated.

“Live Nation is delighted to support these awards,” adds Denis Desmond, Live Nation UK & Ireland chair. “Live is vital to artists and musicians and creates a vibrant economy in which thousands of jobs are supported. It’s the right time to celebrate the best in our sector.”

Judged by a panel of industry professionals, the awards will be presented in front of an invited industry audience, with hundreds expected to attend.

“The inaugural LIVE Awards will be a welcome and valued addition to the industry calendar, providing an opportunity to celebrate those who have worked incredibly hard during the last few most challenging years for our industry,” adds Royal Albert Hall artistic director Lucy Noble. “It will be fantastic to end the year with a celebration of our world class industry.”

Applications are open now and will run to 30 September, with full details available at www.theliveawards.com. The categories include:

· The LIVE Green Award

· The LIVE Workforce Award

· Venue of the Year

· Grassroots Champion

· Multinational Booking Agency

· Independent Booking Agency

· National Promoter of the Year

· Regional Promoter of the Year

· Top Ticketing Service

· Major Festival of the Year

· Festival of the Year

· Production Supplier

· Brand Partnership

· The LIVETime Achievement Award

 


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UK arena bosses discuss green goals

UK arena executives have given an insight into the strides being made to turn the sector into a greener business.

Representatives of London’s The O2 and OVO Arena Wembley, Scottish Event Campus and Manchester’s Co-op Live spoke of the direction of travel at the Green Events & Innovations Conference (GEI), the leading gathering for sustainability at live events.

“I think it does prove that people are a) passionate and b) and also doing lots about but also see there’s still a lot to be done all together with the entire industry’s help,” said panel chair Lucy Noble of the Royal Albert Hall (RAH). “So let’s keep going and hopefully if we reconvene next year we’ll have lots more exciting news and be able to talk about new developments.”

Arenas have taken huge strides to strategically reduce their carbon emissions, eliminate waste, green up their food and beverage offerings. Noble recently detailed the RAH’s sustainability focus in an interview with IQ, while the SEC hosted last year’s COP26 climate summit prior to its OVO Hydro in Glasgow becoming the first arena in the world to achieve A Greener Arena (AGA) certification for its commitment to sustainability.

Oak View Group’s new east Manchester development Co-op Live, meanwhile, will become the UK’s first all-electric arena when it opens next year.

Here is a sample of what the GEI: ‘Stepping Into A Greener Arena’ panellists had to say about their green efforts to date…

“We’ve gone red meat free in the arena”

John Drury, OVO Arena Wembley

“We’re part of ASM Global, so we’ve got our own plan in place there, and we obviously work closely now with OVO Energy. Within ASM, we’ve got what’s ASM Global Acts, we’ve got these three main pillars that we work towards that encompass environmental sustainability, community, and diversity and inclusion. So we work with those headings across what we do. One big thing that we did a few years ago as a venue is we replaced all of the house lighting with LED. It was a big investment, nearly quarter of a million pounds, but the payback on that was three years. We only purchase renewable energy. We don’t sell any waste to landfill. We have recycling bins on the concourse, we do all the usual things that you would expect most venues will do. We’ve gone red meat free in the arena, so you can’t get a burger at the venue. You can get chicken burger. It’s bad news for chickens, but it’s been good for the venue and nobody buys a ticket for a show because they want a burger. If they’re hungry, they’ll get veg, chilli, loaded fries or they’ll get something else. It’s a really good initiative and clearly makes sense.”

“We’ve been trialling wind turbines on site for a year or so now to see if that can play a part in our roadmap to net zero”

Steve Sayer, The O2

“AEG has been focused on sustainability for 10-plus years. We have a global framework strategy called 1Earth, which is very much focused on water conservation, waste reduction and reducing carbon emissions. We’ve been harvesting rainwater for the last 10 years, focused on reducing water in all of our bathrooms and washrooms. We’ve been purchasing green energy from a verifiable source for about eight years. All of our energy is tracked and metered throughout the building and we’ve been doing that for a long time. We segregate all of our waste, a minute proportion – less than 1% – goes to landfill, the rest of it is dealt within a sustainable source. We’ve been trialling wind turbines on site for a year or so now to see if that can play a part in our roadmap to net zero. We set a green team up. I always say I was learning about climate change 30 years ago when I was in school, it’s not a new phenomenon. But I think in the last five years it’s just in everybody’s consciousness and Blue Planet 2, definitely in the UK was a real catalyst, particularly at The O2. That then led to us setting up or creating a CSR programme. We have four pillars: sustainability, charity, accessibility and community, and it’s called Good Vibes All Round. It was our first foray into more of a socially purpose driven venue. It’s very much a journey, and it’s a journey that is going to continue for a number of years.”

