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Crowd safety: Show stoppages rise post Astroworld

Crowd management specialists have spoken to IQ about the post-Astroworld rise in artists temporarily stopping shows due to fan safety concerns.

Last November’s tragedy in Houston, Texas, in which 10 people were killed following a crowd surge during Travis Scott’s closing set, appears to have prompted an enhanced level of vigilance from performers.

High-profile acts such as Adele, Paul McCartney and Billie Eilish have all briefly halted gigs in the last few weeks after being alerted to apparent medical emergencies in the audience, while Scott paused a New York concert earlier this month when he spotted fans climbing a lighting truss by the stage.

“We don’t know really how much of it was taking place beforehand for certain, but both venues and crowd managers are reporting an increase since Astroworld,” says Gentian Events founder Eric Stuart. “That is not a surprise though; it’s in the minds of the artists, for which we should all be grateful and hope it remains there.”

Crowded space expert Professor Chris Kemp elaborates on the shift in mindset that has occurred.

“It is not a new thing that artists, promoters, production reps, floor and barrier staff work together to keep the crowd safe,” he says. “But it is new that many more artists are understanding that they have a duty of care alongside everyone else for the audience.”

“We are seeing some more extreme behaviours and responses from crowds since we left Covid lockdown, making them more vulnerable”

Stuart, who also chairs the Global Crowd Management Alliance (GCMA), believes a combination of factors is driving the trend.

“Some of them are human heuristic tendencies or biases that make us – and that includes artists – focus on recent, high profile, high impact activity,” he tells IQ. “Astroworld fits all of those criteria. So there are some natural human elements to this for the artists. However, we are also seeing some more extreme behaviours and responses from crowds since we left Covid lockdown, making them more vulnerable.

“As well as some crowds being short tempered and intolerant, there is also an enhanced feeling of euphoria that may – I repeat, may – be leading to more medical events, fainting, etc, so there may be more need for artists to respond as well as more awareness of it.

“I emphasise may, because we don’t really have the empirical evidence, just plenty of anecdotal evidence from experienced people saying it is the case and frankly, we need to trust our instincts and our people on this.”

“We are still fighting with artists who encourage the public to join in mosh pits and don’t consider the risks”

Pascal Viot, safety chief for Switzerland’s Paleo Festival Nyon, urges all performers to treat their audiences with care.

“We are still fighting with artists who encourage the public to join in mosh pits, ‘walls of death’ and pogoing, and don’t consider the risks,” he tells IQ. “That is a real issue with fragile audiences.”

Singling out Billie Eilish for praise, Viot says the festival can collaborate with acts to make sure the crowd movement generated during their performances is under control. He also reveals discussions were held with Yourope Event Safety (YES) Group ahead of the 2022 season to educate artists and work together to provide the safest possible concert conditions.

Paleo sent a festival security rider to artists’ representatives this year, detailing the show stop procedure along with other safety elements.

“Show pauses or stops are complex matters that need very careful management”

Stuart stresses that show stops present additional issues from a crowd management perspective.

“Show pauses or stops – particularly the restart – are complex matters that need very careful management,” he says. “The awareness is very welcome, but the uneducated, unanticipated and unmanaged show stop is a challenge. Some of these show ‘pauses’ are absolutely essential, but some seem to have been generated by relatively minor, everyday incidents that security and medical teams just get on with.

“Certainly, one incident in a theatre in Vancouver led to a 20-minute show stop for a ‘faint’ which led to impatience and disorder in a crowd and soon afterwards, fighting on the balcony. That led to real risks for those bystanders on and below the balcony, but also for staff who had to intervene.”

Spearheaded by the United Kingdom Crowd Management Association (UKCMA), the Event Safety Alliance (ESA) and Event Safety Alliance Canada (ESAC), the GCMA was launched in December 2021 to “promote reasonable crowd management and crowd safety practices worldwide”.

“Artists have a vital role to play but, if they say the wrong thing, it could make matters far worse”

“If artists want to help, they should speak to the teams charged with crowd safety at the event first-hand. Not through agents or managers, but actually ask what is needed or expected of them in an emergency,” continues Stuart. “They have a vital role to play but, if they say the wrong thing, it could make matters far worse.”

Stuart expresses frustration that the lines of communication between security personnel and artists are often closed off.

“It is remarkably hard for the safety team to speak first hand to an artist protected by so many of their people,” he laments. “I just wish we could break down that wall of them protecting the artist so we could all protect the guests.”

