Safety taskforce formed after Astroworld tragedy
A taskforce on concert safety has been formed in the US in the wake of last weekend’s Astroworld Festival tragedy in Houston.
Announced by Texas governor Greg Abbott, the Texas Task Force On Concert Safety will be led by Texas Music Office director Brendon Anthony.
Roundtable discussions will be held to “analyse concert safety and develop ways to enhance security at live music events” in the state, which will then form the basis of a report of recommendations and strategies.
“Live music is a source of joy, entertainment, and community for so many Texans — and the last thing concertgoers should have to worry about is their safety and security,” says Abbott. “To ensure that the tragedy that occurred at the Astroworld Festival never happens again in the Lone Star State, I am forming the Texas Task Force on Concert Safety.
“From crowd control strategies to security measures to addressing controlled substances, this task force will develop meaningful solutions that will keep Texans safe while maximising the joy of live music events. I thank the members of this taskforce for coming together to work on this important issue.”
Alongside live music figures, the taskforce will consist of representatives from Texas Music Office, Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas, Sheriffs’ Association of Texas, Texas Department of Public Safety, Texas Municipal Police Association, Texas Police Chiefs Association, Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and the Texas State Association of Fire Fighters.
Investigations are ongoing into the Live Nation and Scoremore-promoted event at NRG Park on 5 November. Eight people died and hundreds others were injured after a crowd surge during co-founder Travis Scott’s headline set. A nine-year-old boy is reportedly in a medically-induced coma due to injuries sustained, while a 22-year-old student has been declared brain dead.
Those who need to be held accountable will be held accountable
Houston police chief Troy Finner gave an update on proceedings at a news conference held yesterday (10 November).
“Our department owe it to those families to look at every aspect – how [and] why it happened,” he said. “We owe it to our city, we owe it to our nation and we have to learn lessons from this. Those who need to be held accountable will be held accountable.”
On whether he expected the inquiries to result in criminal charges, Finner replied: “I’m not sure and I’m not comfortable with saying that. I will tell you that we’re not going to leave any stones unturned.”
Finner confirmed he met with Scott prior to the festival began to discuss safety concerns, but said he had “no reason to believe it wasn’t going to be safe”.
“I’m the kind of chief that I meet with people whenever I can and that includes him,” he added. “We had a very respectful few minute conversation on my concerns.”
While a “mass casualty incident” was triggered at 9.38pm, Scott continued performing until completing his headline set at around 10.15pm. Asked who had the “ultimate jurisdiction” to shut down the festival, Finner replied it had to be a group decision.
“Ultimate authority to end the show is with production and the entertainer and that should be through communication with public safety officials,” he elaborated.
Investigations should start proceeding over finger-pointing
Some fans had stormed the entrance gates on the morning of the event, which Trigger suggested was triggered by a rush for the “very sought after merchandise” from the merch stands. “That’s what caused some of the kids rushing towards that and breaking down barriers,” he said. “Once they breached, we quickly got that under control and we didn’t have any major injuries so we went on with the show.”
Finner also corrected earlier claims that a security guard had been rendered unconscious after being injected with drugs by a festival-goer.
“We did locate that security guard, his story’s not consistent with that,” clarified Finner. “He says he was struck in his head, he went unconscious, he woke up in the security tent. He says that no one injected drugs in him so we want to clear that part up.”
Meanwhile, Scott’s lawyer Edwin F McPherson has accused the authorities of putting out “inconsistent messages” in relation to the tragedy.
“Houston Police chief Troy Finner was quoted in the New York Times as saying ‘You cannot just close when you got 50,000 and over 50,000 individuals. We have to worry about rioting, riots, when you have a group that’s that young,’ ” McPherson told People. “Yet, just a short time later, Chief Finner states the responsibility to stop the show falls on Travis.
“It was reported that the operations plan designated that only the festival director and executive producers have authority to stop the show, neither of which is part of Travis’s crew. This also runs afoul of HPD’s own previous actions when it shut down the power and sound at this very festival when the performance ran over five minutes back in 2019.
“Investigations should start proceeding over finger-pointing so that together, we can identify exactly what transpired and how we can prevent anything like this from happening again.”
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French man loses hand in pre-festival clash
Seven people, including five police officers, were injured on Friday night as police broke up an illegal rave in Brittany.
