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The LGBTIQ+ List 2022: Georgie Lanfranchi, Only Helix

The LGBTIQ+ List 2022 – IQ Magazine’s second annual celebration of queer professionals who make an immense impact in the international live music business – was published in the Pride edition (issue 112) this month.

The July 2022 issue, which is available to read now, was made possible thanks to support from Ticketmaster.

To get to know this year’s queer pioneers a little better, we interviewed each individual on their challenges, triumphs, advice and more.

Throughout the next month, IQ will publish a new interview each day. Catch up on the previous interview with David Jones (he/him/his), chief information officer at AEG in the UK.

The series continues with Georgie Lanfranchi (she/her/hers), tour manager/production coordinator at Only Helix in the UK.

 


Tell us about a personal triumph in your career
I have had the privilege of looking after so many outstanding performers and crew but my journey with Years & Years, growing from being their production coordinator to their tour manger, has been by far the most rewarding of my career. Being queer and working for one of the biggest gay icons of our time is a true honour, especially when it’s someone as talented, authentic, and kind as Olly [Alexander, Years & Years]. He is a truly special individual and that trickles down to make a wonderfully remarkable touring family. Working their set on Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury in 2019 was a real top 10 highlight of my life.

What advice could you give to young queer professionals?
Try your best not to hide who you are. This can often be instinctive for queer people but the industry is changing, opinions are changing and the best way to help drive that forward is to be visible. The more diversity we push forward, the more that follows. The main advice I give to anyone, in general, is to be kind, be a team player and take a moment every day to take in how amazing our jobs really are.

“I actually feel that being a woman is more of a hindrance [than being queer] in this industry”

What’s the best mistake you’ve ever made?
Without sounding too corny, every mistake I have made is the best mistake, it’s the best way to learn how to do things right. Those cringy, stomach-dropping, mortifying moments that stick with you when you realise you’ve messed up stick with you for a reason. You don’t make those mistakes again! I’ve made a lot of them, and I will make more in the future, and I will be a better learner and teacher for it.

Tell us about a professional challenge you’ve come across as a queer person in the industry
I’ve had to think quite hard about this. I’m not sure I have ever had any challenges specifically because I am queer, as I actually feel that being a woman is more of a hindrance in this industry, but it can be hard to distinguish I suppose, the two are probably quite entwined. I have been incredibly lucky to work on tours that have been very inclusive and with people who have never made it a problem. Don’t get me wrong, I still get a lot of ignorant questions from people that perhaps don’t (knowingly) have queer people in their life, or even bother to think about the answers before they ask the questions, but I’d say you’d be hard pressed to find a queer person that doesn’t!

One thing the live industry could do to be a more inclusive place
There are a lot of incredible people who are creating the spaces they need to feel included within the industry, so get involved! And if you can’t find the space you need, go and make it! I think it’s so wonderful to see the industry changing to represent marginalised groups as a whole, and people are finally starting to feel seen and heard. I think what we really do need to remember to do is not to isolate ourselves within these spaces. The industry itself will not grow if we pocket ourselves into our groups; we need to make sure everyone is included, and everyone supports everyone else’s cause so that we are integrated into the industry at large. This is not a courtesy we have been given in the past, but to move forward, we have to be better.

“The industry itself will not grow if we pocket ourselves into our groups; we need to make sure everyone is included”

Causes you support
Music Support, CALM, The Trevor Project, David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation, WWF, Rainforest Alliance.

The queer act you’re itching to see live this year
The list is extensive but I’m normally on the road, so I tend not to torture myself looking up gigs I’ll never be able to go to! That is the joy of festival season though; seeing a plethora of artists you never thought you’d get to see. I’ve still yet to see Tash Sultana after their gig got cancelled due to the pandemic… maybe one day!

Your favourite queer space
It will forever be my first queer outing – Flamingos Nightclub in Bristol – which is sadly no more. The first time I went was with two friends, we all told our parents we were going to each other’s houses and hopped on a train with some IDs from girls a couple of school years above us. ‘Drink the bar dry’ was Flamingos trademark, and for £20 we got in and gave that a good go! I felt a real absence of queer spaces growing up, from the countryside towns I grew up in and even the cities I frequented in my university years. It’s so important to keep these spaces going so queer folk have a safe space to go, and a place to find and express themselves. Support your local queer spaces!

 


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IPM 15: Production heads on perfect storm of Covid and Brexit

The IPM programme concluded with what organisers referred to as the mega panel – a session that revolved around the current industry conditions, summed up by the strapline Covid & Brexit: The Perfect Storm.

Split into two parts, the mega panel involved multiple guest speakers from around the world, with Bonnie May from Global Infusion Group chairing part one and applauding those businesses who managed to get through the survival period by adapting their operations to negotiate two years of severely impacted activities.

Indeed, with the war in Ukraine adding to that ‘perfect storm’ analogy, hiking costs even higher and exacerbating the supply chain crisis, May turned to a plethora of experts to tell their stories over the past two years, as well as citing their early experiences of the industry recovery.