“We do not expect artists to be entirely responsible for crowd safety, but they are part of the team that does that”

He concludes: “If any reader of this article is engaged in band or artist management, or you are ‘with the band’ and you know they are genuinely interested in crowd safety, just get in touch. We know the artist has a job to do and they are under enormous pressure to perform every time. They do that job with lighting effects that often make the crowd invisible and in-ear monitors making them almost deaf to the audience noise.

“We do not expect them to be entirely responsible for crowd safety, but they are part of the team that does that. We just want to give them an idea of what to say or do on the day they notice something amiss, and to know what we will do to rectify that. We want to work with them to keep all of our crowds safe and if we could get to speak to the artists, we think they would agree.”

To get in touch with the GCMA, email [email protected], or contact Stuart directly at [email protected].


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Security Solution Showdown: keeping events safe

Running a live event entails many security risks, be it keeping track of who exactly is attending or working at a venue; ensuring safety protocols are effectively implemented and staff suitably trained; managing crowds; or even dealing with lost property complaints.

Many safety aspects have been handled without any technological aid in the past, allowing for human error and often relying on guesswork or snap decision-making. In anticipation of their presentations at the Event Safety and Security Summit (E3S) on 8 October, IQ profiles some of the industry professionals who believe their solution is the next big thing…


Paul Foster, OnePlan

OnePlan is the world’s first centralised event-site-planning platform. It allows anyone to map, draw, plan and procure every aspect of their event site and operations.

The platform saves event planners time and money, generating consistent professional plans, reducing stress and, crucially, improving safety and security. OnePlan facilitates easy calculation of crowd density and evacuation rates by using intuitive space planning and measurement tools. These numbers can then be agreed upon and enforced.

A multiuser functionality lets event organisers share plans with security personnel and law enforcement at the click of a button, ensuring key safety and security stakeholders have full visibility of the event as plans develop.

This gives plenty of opportunity for identifying and minimising risks and threats as they emerge. Accurate real-time information about the event allows safety and security teams to plan and deliver their operations in the most effective way.

Interpol has recognised the value of a centralised event- planning system and is now using OnePlan to support immersive training for major global sporting events. With other law enforcement organisations showing a keen interest in the platform, and global events adopting the system, OnePlan is raising the bar for event safety and security.

OnePlan gives plenty of opportunity for identifying and minimising risks and threats as they emerge

Matthias Immel, Deep Impact

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is one of today’s biggest buzzwords. But the buzz is justified: AI will significantly change all areas of life – including the event and live music industry.

Deep Impact is passionate about AI and its possibilities. The company, based in the city of Winterthur, Switzerland, is developing state-of-the-art, AI-based applications. Its face-recognition solution is one of the most powerful worldwide.

Banks are using this software for running background checks on new customers, whereas stadiums and football clubs use it to identify troublemakers during a match.

Deep Impact has the ambition to cover several aspects of security around an event, starting with accreditation. Staff working at an event like a festival are a potential risk – as the temporary termination of Rock am Ring showed two years ago

The software provides a solution by performing an automatic background check (based on open source intelligence and/or blacklists from state authorities) of all event staff, as well as a verification of the person at the accreditation centre to check it is in fact the individual on the list.

Deep Impact can also be used to identify troublemakers and to analyse social media communication in a defined geo-fence, for example, the area around a festival site or arena.

The software analyses the communication in this fence related to security-focused keywords. When one is used on various social media channels, the system creates a notification. It doesn’t matter which language the message is written in, it will be captured and instantly translated via AI algorithms.

In addition to mitigating security threats, this tool can also monitor communication around black market ticket sales near a certain venue or event location.

AI will significantly change all areas of life – including the event and live music industry

Edo Haan, Safesight

Netherlands-based Safesight is a software application that ensures employees, suppliers, partners, volunteers and other parties know and execute their responsibilities, checklists, safety plans and protocols.

When incidents do occur, Safesight helps an organisation to take predictable, efficient and safe actions to control the situation.

Safesight software originated from the work that the company’s owner, Edo Haan, enacted as safety officer at music festivals. As well as being used at events such as Mysteryland, Pukkelpop and Zwarte Cross, the software is also implemented at stadiums and convention centres, including Borussia Mönchengladbach’s Borussia-Park in Germany, and RAI Amsterdam and Rotterdam’s De Kuip in the Netherlands.

Using Safesight software, event organisers are able to optimally inform and instruct all those involved in an event. For example, they can assign tasks or disseminate information in accordance with safety protocols to specific employees at any given moment. This could be to the security team, technical production staff, stage management or the cleaning department.

Via a centralised dashboard, management has an accurate overview of the people that have – or have not – completed their tasks. If an individual, or a whole team, lags behind, this is visible in real time, and management can take action accordingly.