Violent clashes broke out after 400 gendarmes were dispatched to shut down the party, a so-called ‘teknival’ which had been organised in violation of an 11pm curfew, at a racecourse near the commune of Redon on the evening of 18 June.
The rave was held on the eve of the annual Fête de la Musique festival – which takes place in a reduced-capacity format today (21 June) – and was intended to commemorate Steve Maia Caniço, a young man who died after falling into the Loire river during Fête de la Musique in 2019. ‘Justice for Steve’ protesters hold the police responsible for Caniço’s death, which occurred after officers moved in to break up a gathering in Nantes.
Authorities say some partygoers pelted police with molotov cocktails and pieces of breeze block
Local authorities had secured a legal order against the party, which involved as many as 1,500 people. The National Gendarmerie seized equipment including sound systems and generators after dispersing the crowds.
Speaking to AFP, local prefect Emmanuel Berthier describes the “very violent clashes” on 18 June between police and the ravers, who “had an objective: to confront the forces of public order”. Authorities say some partygoers brought metal pétanque balls to the rave, while others pelted police with molotov cocktails and pieces of breeze block.
Two police officers suffered serious enough injuries as to need hospital treatment, while two ravers were also injured – including one man who lost a hand in the violence. Organisers of the rave accuse police of choosing ‘violence instead of dialogue’ after firing tear gas grenades at the gathering.
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Wave of illegal concerts sweeps South America
Thousands of South Americans attended illegal, non-socially distanced concerts and parties over the Easter weekend, with authorities making arrests across the continent as national governments continue to battle the coronavirus with varying degrees of success.
South America remains a hotspot for Covid-19 – with high mortality rates in Brazil, Peru, Chile and Paraguay of particular cause for concern – though the recent unlicensed live events suggest some people are beginning to chafe under ongoing restrictions on indoor gatherings.
In the town of Turuku, in Ecuador’s northern Imbabura province, local government officials, national police and the armed forces shut down an unlicensed music festival, Killary Fest, which would have been attended by an estimated 5,000 people.
Despite dismantling the stage and confiscating much of Killary Fest’s equipment, including speakers, authorities returned on the evening of Friday 2 April to “learn that, despite the warnings, the party was starting”, reports El Comercio. When they again moved to shut down the event, police and soldiers were pelted with sticks and stones by revellers.
The incident follows months of parties, concerts and other unlawful events in Ecuador, reports El Comercio.
In Punta Arenas, the southernmost city in Chile, a local election candidate is being held by police after organising a concert in a former hospital, attended by around 100 people.
Brazilian police continue to target illegal parties, which are being blamed for the surge in Covid-19 cases and deaths
In addition to not seeking permission for the event, Juan Pablo Martinez – who is standing in upcoming city council elections – failed to enforce mandatory social distancing and mask wearing at the clandestine concert, according to prosecutor Rina Blanco.
The show “endangered public health, given the number of people in close contact, and who he invited,” Blanco comments.
A music venue in Morón, near Buenos Aires in Argentina, has been shut down for 30 days after video emerged of cumbia singer Pablo Lescano playing to a non-socially distanced audience.
The event, which many have dubbed “el recital covid” (the Covid concert), was harshly criticised by the mayor of Morón, Lucas Ghi, who says organiser Vaprisana “worship[s] mischief, deception and the violation in rules” – comparing the club unfavourably to the honest businesspeople of the city, who “adhere to the norms and protocols required by the pandemic”.
Brazilian police also continue to target illegal parties, which are being blamed for the surge in Covid-19 cases and deaths in South America’s most populous country.
The most recent brought together around 100 people – half of whom were caught not wearing face masks – in the city of Sao Paolo last weekend. According to local press, the three organisers were arrested, while the venue was fined R$190,000 (€28,000).
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Article 25: Keep guns out, urge French festivals
French festival associations De Concert! and France Festivals have expressed their concerns about a controversial new security bill that would allow off-duty police and gendarmes to carry their weapons into music festivals, entertainment venues and other places open to the public.
Article 25 of the proposed global security (sécurité globale) law, introduced last October by the incumbent Jean Castex government, would remove the right of so-called public establishments (établissements recevant du public, ERP) to deny entry to police officers or soldiers of National Gendarmery who are carrying guns when they are not on active service.