Singapore-based Paul Sergeant (ASM Global) underlined the fact that a lot of debt had been incurred during the Covid pandemic and that would continue to impact the live entertainment sector over the coming months and years. He advocated the pandemic’s effect on improving communications from top to bottom in his company as a massive tool in motivating employees.

Sergeant also talked up the Venue Management school in Australia that has been running for about 30 years and awards people diplomas when they graduate. He said that numerous sectors across the live entertainment business in Australia had bought into that programme and market its benefits to their various audiences.

“I’m still now educating people who have only started getting back out in the road”

José Faisca from Altice Arena in Portugal highlighted the importance of everyone in the live entertainment ecosphere that make the industry work – and the fact that those at the bottom of the food chain need more help and support than those who are at the top, if they are going to remain part of the business, rather than taking their skills elsewhere.

“We are better together,” he stated, adding that treating the freelancers and suppliers as part of his company’s extended family – eating together, inviting everyone to team meetings, and investing in training – encourages an atmosphere where everybody is happy to work for the health of the company. “We sometimes invite the families of our suppliers, the riggers, etc, to events so that they can see what their loved ones do and the results they help produce,” he revealed.

Asthie Wendra, a show director and stage manager from Indonesia said her team was almost back to full strength post-pandemic, despite the fact that many found work elsewhere, suggesting that lot of people want to return to the live entertainment environment in her country. Wendra also highlighted the importance of education and training in the workforce. “They need to get something other than money, but education and helping them return to the industry and see that they can have a career there helps us to do that,” she said.

Lisa Ryan (EFM Global) said Covid was a blessing for the Brexit factor, as the industry probably would not have coped had there been the normal level of events through the red tape nightmare, carnets and other new regulations thrown up by the aftermath of the UK leaving the European Union. “I’m still now educating people who have only started getting back out in the road,” she said, hinting at the carnage that could await the business when the busy summer season kicks in. She adds, “I’ve been doing this for 20 years and I’ve never seen anything like this [situation].”

Ryan and May agreed that improving the conditions for employees was a crucial part of keeping people motivated and retaining their skills in the industry, with both citing pay rises, better holiday terms, facilitating people to work from home on flexible hours, and even allowing staff to relocate abroad to fulfil life ambitions. However, they acknowledged the difficulty of recruiting new people to the industry, as well as attracting people back who may have found work elsewhere that offer them a more settled life-work balance.

“I don’t think the artists have realised yet that the costs have gone up and the profits will be less”

Part two of the mega panel was chaired by eps holding chief Okan Tombulca who explained that he has been on a number of conference sessions during the past year to specifically address the supply chain issues that are beginning to hit the international industry, both in terms of personnel and equipment. He voiced his personal opinion that the business is continually in a perfect storm, in terms of spiralling costs and pressure.

Andrew Zweck (Sensible Events) suggested it’s too early to know if artists have changed their views because of the various limitations that are hitting the business post-Covid. “I don’t think the artists have realised yet that the costs have gone up and the profits will be less. It’s unfolding now as we speak and that problem is not fully understood by the artists.” He added that the fact there are no double drivers this year is having an impact on tour plans, including at least one stadium show he had to cancel because they could not get a stage for that date.

“Artists are going to have less and I’m not sure they know that yet,” Zweck added, noting that he did not know who was going to tell them.

Production manager Phay Mac Mahon reported that the production side of the industry has lost about 30% of its workforce. “It’s the vendors’ time – they don’t need to reply to you because they are so busy trying to fulfil the contracts that they have,” said Mac Mahon. “With larger artists it’s planned further ahead, but for the younger artists it’s tough because their production manager might not be able to get the answers and therefore they may not be able to get the suppliers.”

Julia Frank from Wizard Promotions in Germany revealed that she started calling around a year ago for a certain tour for summer 2022. “I’m now just six weeks from that tour starting and I’m still ten riggers short,” she said.

“I’m now just six weeks from that tour starting and I’m still ten riggers short”

Anna Golden of UK promoters Kilimanjaro Live revealed that the company’s focus was on UK touring artists and outdoor shows. “We’ve been in constant communications with our suppliers so that at least they know these shows will definitely happen,” she said. “One of the festivals that Kili owns has actually bought its own stage because we have a five-year plan and that was financially more viable.”

Tombulca pondered whether that might be a new concept for promoters to own the infrastructure. Mac Mahon countered that the artist ego and ambitions for bigger and bigger shows might work against that. “Artist ego is the vendor’s best friend,” said Mac Mahon.

Zweck noted that the likes of the Royal Albert Hall has its own in-house lights and PA that it encourages bands to use, which also helps with sustainability. And he told IPM that in Australia, agreements are in place that equipment will stay in specific cities this year for artists to share, rather than shipping that kit on long journies for days at a time between venues. And on a similar theme, Tombulca says Live Nation has set up 28 stadia across America with exactly the same stages and kit for the summer.