Finally, using a cloud-based logbook available via a browser or through the mobile app, all information is collected and, if necessary, quickly shared with the event stakeholders. This helps those in charge to have a complete overview of what is happening in and around the event. The logbook also acts as an important tool for collecting a valuable database for management.

Safesight software originated from the work that the company’s owner, Edo Haan, enacted as safety officer at music festivals

Ian Kerr & Jennifer McLean, Raven Controls & ID Resilience

Security consultancy ID Resilience and management system Raven Controls are the creations of former policeman Ian Kerr. Kerr’s experience in security stems primarily through his ten-year career with Police Scotland where he worked in emergencies and counterterrorism, planning, designing and delivering contingency exercises for major events, political conferences and tier-one counterterrorist activities.

Having found a passion in resilience, Kerr set-up resilience consultancy business ID Resilience in 2015. Specialising in testing, exercising and crisis management consultation, Kerr and his team have gone on to work with a large number of arenas, stadia, venues and major events across the UK and internationally.

Through the work of ID Resilience, weaknesses in current market solutions for recording and managing issues became evident, with most venues using traditional processes such as office-based systems or outdated handwritten logs. These methods are time consuming, prone to human error, and do not facilitate clear communication, which is essential when it comes to safety and security.

Raven Controls is an integrated real-time issue management system that provides unparalleled levels of situational awareness, ensuring the right information is available to the right people at the right time. Kerr and his team continue to work closely with industry leaders to provide venues and organisers with the protection and accountability they deserve. Raven has been used at the Ryder Cup 2018, European Championships 2018, the Scottish Event Campus and Celtic FC, among others.

Raven Controls ensures the right information is available to the right people at the right time

Rory Cole, NotLost

NotLost is a simple online tool that enables organisations to modernise their lost-and-found process.

Despite being the norm within many organisations, antiquated lost-property systems are time-consuming and frustrating for staff. Not only is a good (or bad!) lost-property experience memorable for customers but it also acts as an unwelcome distraction for the busy security staff who often deal with it.

Mountains of items, endless phone calls and long queues are an all-too-familiar sight for anybody managing lost property at live events. These issues are exacerbated by analogue systems and poor process.

In 2017, a group of event experts recognised this and set about creating a 21st century solution. The result is NotLost, an innovative cloud-based platform that enables organisations to manage their lost property with speed and ease.
Found items are registered in under ten seconds using image recognition software, customer enquiries are handled promptly using keywords and images to search across the platform, and a simple one-click lost/found comparison helps staff to quickly identify and return items.

The platform is proven to save organisations between 50 to 80% of time spent managing lost property, freeing up valuable staff capacity for other important tasks. NotLost also allows venues and live events to deliver an excellent customer experience in this often-overlooked area.

With the O2 Arena on board as NotLost’s first client, the team is now proud to be working with many of the UK’s leading organisations and venues, including the SSE Arena Wembley, AEG Presents and Broadwick Live.

Despite being the norm within many organisations, antiquated lost-property systems are time-consuming and frustrating for staff

Chris Kemp, Pascal Viot & Gerard Van Duykeren, The Safe Project

The Safe Project, an Erasmus+-funded initiative aiming to improve safety and security training across Europe, consists of two programmes.

The first is for those at, or aspiring to be at, management level in the event, security and crowded space industry, while the second is for operational purposes and focuses on the practical elements of security and crowd management.

The programmes have been created to provide both subject-specific knowledge and skills that relate directly to the workplace. Those teaching the programmes are practitioners that can provide experiential, as well as theoretical underpinning for those participating.

The programmes cover six major aspects of managerial delivery and provide a wide range of subject areas and skills. During each module the participants study theoretical concepts, engage in case studies, and work in groups on scenario-based learning to ensure that they absorb both skills and knowledge. Each module has an assessment, which takes place during the programme.

The project is practical, applicable and specifically designed to be used by trainers in classroom scenarios to teach event professionals about the event environment. It comprises: ‘learning in the round,’ which captures the fluid relationships and engagements between the different actors in the work-based learning process (participant, specialist, and facilitator) in both the design and delivery phases.

The course brings together the perspectives of these three key actors, and the best practice in organisational culture is captured and perceived in a manner that would not be possible by any one of these actors individually.

A work-based learner no longer reflects upon workplace issues and challenges from a single aspect, or even ‘in the main,’ but now in the round. In a fully realised work-based learning process, the learner is fully engaged in that learning process.