The bill, which is opposed by many civil liberties groups, also contains several other provisions strengthening police powers, including giving municipal police access to CCTV footage, restricting when police and gendarmes may be filmed by the public, and expanding the use of police drones.
Ahead of the bill reaching the Senate, the two associations – along with six other groups, including the SMA (Union of Contemporary Music), Fedelima (Federation of Contemporary Music Venues) and Profedim (Union of Producers, Festivals, Ensembles and Independent Music Distributors) – have urged politicians to act to keep weapons out of ERPs, which also include concert venues, rehearsal spaces, theatres, cinemas, hotels and restaurants.
“With the adoption of article 25, the presence of weapons within ERP, and therefore cultural places, would be facilitated or even trivialised, and we see a serious danger,” say the eight associations in a statement.
“Our teams are unable to absolutely check the validity of a potentially falsifiable police card”
The associations’ objection is two-fold: First, that anyone posing as a policeman or gendarme could smuggle a gun into a live event, and secondly, that it reduces ordinary concertgoers to second-class citizens not entitled to the same privileges the police would enjoy.
“Our teams and our private security agents are unable to absolutely check the validity of a potentially falsifiable police card,” they continue. “Nothing could be simpler, therefore, for those who would like to commit a mass murder.”
Secondly, the statement adds, “because an undercover police officer who is not on duty is a citizen like any other, and citizens remain free and equal in rights, we see in this difference in treatment as an attack on the founding principles of our Republic.
“Thus, it seems to us that the benefits that the extension of the authorisation to carry weapons within the ERP would represent [pale in comparison] to the heavy risks involved.”
The draft global security law returns to the French parliament next month.
Live music companies back Black Out Tuesday
Live Nation, AEG and all major international booking agencies have declared their solidarity with the African-American community, with widespread planned shutdowns across the business planned for tomorrow. The Black Out Tuesday campaign was launched amid ongoing protests sparked by the death of George Floyd last week.
Using the hashtag #TheShowMustBePaused, the shuttering is described as chance to “disconnect from work and reconnect with our community.”
Floyd, a black man, died after being arrested and handcuffed by a white police officer in Powderhorn, Minneapolis, on Monday 25 May. Eyewitness video appears to show the officer, Derek Chauvin, with his knee on Floyd’s neck while Floyd – who had been arrested after a nearby delicatessen reported he had tried to pay with a counterfeit $20 note – lay face down on the ground. Officials say Chauvin had his knee on Floyd’s neck for over eight minutes – including for nearly three minutes after he became unresponsive.
Floyd later died in hospital. Chauvin was sacked by the Minneapolis Police Department and is now being charged with both the murder and manslaughter of Floyd.
“We need to stop the racists that are literally killing culture”
The death of Floyd sparked protests in Minneapolis and across the US, well as demonstrations in Canada, Europe, Israel and Japan. In addition to seeking justice for Floyd, many of the protests – which began peacefully but in many cases turned violent – support the wider Black Lives Matter movement, while many of the international demos are also focused on local race-relations issues.
“There are great injustices impacting our brothers and sisters, and we are striving to be part of the solution,” reads a statement from Live Nation. “We need to stop the racists that are literally killing culture. We must take action.”
The company says it has also donated to the Equal Justice Initiative, an Alabama-based nonprofit that provides legal support to prisoners who lack effective legal representation, particularly those of colour.
— Live Nation (@LiveNation) May 30, 2020
AEG says it, too “stands with communities of color [sic] against bigotry, racism and violence” and “will not stay silent” on the issue.
“Enough is enough. We’ve seen this. We’ve felt this. We will not be silent,” reads a forceful statement from CAA. “The racial injustice and violence suffered within black communities needs to stop. We will stand up, speak up, and stand alongside our CAA family.”
ICM Partners says it “stand[s] in solidarity with the families of George Floyd” and other slain African Americans “Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery”, and WME with its “black colleagues, clients, partners and allies today and every day.”