Delegate Bryan Grant from Britannia Row noted that there is not enough equipment in the world to supply all the tours that are going out this year, revealing he had tried to fly in kit from South Africa for some of his events, only to be told it had already gone on rent in Germany.

Tombulca also touched on the impact of the war in Ukraine. Frank said the cost of fuel was the obvious impact, but she had not seen any difference in ticket sales in Germany. However, Zweck said it was another doubt to plant in the mind of the ticket seller for festivals and tours in the latter part of this year, going into 2023.

We’re in for a tough year, but humans are resilient and we will find a way”

Lisa Ryan from EFM Global noted that many of the Antinov aircraft that might be used for bigger tours are grounded in Russia and the Ukraine, while the biggest of all was recently destroyed in the conflict.

And speaking from the point of view in the Baltics, Renatas Nacajus from ISEG in Lithuania reported that ticket sales dropped immediately when the Ukraine war started, as confidence disappeared from the market.

Golden concluded that this summer is just about surviving and getting through 2022 as best as possible. Frank agreed. “It’s like going back to the 90s – it’s not going to be pretty, but it will do,” she stated.

Zweck commented, “We’re in for a tough year, but humans are resilient and we will find a way. Market forces will have a correction in terms of giving more money to the people at the lower end. But overall I’m pessimistic and I think when we look back in two years, we’ll struggle to see what we learned from Covid and we’ll be back to the greed of the big promoters and that will become rampant again.”

 


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Sensible Events’ Andrew Zweck joins IPM 15 line-up

Sensible Events founder Andrew Zweck is the latest big name speaker lined up for the 15th-anniversary edition of the ILMC Production Meeting (IPM).

Taking place on 26 April, the day before ILMC (International Live Music Conference), IPM will return to an in-person format in 2022 with its biggest programme yet.

This year’s edition will feature a series of key production group and trade association partnerships, as well as a second programming tranche by the Event Safety & Security Summit (E3S).

Live Aid production veteran Zweck, who has served as agent and producer of worldwide tours for the likes of Roger Waters, Depeche Mode and Mark Knopfler, will be lending his wealth of experience the two-part Covid & Brexit: The Perfect Storm mega-panel, chaired by Bonnie May from Global Infusion Group and Okan Tombulca from eps.

“I’ve never forgotten that I started in the back of a truck,” says Zweck. “That has stood me in good stead.”

Zweck will be joined by fellow panellists ASM Global APAC’s Paul Sergeant, Jose Faisca of Lisbon’s Altice Arena, EFM Global Logistics director Lisa Ryan, Kilimanjaro Live head of major events Anna Golden, Wizard Promotions’ Julia Frank, show director/stage manager Asthie Wendra and production manager Phay Mac Mahon, recipient of IQ Magazine’s 2022 Gaffer Award.

“We will be talking and listening to each other and learning about subjects relevant to the production industry”

Alongside the previously announced A Seat at the Table, Veterans and Rookies, the second main morning panel, The Power of Energy, will look at not just what energy solutions are available but also what different parties use and how we can decide on and manage the best sustainable options at event sites, tours and in different-sized venues.

The session is chaired by long-term IPM attendee Duchess Iredale from EPI ltd in Ireland, who will be joined by Jacob Bilabel (Green Music Initiative/Aktionsnetzwerk Nachhaltigkeit, Germany); Padraic Boran (MCD Productions, Ireland); Amy Casterton (ES Global Ltd, UK); and Pete Wills (Power Logistics, UK).

In addition to the four main panels, three production notes will take place throughout the day: The PSA presents…, The Weather Maturity Curve, and Fight or Flight Case: A Mental Health Update, alongside IPM’s Carl A H Martin’s special lunchtime Q&A with Penny Mellor, in which the health & safety/welfare expert will discuss her lifetime of experience on the frontline at festivals.

“The IPM has been part of my life almost since its inception, so imagine how I felt the last couple of years having to sit at home, in front of a screen, talking to people’s heads and shoulders as we ran virtual bloody conferences,” says IPM advisory group chair Carl A H Martin.

“Imagine then how excited I am going to be to be part of a live event. On 26 April, I will be at the IPM along with new and old friends from all around the world – not just the UK, we are international. We will be talking and listening to each other and learning about subjects relevant to the production industry.”

The afternoon at IPM will focus entirely on crew and resource shortages

The afternoon at IPM will focus entirely on crew and resource shortages and how everyone is getting back on their feet after the last two years, in the aforementioned two-part mega panel Covid & Brexit: The Perfect Storm.

Given the huge amount of content, all the main panels will be recorded and made available for delegates to watch on-demand for a month after the event has concluded.

Meanwhile, E3S sessions will run throughout the day, including a Crowd Management Tabletop created and delivered by the Yourope Event Safety Group (YES) & Mind Over Matter Consultancy (MOM), a ‘Crowd Communication and Behaviours’ panel, and a discussion around ‘Rethinking Risk And Building Resilience in Event Operations’ – both in association with EAA, UKCMA and the Global Crowd Management Alliance.