The Safe project is practical, applicable and specifically designed to be used to teach event professionals about the event environment

Andrew Tatrai, Dynamic Crowd Management

Andrew Tatrai has taken 35 years of practical experience in major event management and crowd security back to school, researching technological pathways to replicate the human decision-making process involved in crowd management.

It has long been accepted that crowd management expertise resides within the realm of professionals making subjective judgements on how and when to intervene to keep crowds safe. The human intuition that drives crowd management decisions is a form of pattern recognition, that is, the memory of good and bad experiences assist a crowd manager to avoid or encourage situations for the preferred outcomes.

Working in accordance with the work of Israeli-American psychologist Daniel Kahneman, Tatrai believes the need for machine learning and observation to enhance decisionmaking is clear. People have limitations in assessing risk, which far exceed mere lack of experience, bias and poor observation.

Combining feature recognition, machine learning, data science modelling and visualisation, it is now possible to measure the changing mood of the crowd on a massive scale.

When modelling large volumes of data, patterns emerge and predictability is possible. This is quicker and more accurate than even the best current human crowd managers, and importantly provides evidence of a change in measurement of crowd metrics. Testing and trials have shown the model is responsive to management intervention.

This research has resulted in the digital measurement of crowd density in actual persons per square metre, the measurement of the velocity of a moving crowd and the estimation of crowd mood by feature extraction and data visualisation. The net result is a product software programme that can provide better crowd metric measurements for control room, police assessment and decision support.

E3S takes place on 8 October at the Congress Centre, London. More information is available here.


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Measures of security

Terrorist attacks stooped to a new low with the bombing of the Manchester Arena in May, where it was known that large numbers of children would be attending a concert by Ariana Grande.

One of the most challenging aspects of the attack was the location of the explosion, which was focused to cause maximum carnage: at a major interface between pedestrians in transit at Victoria station and the arrival and departure of concertgoers. This juncture is also an egress point to the public car park in the basement of the arena. The early detonation of the device reduced the numbers killed and injured, but the message was loud and clear: any target is legitimate to the terrorist.

The venue and its environs encompass the essential principle of accessibility and fluidity, enabling the city to function in an effective and efficient manner. Creating checkpoints at all access/egress points would be counterproductive and create blockages and unmanageable congestion.

Venues are faced with a complex problem specific to the characteristics of modern cities. Accessibility and fluidity are structural components of contemporary urban planning. Arenas based on the model of the mediaeval fortress town, surrounded by ramparts with fixed entry points, are counterintuitive, as such meticulous controls may slow down or even block access.

Unfortunately, we seem to be reaching the limits of our security capabilities within the current measures and need to try to expand the envelope to stop us repeating the same mistakes. Terrorist attack methodologies will continue to evolve and we must evolve with them. It is important to accept our vulnerability, and not to delude ourselves on the effectiveness of our current systems.

We have to accept the fact that, in many cases, there is nothing that we can do – even if we were to multiply the controls – to contain the risk at all costs. The concept of absolute security is almost impossible to achieve, so we need to reduce the risk to as low as is reasonably practicable. What we must do is act now with the tools available to us by accepting the idea that these strategies are partially effective, thus seeking new strategies to keep ahead of attack methodologies.

Our current approaches are outdated, predictable and clearly inefficient, creating constraints that make situations unmanageable

At the same time, security policies must reinvent themselves by changing paradigms. The challenge we face today is how to raise the level of control while guaranteeing fluidity in public spaces. To put it another way and add a more political dimension, we must attempt to protect individuals whilst still maintaining their public freedom. We will not solve these complex problems with the simple solutions we implemented previously.

Multiplying the controls at the ingress points of events is a partial solution, symbolic of our ‘make do and mend’ attitude in the face of raised stakes. A single, fixed-control point creates queues in areas upstream of the event, which may create an obvious target rather than safeguarding the public. The issue here is to balance crowd management with counterterrorism measures to ensure that they are both applied in equal measure.

In the case of a terrorist attack, we have two options: firstly, to stop it in the build-up or during hostile reconnaissance periods. To do this, we must train venue operatives and security teams on how to spot different types of behaviour, understand what the baseline venue context is, and then get them to escalate if necessary. Secondly, we must ensure that venue operatives are fully cognisant with differing attack methodologies, and are vigilant and understand how to work with the police and other security services.

We must rethink our strategies; integrate infrastructure and planning into a control and crowd management approach; and implement remote, non-systematic control points at different locations in the enlarged perimeter, and at different times. Our current approaches are outdated, predictable and clearly inefficient, creating constraints that make situations unmanageable.

It will take time for new strategies to emerge but time is one thing that we lack, so speedy resolution to issues must be a priority to put us one step ahead of this ongoing threat.


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