“OVO Hydro is the first arena in the world to get the Greener Arena award”

Jennifer Ennis, Scottish Event Campus

“We launched our sustainability strategy at the start of this year. The key headlines around our strategy include a net zero 2030 commitment. We did a carbon footprint assessment last year to establish what our baseline is and we’re working towards reducing that. Another key goal for us is our people goals, so that’s about how we engage with our own team to be more sustainable. We’ve got a sustainability committee now, so that has representation from all the different departments of our business. Another key one is resource so that’s all about reducing our waste and increasing recycling. We’ve got a few targets around that which align to zero waste Scotland’s targets, like reducing waste volume by 10% and increasing recycling to 70%. OVO Hydro is the first arena in the world to get the Greener Arena award, so that was a fantastic project to work towards. It is an incredibly comprehensive assessment. But equally, it gives you really good areas to focus on where you could be making improvements.”

“All of our venues are going to be driving the carbon neutral positioning as fast as we can possibly achieve it”

Sarah Tomkins, Co-op Live

“I’ll start by talking about a venue which is open, which is [OVG’s] Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle. It’s the first arena to actually achieve zero carbon certification, which is amazing, so we can learn from that. How do they create their own energy? They’re using solar power. How are they reducing gas? They’re 100% electric. They’ve got aluminium cups and are reducing all of their compostable waste. They’re also looking at how their fans travel to the building. At Co-op Live, we’re doing a very similar thing. We’ve got a football pitch and a half of solar on our roof. We’re collecting the lovely Manchester rainwater and we’re going to use that to flush our toilets and to irrigate all of our plants. We are also going to look at heat source. And then we’re also looking at all the different elements of technology from the lighting to the bin systems that will drive the most efficient building possible. And then the operational side is the bit we’re really starting to get our teeth stuck into now. We’ve got to work together to achieve the ambitions but at Oak View Group, we’re really proud to say that this is a top priority for us and all of our venues are going to be driving the carbon neutral positioning as fast as we possibly can achieve it.”

 


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Inside the Royal Albert Hall’s sustainability push

The Royal Albert Hall’s Lucy Noble and Neal Hockley have detailed the historic London venue’s sustainability focus in a new interview with IQ.

The Hall’s sustainability group meets quarterly to co-ordinate activities geared towards reducing the RAH’s environmental impact as part of plans to make the building as eco-friendly as possible.

Since 2016, work has been ongoing to change all the lighting in the 5,500-cap auditorium to LED, which has cut electricity usage by two-thirds in the completed areas. However, modernising the beloved Grade I listed Victorian building is not without its challenges.

“There are constraints with the structure of the building being 152 years old now and, because of the listing, not being able to change some of the key features,” explains building project engineer Hockley. “It would be nice to put modern insulation into walls and things like that, which we can’t do, and it would be lovely to get rid of the glass roof because of all the heat gains that come through from that, but obviously that would have massive implications.

“It is a challenge, but it is possible to work with it. We’re running a new filter system, which is far more efficient. We have seen electrical consumption reduce through that and the LED rollout as well. The EU directive to get rid of halogen lighting has driven everyone to try and work to LED. But obviously it’s a large auditorium, and I’m told red is the hardest colour to light against because of the colour rendering. It’s taken us quite a while to get to this point.”

Through various efficiency measures, the Hall has managed to keep emissions at 2019 levels, month-on-month, despite major projects such as new chillers to cool the auditorium.

It has also invested in a £900,000 upgrade of its ventilation system in response to the pandemic, opting to use EC rather than belt-driven fans due to being less harmful to the environment. The VAV (variable air volume) units respond to the CO2 in the air, so can tell when a room is not being used, with the fan speed being turned down automatically. Previously, they would run 24 hours a day.

“When we do a project, at the heart of it is efficiency and trying to reduce our carbon as much as we can”

“At the moment it’s on full speed because of Covid, but eventually we will see the electricity consumption drop, because it can sense the pressure and then the fan speed reduces,” adds Hockley. “It’s just an example that when we do a project, at the heart of it is efficiency and trying to reduce our carbon as much as we can.”

The venue’s artistic director Lucy Noble is one of the speakers at this year’s Green Events & Innovations Conference (GEI), the leading gathering for sustainability at live events. Presented by A Greener Festival (AGF) in partnership with the International Live Music Conference (ILMC), the 14th edition of GEI will take place at the Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington, London on Friday 29 April.