The full IPM and E3S agenda can be found here. To register, or for more information, go to ipm.live.

 


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Production titans line up for IPM’s 15th anniversary

Phay Mac Mahon, Bonnie May, Okan Tombulca, Padraic Boran and Lina Ugrinovska are among the production titans slated for the 15th-anniversary edition of the ILMC Production Meeting (IPM).

Taking place the day before ILMC (International Live Music Conference), IPM will return to an in-person format in 2022 with its biggest and best programme yet.

This year’s edition will feature a series of key production group and trade association partnerships, as well as a second programming tranche by the Event Safety & Security Summit (E3S).

“We are very excited to see our international delegates making time in their busy schedule to come back together in person,” says IPM & E3S producer Sytske Kamstra. “It’s an important day for everyone, filled with very relevant and urgent topics, a wealth of expertise on the panels and in the rooms. We can’t wait.”

IPM’s speaker line-up is led by Phay Mac Mahon, one of the go-to production managers in the international touring business and the recipient of IQ Magazine’s 2022 Gaffer Award.

“It’s an important day for everyone, filled with relevant and urgent topics, a wealth of expertise on the panels and in the rooms”

Since launching his career in the 70s, Phay has worked with household names including Bob Geldof and The Boomtown Rats, Def Leppard, The Pretenders, Adam Ant, Paul Young, Moody Blues, Whitesnake, Aerosmith and many more. He was also a sought-after lighting designer until the 1990s, working with the likes of Shakira, West Life, Meat Loaf, Janet Jackson, Ricky Martin and Nicki Minaj.

Also joining IPM is Bonnie May, CEO of Global Infusion Group, which delivers world-class events and brand logistic support to lavish private events, royal weddings, governmental summits, international automotive roadshows, world expos and major sporting events worldwide, including the Olympics since 2012.

She’ll be speaking with veteran show director and stage manager Asthie Wendra, about the industry’s response to the perfect storm created by Covid and Brexit in part one of this year’s Mega Panel.

Okan Tombulca is CEO of eps holding gmbh – a globally respected event infrastructure powerhouse, which now operates in 10 subsidiaries across Europe, Australia, and North and South America.

Tombulca will be joined by Phay Mac Mahon to continue the discussion around Covid and Brexit in part two of the Perfect Storm Mega Panel.

IPM’s speaker line-up is led by Phay Mac Mahon, one of the go-to production managers in the international touring business

Lina Ugrinovska is founder and CEO of Banana & Salt and one of the best-known booking agents in the Balkans. Considered among the new generation of highly influential people in the industry, she’ll be joined by NoNonsense Group director Liz Madden and Britannia Row Productions director Bryan Grant for a panel exploring the relationship between the live industry’s old guard and its young, up and coming executive talent.

MCD Productions’ Padraic Boran is well-known in the event industry, with over 30 years’ experience as a project manager, site co-ordinator and event controller for major entertainment, sporting and public events in both Ireland and abroad.

He’ll be hosting a panel on The Power Of Energy, which will consider what energy will look like in the future and how it will affect events. It will look at renewable power and immediate problems around availability, practicality and expense.

Meanwhile, E3S sessions will run throughout the day, including a Crowd Management Tabletop created and delivered by the Yourope Event Safety Group (YES) & Mind Over Matter Consultancy (MOM), a ‘Crowd Communication and Behaviours’ panel, and a discussion around ‘Rethinking Risk And Building Resilience in Event Operations’ – both in association with EAA, UKCMA and the Global Crowd Management Alliance.

This year’s E3S programme will bring together leaders in the sector from all over the world such as Žalgirio Arena event manager Mantas Vedrickas, select security & stewarding at UKCMA & GCMA Anne Marie Chebib and head of arena experience at The SSE Arena, Belfast, Claire Cosgrave.

Also joining is chief inspector & specialist tactical firearms commander at MOM, Pete Dalton at head of production festivals at Gadget abc Entertainment Group AG Andy Mestka and venue manager at Forest National, Coralie Berael.

More information can be found at https://ipm.live/.

 


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New global network launches for production pros

A new global networking platform, Entourage Pro (EP), has launched for freelance production crew.

The platform enables live crew to promote their skills and expertise, and register their availability for more than 140 freelance roles, from backline to stage design.

EP, which has partnered with companies such as Yamaha, D&B Audiotechnik and Neutrik, is the brainchild of Manchester-based industry veteran Joel Perry, in partnership with Showcase. Perry tells IQ the idea for a centralised database of crew was five years in making.

“We had amassed a database of around 8,000 freelancers from across the globe who had, at some point, either enquired as to any touring positions becoming available or provided a CV to put on file,” says Perry. “This became a regular occurrence, which got us thinking.

