New safety plan finalised for Astroworld venue
A taskforce has unveiled an updated agreement regarding safety arrangements for events at Houston’s NRG Park, site of the Astroworld festival disaster.
According to the group’s members, the revised protocols, which will clearly state responsibilities for the various parties involved in events at the venue, will improve communication, development of safety plans and permitting procedures for large gatherings.
The 50,000-cap Astroworld was promoted by Live Nation and Scoremore. Ten concertgoers were killed and more than 300 injured after a crowd surge during festival co-founder Travis Scott’s headline set on 5 November 2021. All of those who died suffered from compression asphyxia.
AP reports that the move follows concerns relating to the the emergency response during the 2021 tragedy, amid confusion about which agencies and officials ultimately had authority over the event.
Under the new safety protocols for the venue, all relevant safety stakeholders will be required to be together at one location during an event to be able to better monitor possible problems. The move will also see the creation of an internal calendar of events and safety planning checklist, while the event permitting process will be streamlined.
“When there’s confusion, there’s hesitancy and when there’s hesitancy, bad things can happen”
“It’s not to say those things were absent so to speak. They weren’t as aligned as they needed to be,” says Houston mayor Sylvester Turner. “And when there’s not alignment, there’s confusion. And when there’s confusion, there’s hesitancy and when there’s hesitancy, bad things can happen.”
Houston fire chief Samuel Peña adds that while the creation of an emergency action plan was already required under the previous arrangement, the updated agreement dictates that all public safety agencies and other officials should take part in that process from the start and not simply review it at the end. “That is the big difference,” says Peña.
The Texas Task Force On Concert Safety (TFCS), which was announced by Texas governor Greg Abbott in the days following the disaster and went on to release a series of recommendations. One of its key proposals was for the creation of a centralised Event Production Guide – outlining and encouraging best-practice for event design and crowd control – which could serve as a one-stop shop for promoters to access existing legal requirements.
Earlier this year, the go-ahead was given for hundreds of Astroworld lawsuits to be formally consolidated into a single case. The first wrongful death lawsuit settlements were reached in October by the families of victims Axel Acosta, 21, and Brianna Rodriguez, 16.
Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.
Safety clampdown in HK after video screen fall
Mid-air installations at concerts are to be banned temporarily in Hong Kong as officials investigate the horror accident that injured two dancers at a show by Cantopop group Mirror.
Mo Lee Kai-yin, 27, was critically injured when a giant video screen fell on him during the concert at Hong Kong Coliseum last week. A second dancer was also hospitalised but has since been discharged.
While the investigation remains ongoing, leisure and cultural services department taskforce has announced three interim rules for event organisers to comply with, reports the South China Morning Post.
The measures include a review of stage design and mechanical installations, while all mid-air mechanical devices “designed to swing, rotate or carry people” will be banned. Promoters must also appoint an authorised expert to review the safety of the installations daily.
A source tells the Post the taskforce’s aim is to review stage safety in Hong Kong and determine whether existing regulations need to be strengthened.
“We will look into whether the wire hit other cables or equipment when the TV screen it supported was rotating and moving up and down during the show”
Mirror’s performance was the fourth in a scheduled 12-concert run by the 12-member band, who formed in 2018. The remaining shows in the series have been cancelled, with refunds to be given to ticket-holders.
Mirror’s management MakerVille and show organiser Music Nation say they are working with authorities and the contractor and subcontractors behind the stage structures to establish what went wrong.
Hong Kong’s culture secretary Kevin Yeung said initial observations suggest the metal wire used to support the video screen had fractured, causing it to fall.
According to the Post, the subsequent investigation will focus on analysing the metal wire.
“We will… look into whether the wire hit other cables or equipment when the TV screen it supported was rotating and moving up and down during the show,” says an insider. “We also have to find out whether the wire has experienced metal fatigue.”
Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.
ASM partners with AI-based security scanning system
ASM Global has announced a partnership with Evolv Technology, a leader in weapons detection security screening.
The implementation of the “state-of-the-art technology” is said to enhance venue safety and security at ASM venues, as well as improve the customer experience by reducing queues and offering a seamless and swift arrival to the venue.
AO Arena (cap. 21,000), operated by ASM, is the first arena in Europe to use Evolv’s technology as part of a £50m investment into Manchester’s iconic venue.
The venue has been using AI-based threat detection screening system, Evolv Express, to screen guests as they arrive at the arena for events, without the need to stop or remove items from their pockets or policy-compliant bags.
So far, the system has been used for eight shows and welcomed over 54,000 guests with a full roll-out planned for September.
As part of the new partnership, ASM Global has been working closely with Evolv to ensure the technology has been tested to government standards in both the UK and US, as well as collaborating on further improvements and continuous development.
“We are planning a further roll out to other venues in Europe as part of our VenueShield programme”
Evolv Express uses powerful sensor technology with proven artificial intelligence (AI) to provide safer, more accurate threat detection at unprecedented volumes and speed of entry. Venue ingress data provided by Evolv’s analytics also helps venues to transform the way in which they plan their security staff and wider operations.