Noble, who is also chair of the UK’s National Arenas Association (NAA), reveals the RAH is introducing a green rider for promoters, encouraging them to use the venue’s own PA and lights; bring cups or bottles to refill from the coolers, or use Harrogate Spring Water if bottles are needed; and dispose of any show-related waste via the recycling companies listed in the rider.

“You wouldn’t believe how much wastage there is in terms of food, single use plastics, etc, so this is trying to combat that and I think most people are up for that now,” she tells IQ. “We will soon get rid of plastic front-of-house. We haven’t had plastic straws, forks and knives for many years, it’s all wooden now, and we try to use sustainable suppliers.

“We work with Harrogate Water, who are moving to a bottle that is 100% made from recycled materials and is 100% recyclable. People sometimes look at plastic and think it’s the big evil, but if you work with plastic that is from a recycled nature it can actually be really good. Harrogate Water is already operating on a net zero basis and we try to work with companies with strong sustainability credentials.”

“We will put a carbon management plan together over the course of this year”

Hockley, who has worked for the RAH since 2016, is in the process of putting together a carbon management plan for the venue, including key performance indicators (KPIs) around achieving net-zero carbon.

“We will put that plan together over this year,” he says. “It’s bringing items that the Hall is doing already under one document, if you like, with KPIs so that we can benchmark where we are every year. So with our energy, we’ve benchmarked a year, but there are other things that we need to benchmark as well and that plan will bring everything together and demonstrate how we are going to get to net zero.”

The venue has also brought audio in-house, dramatically reducing the number of lorries travelling to and from the Hall, with the majority of shows now using its audio rig. In addition, it plans to integrate a power monitoring system where any member of staff can log in and check the amount of power being used on a show-specific basis, allowing them to monitor the emissions created by a single show and work with the promoter to cut them.

Tonight (25 March) sees the continuation of the Teenage Cancer Trust charity concert series at the Hall with a concert by The Who, followed by Liam Gallagher (26 March) and Ed Sheeran (27 March).

 


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NAA chair Lucy Noble reacts to England’s ‘Plan B’

National Arenas Association (NAA) chair Lucy Noble has outlined the implications of the UK government’s “Plan B” measures for live music in a new interview with IQ.

In an effort to combat the spread of the Omicron variant, prime minister Boris Johnson announced last night that the wearing of face masks will be mandated in all venues from next Wednesday (15 December), and vaccine passports will be required to gain entry.

Johnson said the new rules, which include negative LFTs following extended lobbying by the live sector, would “help to keep these events and venues open at full capacity, while giving everyone who attends them confidence that those around them have done the responsible thing to minimise risk to others”.

Noble, who is artistic director at London’s Royal Albert Hall, anticipates the tightened regulations to hit public demand at what is traditionally a busy time of year.

I’m mostly worried about the impact on ticket sales

“I think ticket sales and attendances will be impacted,” she says. “I think there will be more no-shows over the coming weeks. And it’s going to cost arenas to check everyone – it’s a huge undertaking, a huge cost and it also impacts on customer service. But I think we can get over all of that; I’m mostly worried about the impact on ticket sales.”

Noble says ticket sales had been “really strong” before declining slightly amid the emergence of the new Covid variant last month. She adds the significant volume of no-shows reported by other venues had not been replicated at the Hall, which took out a £20 million loan from the government’s Culture Recovery Fund last year.

“People see the Royal Albert Hall as a really special night out, so they don’t really want to forego that,” she surmises. “Events always see no shows, but ours are at the same level as they were before the pandemic.”

Meanwhile, the Hall’s 150th anniversary celebrations, which were due to kick off on 29 March 2021 – exactly 150 years to the day of its opening – will now extend to 2023 due to the disruption caused by Covid-19.

“It was sad that we were shut for our actual 150th birthday,” reflects Noble. “But what was exciting was that we had commissioned [composer] David Arnold to write a piece to celebrate the Hall’s 150th birthday and that, fortuitously, landed on the day that we could open at full capacity – 19 July.

“That was a wonderful way to come out of the pandemic, but also to celebrate the hall’s anniversary and it was a great concert. We have lots of other exciting things planned for it – we plan to extend it through to the end of 2023 now – so we’re just going to have a long 150th birthday.”

I’m feeling positive about our recovery as an industry

Noble, who previously held a hybrid commercial/artistic role at the venue, was recently appointed as its first artistic director by CEO Craig Hassall. The Hall is also recruiting a new chief operating officer in 2022.