“Of the 8,000 crew invited to join us on beta-testing, we had a conversion rate of around 2,700 people, which is very strong. If we reach anywhere near 30% of freelancers operating globally, we will have created something member’s can really feel a part of.

It is estimated that we have lost 25% of the workforce, who have simply been impacted too greatly

“It’s as much about trust and safeguarding as it is anything else,” he adds. “The industry is relatively tiny, but it services the world – and we should celebrate that, not lose sight of it.”

Perry fears it could take years for the production industry to fully recover from the pandemic.

“It’s estimated that we have lost 25% of the workforce, who have simply been impacted too greatly,” says Perry. “That’s a lot of people who have had to either re-train or change career and amongst them are some of the most successful in their field. That’s the top and bottom of it.

“What we thought was an incredibly robust industry, fell very quickly – but equally, the signs are we’ll return stronger. We are already working on Stage 2 – The Entourage Pro initiative; Learns – where we provide students and those with a keen interest in the various aspects of the industry with entry points.”

Perry says the endorsement of high-profile artists including Paul Weller, Noel Gallagher, Duff McKagan, Richard Hawley and Mani, as well as promoter Harvey Goldsmith, has been crucial in getting the initiative off the ground.

“They understand the value, they understand the impact – and they know how vital their crew are to show production,” says Perry. “We are lucky to have either known or worked with many of the artists, promoters and managers etc, who helped champion our cause.

“We want to become the go-to resource and save artists, labels and supply companies, time, money and effort by providing the most up to date information for the most qualified, personnel for the job. It’s that simple.”

 


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Lights, camera, action: UK suppliers on the reopening

Do you remember at which point the severity of the Covid-19 pandemic first hit home? For some, it was when they suspended all flights to mainland China. Or when the UK government admitted that we faced a “substantial period of disruption… due to the outbreak.”

For others it was the realisation that, after the announcement on 9 March of a strict nationwide quarantine in Italy, lockdowns were coming to us all. For those whose livelihoods were invested in the music industry, watching all of this unfold prompted an increasing feeling of dread.

For Yvonne Donnelly Smith, music lighting sales director of PRG – a global company operating audio, camera, lighting, and various other production services – that latter date was particularly significant.

“I got my first email from Bryan Adams’ team saying: ‘All shows cancelled due to Corona,” she says. “That was quickly followed by The Script, who cancelled because someone in the touring party had caught Covid. Then the domino effect really started to kick in.”

As she tells it, every day two or three more tours would cancel as the reality of the situation began to outweigh optimism that the whole thing would blow over quickly. And then the summer festivals started to fall – “which everyone was holding out hope for,” she says.

“We’d just loaded the trucks to head to site the next day when everything was cancelled”

It was a similar story with John Henry’s, a multi-disciplinary company in the live sector offering audio, backline, and staging services, who had just sent out audio and backline equipment for multiple US country artists touring Europe and heading towards the C2C Festival at London’s O2 Arena.

“We’d just loaded the trucks to head to site the next day when everything was cancelled,” says Johnny Henry, company director. “We then had to negotiate the return of equipment from all around the country to get it back before we had to close the doors and send staff home. It was a devastating moment for everyone.”

Christie Lites, a global stage lighting vendor covering live music, theatre, TV, corporate, and special events, and employing over 400 employees around the world, were ramping up into what business development executive Jessica Allan describes as “a very, very busy year.” It all came to a sudden, complete halt.

“The realisation that pretty much everything was coming back in kit-wise – including shows that had been out for five years or more – and the logistics of what that involved was definitely one of the ‘Oh shit!’ moments,” she adds.

Everyone IQ spoke to for this feature talks of the initial shock and disbelief, and how thoughts turned extremely quickly from dealing with the mammoth task of returning equipment and personnel, to the question of “what happens now?”

“We all thought it was only a temporary blip, not an 18-month hiatus”

Bryan Grant of Britannia Row, a company that has been supplying audio systems and crews since 1975 and is now part of the Clair Global Group, was initially optimistic.

“The enormity of it didn’t really sink in for some time,” he explains. “We all thought it was only a temporary blip, not an 18-month hiatus.”

As such, hard work continued behind the scenes at all these companies, to ready themselves for whenever a re-opening – and large-scale music events – could once again take place.

Grant notes how crucial it was to keep key people in place and remain open for business, while Donnelly Smith says that “remaining flexible and resilient” kept PRG busy through the on-slaught.

John Adam’s famous old adage, that “Every problem is an opportunity in disguise,” was severely tested as companies struggled to make sense of what they were dealing with, and what the long-term future of touring and live might look like.

John Henry’s began working with an AV company, PIXL, to convert their studios into a live-streaming and broadcast hub

Tentative suggestions that late summer 2020 could see some events return, were nixed by the looming threat of the second wave, and with further lockdowns throughout winter and the early part of 2021 – not to mention the Delta variant – the prognosis looked gloomy.

Nevertheless, the pause became a chance to take stock, to develop their offerings, and branch out into new tech or events.