In an industry first, security professionals can use historical and real-time screening data to gain insights and to make predictions about throughput, with the goal of improving the guest experience while making the space more secure.
Peter George, CEO, Evolv Technology, says: “We are thrilled to partner with ASM Global to provide an enhanced security posture for AO Arena while making sure the guest experience is truly enhanced. With this partnership, AO Arena joins other iconic venues secured by Evolv, including Lincoln Center and Gillette Stadium in the US. As we continue to expand globally, we look forward to working with ASM to help bring safer venues and better experiences to more people.”
Gary Simpson, director of safety security and risk for ASM Global, adds: “We have been working with Evolv for over two years supporting the testing and development of the Evolv Express system. The detection technology has been used for some time in America but this is the first such deployment at an arena in Europe. Given the positive experience at the AO Arena, Manchester we are planning a further roll out to other venues in Europe as part of our VenueShield programme.”
Evolv operates as part of ASM Global’s VenueShield, the company’s safety and security programme. Evolv marks the first addition to VenueShield since Covid as security and safety turn to new technologies to keep customers safe and to future-proof venues.
Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.
Astroworld investigation: ‘This is about learning’
Crowded space expert Professor Chris Kemp has spoken to IQ about concert safety following the deadly crowd surge at Travis Scott’s Astroworld Festival in Houston, Texas.
Police have opened a criminal investigation after at least eight people, aged between 14-27, died and hundreds others were injured at the 50,000-capacity event at NRG Park on Friday (5 November). Multiple lawsuits have already been filed by Astroworld attendees.
Inquiries are expected to take “weeks if not months” to complete, and Kemp, of Mind Over Matter Consultancy, hopes the findings will go towards preventing similar tragedies in the future.
“These reports sometimes contain less than is actually needed because they tend to focus on blame, rather than support in delivery and development,” he tells IQ. “But what needs to be looked at is both the distal and proximate causations – those elements are so important for the industry to learn from – because this is about learning.”
He adds: “There are a lot of things going on at an event of that size and you have to make sure you’re mitigating risks as much as you possibly can. But I can’t cast aspersions about anything that happened to that event, because I don’t know and we don’t know. All we’re getting is snippets from the press, newspapers, TV, and remember, people like sensationalising things. We need to know the underpinning facts. And as those come out, to learn from them and take that on board.”
Kemp explains the key areas likely to be scrutinised by the authorities.
“It’s most likely going to focus on the planning of the event, the management of the event, the artist’s behaviour, the crowd behaviour,” he says. “It will focus on a range of things with those as major blocks, but also the interoperability between all the services that were there.
“We haven’t yet really got a full view from anybody about what happened. We know what the main elements are, but the overall timeline hasn’t been released yet.”
It’s about three key elements: security, safety and service
Such concert tragedies are infrequent, but not unprecedented. Eleven people died in a crush at a gig by The Who at Riverfront Coliseum in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1979, while two people were killed at a Guns N’ Roses performance at the UK’s Monsters of Rock festival in 1988 and three people died at an AC/DC concert at The Salt Palace in Salt Lake City in 1991.
Since the turn of the century, nine people died at Pearl Jam’s 2000 headline show at Denmark’s Roskilde Festival and 21 people died and more than 650 were injured in a July 2010 crush in a tunnel that served as the sole entrance to the Love Parade festival in Duisburg, Germany.
“The occurrences themselves are fairly rare,” says Kemp. “But there are thousands of near misses. And it’s about three key elements: security, safety and service, which are things that you balance to make the event work.
“Planning, communication and management, of course, are absolutely essential in ensuring the event is fit for purpose before people come into it.”
Kemp also addressed reports that a concert-goer was going around injecting people with drugs at the Astroworld event.
“Although that was probably not a contributing factor to the disaster, I think it’s something that we need to keep our eye on because it’s been brought up from all sorts of different events, starting in UK nightclubs,” he says. “So it’s very difficult to get a handle on.”
Man dies after New York concert backflip
A man has died after falling from a balcony at a Dead and Company concert in New York last Friday.
Drinks entrepreneur Ian Crystal, 46, fell up to 50’ (15m) onto concrete after allegedly attempting a backflip during an interval at the show, held at the 42,000-capacity Citi Field stadium on 20 August.
According to local media, Brooklyn resident Crystal was found unresponsive at the scene after hitting the ground headfirst.
Crystal (pictured) , who is thought to have jumped from a second-floor concourse, was pronounced dead at arrival at New York-Presbyterian Hospital in Queens, the New York Post reports.
“Our deepest and heartfelt condolences go out to all the attendee’s loved ones”
A driver outside the stadium said he saw the man later identified as Crystal “flip” before falling and slamming into the ground below, the Post adds.
Harold Kaufman, a spokesperson for the New York Mets, who play at Citi Field, told CNN the following day: “We are aware of a tragic incident which sadly resulted in a fatality last night. Our deepest and heartfelt condolences go out to all the attendee’s loved ones.”