We stand with our black colleagues, clients, partners and allies today and every day. We see you and are committed to taking actionable steps that bring lasting change. pic.twitter.com/WqOF4EVhiP
— WME (@WME) May 31, 2020
Also sending messages of support are UTA, which has prepared a list of companies “taking action nationwide to fight for justice”, and Paradigm Talent Agency, which similarly provides links to the campaign for justice for Floyd, as well as several anti-racist resources.
In the recorded music industry, the big three labels – Universal, Warner and Sony Music – have also confirmed their participation in Black Out Tuesday, announcing they will suspend all business operations tomorrow as a statement of solidarity, with some cancelling the scheduled release of all music this week.
The Black Out Tuesday campaign will also be acknowledged by IQ and ILMC, which will suspend all operations for 24 hours.
French biz laments “very partial” Collomb circular annulment
French industry association Prodiss and trade union SMA have deemed the State Council’s recent changes to the controversial Collomb circular as “very partial”, saying they will continue to “defend the sector against the directive”.
Proposed by former interior minister Gérard Collomb in May 2018, the so-called Collomb circular (circulaire Collomb) saw organisers pay the government for the deployment of police at live events, except in the case of terrorist-related incidents.
The idea was met with incredulity across most of the industry, with many citing a drastic increase to security bills as a result.
Under the new changes, organisers no longer have to pay a deposit – equalling 60% to 80% of the total security cost – when agreeing a contract with the state. The annulment also removes a deadline that obliged organisers to complete their payment within a month of an event’s conclusion.
An additional change dictates that an agreement must be signed between organisers and the government in advance of an event, if any law enforcement is to be deployed and billed for.
“Safety is a sovereign matter that should not be dealt with by the organiser of festivals and shows alone”
Although Prodiss and SMA, who took legal action to revoke the circular in 2018, call the partial annulment “a first step against the injustice of the circular”, they state that the key issue of organisers reimbursing the state for security costs has not been called into question.
“Event owners will continue to single handedly bear the costs of all police intervention that is directly associated with their events,” reads a statement from Prodiss and SMA.
“For professionals, safety is a sovereign matter that should not be dealt with by the organisers of festivals and shows alone,” continues the statement. “Our organisations will continue to fight to defend the sector against this directive that weakens its entire cultural and artistic ecosystem.”
The changes to the circular come following the French government’s creation of a new decree last year, which provided funding for security enforcement at live events. The law failed to appease Prodiss and SMA, with event organisers only being spared costs in the case of “exceptional circumstances”.
Photo: Arthur Empereur/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0) (cropped)
Strip searches at SITG may be “unjustifiable”
A public inquiry into police conduct at last year’s Splendour in the Grass festival in Australia has found that 143 strip searches were carried out over the three-day event, including on seven minors.
According to the inquiry, illegal items were found on 12 of the 143 who were strip searched.
The New South Wales Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (LECC) opened the four-day inquiry to investigate the potentially unlawful strip search of a 16-year-old girl at the 2018 festival.
Police regulations in NSW state that a parent, guardian or support person must be present whenever an individual under the age of 18 is strip searched.
The inquiry found that the girl was one of six minors to be strip searched at the festival without a parent, guardian, or other supervising adult present.
It was also revealed that staff including shopkeepers and bar workers were also strip searched at the event. None were found with illegal items.
According to the inquiry, illegal items were found on 12 of the 143 who were strip-searched
Under NSW law, police can only carry out field strip searches if the “urgency and seriousness of the situation requires it”.
When questioned at the inquiry, a senior constable who performed 19 such searches at Splendour in the Grass said they could not “think of any” circumstance which would necessitate a strip search at a music festival.
Splendour in the Grass promoter Secret Sounds tells IQ that the team is “learning of these searches along with the general public”. The promoter is unable to comment further as the inquiry is ongoing.
The New South Wales festival celebrated record ticket sales for its 2019 event, which took place from 19 to 21 July at its site in North Byron Bay Parklands with performances from Tame Impala, Childish Gambino and the Lumineers.
Splendour in the Grass and fellow Secret Sounds-promoted festival Falls are part of a coalition of events threatening to leave NSW, after the government reintroduced “unworkable” festival legislation.
Counter-terrorism police issue safety advice for festivalgoers
The UK’s National Counter Terrorism Policing Network has issued safety information to festivalgoers as part of a new, UK Music-backed social-media campaign, #BeSafeBeSound.