Britannia Row, through the Clair Global Group, developed the Virtual Live Audio system, a high-quality, low-latency streaming platform that allows presenters and performers in the broadcast and corporate sectors to interact in real-time with their audiences, while PRG was also helping clients move into streaming, setting up studios and live spaces, and tailoring solutions to help events transition into the digital space.

They opened a rehearsal space, too, The Bridge, which allows clients to prepare for shows safely and securely.

John Henry’s began working with an AV company, PIXL, to convert their studios into a live-streaming and broadcast hub, and were actually able to service a number of recorded events that saw over a thousand people back through their doors.

“We took the opportunity to re-evaluate internal processes with our team behind the scenes”

For Christie Lites, planning and research never stopped, but they also – like the others – took a brief step back.

“We took the opportunity to re-evaluate internal processes with our team behind the scenes, making improvements in preparation for the return,” says Allan.

These ranged from technology tweaks through to broadening and building on sustainability programmes, as well as a number of ‘Crew Prep’ events to help crew and clients prepare for getting back to work.

With Britain having lifted restrictions on 19 July this year, many other countries following suit, and the continuing rise in the number of people double vaccinated, something approaching normality has begun to return.

Music’s live and touring sector has been scrabbling to respond, but with lead times normally measured in months, and many still wary of attending packed, sweaty arena shows and festivals, it’s been a stuttering reopening.

“Ramping up from essentially a standing start, combined with the uncertainty, was always going to be a challenge”

PRG just serviced Creamfields – as did Christie Lites – alongside Rewind, Wireless, and Isle of Wight, but really all eyes are on 2022, and a full-blown return.

“We’re optimistic,” says Britannia Row’s Bryan Grant. “We think there’s going to be huge demand,” adds PRG’s Yvonne Donnelly Smith.

Others are even more confident: 2022 is shaping up to be a “very mad year” says Christie Lites’ Allan, with two years’ worth of events squeezed into one system. But that pressure is already being keenly felt, and having some worrying knock-on effects.

“Ramping up from essentially a standing start, combined with the uncertainty still floating around, was always going to be a challenge,” says Allan.

“There is fear from vendors and freelancers that limits will be pushed both of budgets, timescale, and of people to meet demand. The other big issue is the lack of crew, as so many have had to get work elsewhere or have decided not to come back.”

“There is fear from vendors and freelancers that limits will be pushed both of budgets, timescale, and people to meet demand”

That’s a problem noted by Britannia Row director Bryan Grant as well; “that’s why we’ve kept up with our training programmes and have kept as many of our people employed as we possibly can,” he says.

Demand outstripping supply has had other consequences too. “Material shortages are already affecting manufacturers, so spares and some of the vital things that you need for touring and shows are in short supply already,” notes Johnny Henry. “There is no sign of that improving yet.”

There is also the issue of Covid bubbles being broken, and isolated infections bringing whole operations to yet another temporary halt.

“We’ve already recently seen shows and tours being pulled at the last minute because of positive Covid cases,” continues Henry.

“Everyone involved in productions is doing their best to avoid these situations, but it’s clearly very difficult no matter what precautions are being taken. I expect this to continue into 2022.”

“The fact that we can duplicate both equipment and people in many territories means less freight and air travel”

And that concern has led to yet another issue, particularly with regard to larger tours. “We’re starting to see some now pushed back into 2023 as artist management look at scheduling, and also the fact that so many artists and bands are potentially competing for venues and punters in 2022,” says Allan.

Making sure long-awaited live performances are delivered in the best possible way to fans is a key component for festival chiefs and touring acts when deciding on their 2022 and beyond plans. Innovation has seemingly blossomed during lockdown; so too gains in efficiency.

“We are constantly upgrading our systems to provide more efficient packages in terms of weight, size, and coverage,” says Grant. “For touring acts, the fact that we can duplicate both equipment and people in many territories means less freight and air travel, which saves money and the environment.”

That last part – sustainability – is becoming an ever more vital component of companies’ offerings, and something the music industry is keen to embrace. All of the companies IQ spoke to had placed it at the top of their agenda.

“There’s a high demand for LED products to take the lead on jobs, and PRG were doing this well before the pandemic,” says Donnelly Smith.

“Our warehouses use rainwater harvesting and solar panels where possible”

“Joining and working with TPG has been extremely influential for us in continuing this journey towards sustainability in our events – we’re taking an inside-out approach to solidify this culture change, offering sustainable kit to our customers and also making changes in-house, like switching energy suppliers and using sustainable materials.”

“We are constantly trying to learn about where we can improve on sustainability – it is something we are passionate about,” says Allan.

“We have a living sustainability programme, so our warehouses use rainwater harvesting and solar panels where possible, and we’re excited to be opening our most eco-friendly building to date in Nashville in September, which is built using a revolutionary decarbonised method of construction.