“We’re about to embark on our next business plan, and sustainability is a big pillar of that, along with diversity and innovation,” she explains. “We want to think of our talent pipeline, and our future artists and audiences as well.

“We’ll also be looking at the whole visitor experience for the Royal Albert Hall, so it’s not just about the performance; it’s about the Hall becoming a destination in the daytime as well and opening it up more.

“In the new year, we’ll announce a new associate artist scheme where we’re going to be working with younger artists. It will be the first time the Hall has ever done that and we’re quite excited about it.”

Artists scheduled to play the venue in 2022 include Eric Clapton, James Arthur, Brian Wilson, Gladys Knight, Joe Bonamassa and Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.

Noble, who succeeded Motorpoint Arena Nottingham chief Martin Ingham as NAA chair in 2019, adds she has been impressed by the teamwork displayed by the events sector and singles out new trade body LIVE for special praise.

“We were able to influence government to a certain point,” she says. “When [the pandemic] first started, we had no voice at all. So that’s been key. I’ve enjoyed working with my industry colleagues in a way that we never have done before. If there’s one good thing to come out of this, it’s that there is a stronger, more unified voice across the industry – and that’s going to be a great thing moving forward for the whole industry.”

She concludes: “For the NAA, the pandemic has taken up so much of our time, but sustainability will be high on the agenda moving forward. We’ve all got a common goal to improve and work together to eventually work towards net zero

“At the moment, we’re right in the middle of this new variant and I don’t know what that will bring. But I’m feeling positive about our recovery as an industry.”

 


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21 June: Delay would lead to 5,000 UK cancellations

Research published today (10 June) shows that even a four-week delay to the deadline for lifting the final restrictions on live events in the UK would cost the live music sector over £500 million and leave the summer festival season at risk of total collapse.

More than 5,000 shows by artists including Olly Murs, Tom Odell, Rag’n’Bone Man, Beverley Knight, McFly, Alexandra Burke and Rudimental would either need to cancel or postpone if the 21 June deadline was pushed back, incurring immediate costs across the live music supply chain and further damaging an industry already hanging in the balance, according to industry body LIVE (Live music Industry Venues and Entertainment).

The rumoured move, as IQ reported earlier this week, comes despite the fact that, by the government’s own evidence, large-scale events can happen safely with the right precautions in place.

Through LIVE, a federation of 13 associations representing more than 3,000 live music companies, the live sector is calling for government to publish the data from the first round of Events Research Programme (ERP) pilots, so “they are able to follow their own science” and allow live businesses to reopen with Covid-safe precautions. The ERP findings which have been released by government to the media show that with screening, improved ventilation and other mitigating factors, mass events are reportedly as safe as a trip to the supermarket.

“We implore the government to follow their own scientific data that proves live events are safe with the right mitigations”

Lucy Noble, chair of the National Arenas Association, says: “The pilot shows at the Brits and Liverpool were touted as the key to getting back to full-capacity live performance, which is why it’s extremely frustrating that the government refuses to publish the full report and allow the sector to open up through the carefully planned precautions which are currently waiting in the wings.

“We implore the government to follow their own scientific data that proves live events are safe with the right mitigations. Now is the time for them to protect the live events sector for generations to come.”

Any delay to the 21 June reopening date would have significant and immediate repercussions for grassroots music venues, with 248 venues facing an immediate threat of eviction if the government does not fully compensate their financial losses from delayed reopening, says Mark Davyd, CEO of Music Venue Trust.

“In the event of any delay to reopening, government action to restore confidence to the sector will need to be swift, decisive and comprehensive,” says Davyd. “Any decision to delay places the sector in the most perilous and uncertain situation since April 2020. All that has been done by government, the public, artist and communities to save our venues risks being undone.”

“We cannot keep waiting indefinitely without knowing when step four will take place”

The UK’s much-anticipated summer festival season would also see significant casualties, with 65% of all Association of Independent Festivals members saying they will be forced to cancel if faced with a five-week delay – and 21% already gone.

Jim King, CEO of European festivals for AEG Presents, comments: “A delay into July without a clear road map to get back to step four [full lockdown lifting] puts an impossible strain on all festivals, including AEG’s All Points East festival, along with our suppliers across the industry.

“We cannot keep waiting indefinitely without knowing when step four will take place, and this uncertainty will undoubtedly result, by default, in more cancellations. We are desperate for the UK festival season to begin again, but an undated reopening makes long term planning and investment unfeasible.”

 


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