While there is no intelligence to indicate an increased threat to festivals and live music events, the Metropolitan police’s deputy assistant commissioner, Lucy D’Orsi, says she wants the public to familiarise themselves with the #BeSafeBeSound checklist so they can play their part in keeping people safe this summer.
Additionally, police will release a series on videos on social media “encouraging festival-goers to have an amazing time, but to report anything suspicious, however small.”
“There are some huge festivals taking place in the coming months, and we want everyone to have a fantastic time,” says D’Orsi, who gave the welcome address at the second Event Safety & Security Summit (E3S) last October. “Whilst we want everyone to have fun watching their favourite artists, people’s safety and security remains the top priority for police and festival organisers.
“The purpose of #BeSafeBeSound is to ensure that everyone attending these events knows they have an important role to play in the wider security operation. Everyone can help make events safe and secure by familiarising themselves with the #BeSafeBeSound advice, by reading our Run, Hide, Tell guidance and to be ready to act if they spot suspicious behaviour and activity.
“I would urge everyone attending events this summer to stay alert and follow the #BeSafeBeSound advice”
“Don’t think you might be wasting anyone’s time – it is always better to be safe than sorry. If something doesn’t look or feel right it probably isn’t, so tell someone.”
Counter Terrorism Policing’s key advice includes:
- Please arrive early for extra security measures. This will help prevent delays in getting into the event
- Be patient with security checks and help the staff to help you. We know it is inconvenient but they are there to keep you safe
- It is essential that you do not bring unnecessary items to the event; this will help to speed up searches and your entry to the event
- If you spot someone acting suspiciously, report it to police or to security staff immediately: don’t leave it to someone else
- In an emergency, if you think there is an immediate risk, always call 999 and look around you for help from staff – especially those with radios who can raise the alarm quickly
- Don’t leave bags unattended or anywhere they could cause a security scare. And never agree to look after anyone else’s bags, no matter how plausible their story
- If there is an incident, listen to staff and any announcements. Organisers will have emergency plans to help you keep safe
- Remember, the chance of being caught in a terrorism incident is small. But if it happens: Run, Hide, Tell
UK Music CEO Michael Dugher comments: “While it’s important to stress that there is no evidence of any increased threat to live music events this summer, it’s sensible that we all stay vigilant and follow advice.
“Festivals and live music gigs in the UK are amongst the best attended in the world and have rightly earned their reputation as well-organised events where nothing is more important than the safety of music fans.
“I would urge everyone attending events this summer to stay alert and follow the #BeSafeBeSound advice from the police to make sure everyone has a fantastic time in a safe and secure environment.”
More information can be found at www.counterterrorism.police.uk/safetyadvice.
French biz pushes back against controversial ‘Collomb circular’
French industry associations Prodiss and SMA have initiated legal action to annul the so-called ‘Collomb circular’ (circulaire Collomb), the controversial document that revealed plans to force live events to reimburse the government for the cost of policing.
The proposals, authored by interior minister Gerard Collomb, would see festivals billed for the cost of deploying police and gendarmes for anything other than terror-related incidents – an expense previously borne by the state.
The idea was met with incredulity across most of the industry: the Eurockéennes festival, for example, claimed the plans would see its security bill rise nearly 800%, from €30,000 to €254,000.
In protest, live music association Prodiss and the Syndicat des Musiques Actuelles (SMA), a music-industry trade union, have lodged an appeal with the French court of first instance, the Administrative Tribunal, seeking a reversal of Collomb’s proposals, which SMA claims would “endanger the sustainability of cultural events” by burdening them with “significant” new costs.
“Safety and security are a priority … but it is everyone’s business”
“This circular presented show organisers with a fait accompli,” according to a statement from Prodiss, “even as a consultation was in progress between the government and [event] professionals. None of the feedback from the professionals was taken into account in this decision.
“It is inconceivable that this decision was made without having previously measured the impact on the sector.”
The extra financial burden would be particularly acute as a result of the phasing out of the Emergency Fund for Live Entertainment, instituted following the Bataclan attacks in 2015, which expires at the end of this year, adds SMA.
“Safety and security are a priority; we owe it to our audiences,” comments Malika Séguineau (pictured), CEO of Prodiss. “But it is everyone’s business, and cannot be solely the responsibility of organisers of festivals and shows.”