“On tour, our standardisation of flight cases helps reduce the truck pack and the fact that you can pull and drop a European leg from the UK and pick up again in North America without the need to fly or ship kit is a key reason why sustainability-conscious clients use us.”

Undoubtedly, the last 18 months have been a seismic shock, and recovery will depend on the ticket-buying public – as Grant notes, “Covid isn’t going away, so we are just going to have to adapt to the circumstances that confront us.”

“This past year has shown what we can achieve if we pull together”

But live events have proved resilient before, and are doing so again. The future will just be a little different.

“This past year has shown what we can achieve if we pull together,” says Allan. “Yes, a very difficult road lies ahead, but we have confidence that collectively the industry will find a way through and come out the other side.”

“I think what we’ve learnt over the last 18 months is that you can’t stand still,” adds Johnny Henry. “You have to use any spare time to continue to refine your trade, improve where you can, be more efficient, and get more out of your resources than you think possible. Your staff are your greatest asset, and while you’ve got to put faith in the future, don’t forget the past.”

Ultimately, the message is one of collaboration, and working together for greater success – and the greater good. “It’s an opportunity for all of us in the touring community, from artists, agents, promoters, and managers, to supply companies and all of those who work within these organisations to realise that we’re all on the same side,” says Grant.

“We all need to earn a living, and all need to respect what we all contribute to making this wonderful, mad machine work; let’s keep going.”

 


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SA supreme court rejects appeal over concert death

The Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) of South Africa has rejected an appeal by one of the companies held responsible for a scaffolding tower collapse that killed one person at a Linkin Park show in South Africa in 2012.

In 2017, nearly five years after the death of 32-year-old Florentina Popa, Cape Town magistrate Ingrid Arntsen ruled that Vertex Scaffolding, Bothma Signs and Hirt & Carter – which constructed two large scaffolding towers at Cape Town Stadium and hung an advertisement for Lucozade between them – had been negligent and could be “causally linked” to Popa’s death, while Big Concerts, the promoter of the show, was found not to be responsible.

Popa died of blunt-force trauma after the tower fell on her in strong winds before Linkin Park show’s at the 58,309-seat stadium on 7 November 2012.

Arntsen said the companies should have foreseen that even moderate winds could have blown it over. “[W]inds with speeds of up to 15 metres per second were eminently foreseeable in Cape Town, and the towers could have been designed and constructed in such a way as to withstand the winds that were recorded on the day of the concert,” she said at the time.

“There is, in my view, no discernible material error of law … on which a review might be founded”

“It would appear, then, from all the evidence, that while the wind did come up and create problems, there was no real fear on the part of anyone in authority at the concert that the towers would blow over.”

Durban-based Hirt & Carter, which produces billboards and digital advertising, took the inquest’s findings to the Western Cape High Court, which dismissed the appeal, and then to the Supreme Court of appeal, which has upheld the high court’s ruling.

SCA judge Sulet Potterill, with four judges concurring, found that Arntsen “cannot be faulted for concluding that the death of the deceased was brought about by an act or omission that prima facie amounts to or involves an offence on the part of Hirt & Carter”, reports News24.

“It was premised on a finding of negligence on the part of Hirt & Carter. There is, in my view, no discernible material error of law by the magistrate of the kind on which a review might be founded. Indeed, I can find no error at all.”

Hirt & Carter’s appeal argued that the magistrate had erred when she found that it had omitted to supervise and manage the erection of the towers, which it said was the responsibility of a subcontractor (Bothma Signs).

In her judgment, Potterill disagreed, saying Arntsen “was correctly unpersuaded that the subcontracting of Bothma Signs and Vertex, against the facts of the case, could be relied on to exonerate Hirt & Carter.”

A further 19 people were injured in the accident, with 12 requiring hospitalisation.

 


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Bulls-hit on parade

I wrote this column at least 1,000 times in my head over the last eight weeks before putting it down on paper today. When ink did hit paper, I ended up with a very different version to the prior madness, and although it was very poignant it wreaked of an anger so deep with frustration and ugliness that there was no way to contain it in an 800-word essay.

You see, I was fired recently from a major sold-out arena tour that was to start up a week after the pandemic shut us all down. Then unceremoniously terminated – two weeks past the one-year anniversary, to be exact. Seriously, a year into a global pandemic, and then I get fired? Fucking ridiculous. Putting me out with gasoline while on fire is an understatement. And goddamn, I have been spitting piss and vinegar ever since.

Although I have been fired thrice before from other projects over what I would call on paper a successful and respected 35-year career, this was definitely different. Not that the previous times didn’t hurt and or make you question yourself and your abilities eight ways to Sunday, this had the added fear of a never-ending global pandemic attached to it with zero constructive communication from day one by my employers.

However, after checking my head with the help of some dear and trusted peers, the soul-searching melted into a clear and underlying suspicion that you had been employed by some incredibly dysfunctional and most likely heartless people that actually knew very little about large-scale touring and had zero interest in learning from the professionals that they hired to give such guidance. Not that I haven’t always had the classic Hunter S. Thompson quote about the music business in my veins to rationalise such shitty behaviour, but enough is enough. When you sell your brand heavily based on the plight of the working man and woman, the impoverished, the exploited, the systemic violation of human rights across the globe, then maybe it’s time to put down that copy of the ‘Anarchist’s Handbook for Dummies’ for a second and look in your own back yard and find out what your responsibilities are as a corporate employer of a large labour force.

Communication on the task at hand, and to the people you hire, is key here – with any of our touring projects, it’s the framework to getting all parts of the project built when applied successfully. You, sirs, give zero fucks. Add serious dysfunction and animosity within a group and your chances of that success are lowered considerably. Heck, I feel for you, man; everybody has that drunk uncle at the Thanksgiving holiday table, but please don’t pawn your personal problems onto the kids’ table. I’m just trying to have a piece of that apple pie, too, brother.

Contrary to what you are reading here, please note that I hold no ill will towards you. I love your band’s music, I wish you continued success and I cherish you as human beings, as we are all God’s children in the end. But we are professionals here, and we are tired of being exploited by such flippant behaviour. So please pay up and honour the commitment we all made when hired.

You need us to sign an NDA and now a Covid-19 waiver? Sure thing. And let’s use that same pen to sign my employment agreement…

With that said, here is a list of additional lessons learned during my pandemic along, with some tips that might be useful to IQ readers:

And so, I quote:

“It has to start somewhere.
“It has to start sometime,
“What better place than here?
“What better time than now?”

 


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TM Suzi Green launches free workshops ahead of touring return

Tour manager and health and wellbeing specialist Suzi Green has commissioned a series of resilience workshops for the international live music industry as the touring sector begins its transition back into the demands of event production.

The three free sessions, Mindfulness for Touring with Craig Ali, Healthy Boundaries with Laura Ferguson and Sleep & Jet Lag with Matt Kansy, take place on Monday 21 June, Wednesday 14 July and Wednesday 4 August, respectively. The workshops will explore a range of topics, from coping strategies for dealing with ‘heated’ moments in high-pressure situations to how to wind down naturally at the end of an intense day, rate negotiation, managing workload and effective communication, maximising the quality of your sleep and techniques to combat jet lag and shift work.

The workshops were made possible through the Culture Recovery Fund and are designed for freelance touring community, though they are open to all music professionals.

The sessions are presented by The Back Lounge, an online support group for out-of-work touring professionals Green, the founder of Healthy Touring, created during the height of the pandemic.

“We will all need to take our health seriously to survive long periods during busy touring schedules in the future”

A seasoned tour manager, having worked with clients including Placebo, PJ Harvey, Katie Melua and Wolf Alice, Green experienced her own debilitating episode of burn-out and left touring for a decade. “I thought my touring days were over. The industry simply didn’t work for me,” she recalls.

Since retraining in various modalities, she later returned to touring with new skills in wellbeing to the benefit of artists and crew.

“People now have the opportunity to learn how to develop better coping strategies,” says Green. “We will all need to take our health seriously to survive long periods during busy touring schedules in the future.”

To book a place on the free workshops, visit the following links: Mindfulness for Touring, Healthy Boundaries, Sleep & Jet Lag.

 


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Sara slams lack of regulation in South Africa

The South African Roadies Association (Sara) has hit out at the loose regulations governing live events production in South Africa, as it emerged no one has been held responsible for the death of a rigger over two years ago at the Global Citizen Festival: Mandela 100.

Speaking to the Weekly SA Mirror of 4 June, Freddie Nyathela, president of Sara, describes the sector as a “free for all”, blaming the Department of Employment and Labour for dragging its feet on a proposed new framework for the technical events production and production services industry.

Lack of transformation in the industry is ultimately responsible for the death of Siyabonga Ngodze, the 36-year-old who suffered fatal injuries after falling in the set-up for the Mandela 100 event, which featured performances from Beyoncé, Jay-Z and Ed Sheeran.

Though Ngodze’s mother has received compensation from his employer, production company Gearhouse SA, and the Department of Employment and Labour (R39,000 [US$2,900] and R35,000 [$2,600], respectively), Thembekile Ngonze says she has yet to see justice for her “beloved son”.

“I cannot understand why it is taking so long to have someone prosecuted”

“I cannot understand why it is taking so long to have someone prosecuted for the death of my son”, says the 56-year-old.

According to the Weekly SA Mirror, progress in resolving the case has been delayed by successive lockdowns in South Africa. However, a Department of Employment and Labour investigation found that Gearhouse SA had failed to comply with the provisions of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

In addition to the death of Ngodze, the Mandela 100 event, held to celebrate the 100th birthday of the late Nelson Mandela, was also marred by reports of widespread lootings and assaults, blamed by the venue, FNB Stadium, on the lack of police presence.

The concert raised billions of dollars for education, HIV prevention and anti-poverty initiatives in Africa.

 


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