E3S 2018: Collaboration key to securing the industry’s future
The Manchester Arena bombing of 22 May 2017 was a “game-changer” from a counter-terrorism perspective, laying bare the importance of a strong private security presence to combat the growing threat to ‘soft’ targets such as concerts, said Metropolitan police commander Lucy D’Orsi, opening the second edition of the Event Safety & Security Summit (E3S) on 30 October.
The Met’s deputy assistant commissioner in specialist operations gave a 15-minute welcome address in which she said the Manchester attack – along with the vehicle ramming attacks in Westminster and on London Bridge in March and June 2017, respectively – proved that “anything is potentially a target; anything is possible”.
D’Orsi’s address kicked off a packed day of panels, presentations and workshops for the sophomore E3S, which boasted more than double the content of last year’s debut event. More than 300 professionals from 20 markets attended the day.
Other highlights included a speech by Lord Kerslake, author of the eponymous inquiry into the Manchester Arena attack, who presented the key findings and recommendations of his report; panel sessions on ‘Protecting the Future of Live Events’, which examined what initiatives are helping develop an international safety culture, and ‘Learning Transferrable Lessons’, which considered operations from the World Cup to state visits by US presidents to learn lessons from each scenario; and a host of talks and workshops covering security training, emergency messaging, behavioural detection, lockdown procedures and more.
Lord Kerslake described the Manchester Arena bombing – the deadliest terrorist attack in the UK since the 7/7 bombings of 2005 – as a “brutal, real-world test” of the venue’s security procedures.
The Manchester Arena bombing was a “brutal, real-world test” of the venue’s security procedures
He identified four key lessons event organisers and venues should learn from the tragedy: That his review, commissioned by mayor of Manchester Andy Burnham, was “the right thing to do, and should become standard practice in future”; that “importance of partnerships” between stakeholders, as well as thorough emergency planning, “cannot be overstated”; that a “genuinely multi-agency approach” is needed in case of emergency (“even in strong partnerships, the tendency of agencies under pressure to default to a single-agency way of working is extremely strong,” he explained); and that however good those plans are, “the reality will be different. There is no substitution for good situational awareness and discretion.”
As terrible as the attack was, Lord Kerslake concluded, had it taken place ten minutes later – when more young fans were exiting the arena – the outcome would have even worse. “We cannot afford to be complacent,” he said.
A key theme of the E3S 2018 was the importance of openness among stakeholders and the ability – and will – to share crucial information.
The O2 head of operations Danielle Kennedy-Clark said the live events industry needs to get better at sharing data with each other. “As a venue,” she commented, “we have a very close relationship with local authorities and other stakeholders […] but I do still feel a lot of the time security is seen as a big secret. We’re getting better but there’s still a long way to come.”
Tony Duncan, who works as tour security director for artists including U2, Madonna, Rihanna and Sir Paul McCartney, said the events security landscape is currently “fractured at best”, tending to “react to big events”. The industry could, he suggested, benefit from “formalis[ing] procedures across the board”.
“A lot of the time security is seen as a big secret”
One popular presentation at E3S was a preview of the new Green Guide, given by Ken Scott of the Sports Grounds Safety Authority. Scott also spoke about how his organisation, formerly the Football Licensing Authority, was formed after the Hillsborough disaster to “sit over the top of all those competing commercial entities [football clubs] and take the best bits of each, which you [the entertainment industry] don’t have”. “Maybe you need something similar,” he said.
The SEC’s Jeanette Roberts, a former inspector for the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), suggested there could be an HSE-style government agency to set security standards industry wide. With HSE, she explained, “what they did was reach out to the industry for their knowledge – it was a brave step for the agency to go and say, ‘We need your help’.”
From a police perspective, D’Orsi concluded by saying it’s a long-term police goal to share as much information on threats as possible with venues and private security companies. Addressing delegates, she said: “Many of you represent iconic locations and events which are often broadcast live – and if you look at the propaganda put out by ISIL [Islamic State], Al-Qaeda and other groups, you are attractive targets.
“There will be less policing at live events in future – but the ambition to share as much as we can with you is very strong, and I’m confident we will achieve that.”