Crystal was the CEO of Evolution Spirits, which produces Monkey Spiced Rum, and formerly worked with brands including Abolsut Vodka, Malibu Rum, and Stoli Vodka, collaborating with artists including Jay-Z, Swedish House Mafia and Ne-Yo.
Disabled fans eager to return to live events
A new ‘audience snapshot’ by music and event industry charity Attitude is Everything indicates that a majority of Deaf, disabled and neurodivergent people want to return to live events – as long as accessible safety precautions are in place.
The poll of 289 individuals with a history of attending live events found that respondents went to more than 5,000 indoor and more than 1,200 outdoor live events in 2019 – from gigs and festivals to football matches and book launches.
Following the UK’s relaxation of restrictions on 19 July, 50% of respondents say they would feel comfortable attending an indoor live event and 73% said they would feel comfortable attending an outdoor live event, as long as they are confident that as many accessible measures as possible have been put in place to increase safety.
Almost three-quarters (74%) have additional access requirements in order to attend live events, such as companion tickets, accessible seating, step-free access and accessible toilets.
The results underscore the need for event organisers to ensure that access and Covid-safety measures are at the forefront of reopening plans.
Just over two-thirds (67%) of respondents considered themselves to be at heightened risk if they were to contract Covid-19, with 46% having shielded in 2020, and 27% feeling it necessary to return to shielding now rules have been lifted.
“More than ever before, it’s time to recognise that the disabled community are part of the life-blood of culture in the UK”
Furthermore, 42% didn’t see how a live venue could be a safe environment for them at the time they completed the survey (19 July– 1 August), with 24% feeling that they won’t be able to get to an indoor live event until next year at the earliest.
Eighty-three per cent said they would attend a venue or event that requires the NHS Covid Pass to gain entry, with 67% stating they would actively choose a venue that requires an NHS Covid Pass to gain entry over one that doesn’t.
Almost all (96%) of all respondents said it is important that venues and events engage with disabled people who don’t feel safe to return just yet, with 78% thinking venues and events should maintain online streaming as an option.
“In 2019, disabled people were big consumers of live events. In fact, in the years before the pandemic, the economic spend from disabled people attending live music grew from £3.4 million in 2013 to £9.3 million in 2019, so there was always going to be a huge demand from the disabled community to return to live events,” says Suzanne Bull MBE, founder of Attitude is Everything.
“Understandably, disabled people have real and deep-seated fears about how safe live events will be after the pandemic. I urge the live events sector to address concerns and make demonstratable efforts to welcome those with access requirements back to their venues and events, and for artists to become actively involved in this welcome.
“Over the past 18 months, disabled people have been loyal in donating to venues and campaigns to support musicians, and bought music, art and books to help creatives to sustain themselves. So more than ever before, it’s time to recognise that the disabled community are part of the life-blood of culture in the UK.”
Following the survey, Attitude is Everything calls on event organisers to check their post-19 July Covid-safety information and practices against its list of reopening measures supported by respondents.
We Are Ops, female-led operations firm, launches
We Are Ops, a new female-led event operations, safety and people management business, has launched in the UK.
Created by senior female staff at London-based We Are the Fair, an event production company which has worked on festivals including Field Day, Gala, Kisstory, Camp Wildfire and El Dorado, We Are Ops aims to boost gender diversity in what can still often feel like a “macho industry”, according to We Are Ops director and We Are the Fair head of production Yasmin Galletti.
“Since I started out in the industry 12 years ago, we’ve seen the workforce on site and behind the scenes become more balanced, but it still feels women are working in the shadows, not being given the platform or recognition that they deserve for their work,” Galletti explains.
“I feel proud and blessed to be part of a company that celebrates the female attitude towards event operations”
The We Are Ops team have 150 years of combined experience, with other members including health and safety advisors Sarah Tew and Francesca Boden and operations manager Jan Rankou.
The company offers services including licensing, traffic and security planning, safety management, sustainability consulting, risk assessments, crowd and capacity planning and accessibility and inclusion.
“I feel proud and blessed to be part of a company that celebrates the female attitude towards event operations,” continues Galletti, “especially in the area of health and safety, which is still a very male-led faction of the industry.”
Safe presents findings of three-year project
After three years of research, Safe, a pan-European project working to improve safety at live events, today (22 March) presented its conclusions.
Initiated and coordinated by French live music association Prodiss, in partnership with Le Laba (FR), Issue (CH), Mind Over Matter Consultancy (UK), TSC Crowd Management (NL), Wallifornia MusicTech (BE), ILMC (UK), BDKV (DE) and the European Arenas Association (NL), the Safe Project aims to improve the safety of live event spaces and develop the skills of safety and security professionals across the continent.
Initiated after the 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris, the project, funded by the EU’s Erasmus+ adult education programme, evolved with the Covid-19 crisis to ensure that health, safety and security continued to be seen as priorities during the pandemic.
As part of the project, Safe participants presented results of their research and experiments, including:
- The implementation of two innovative safety education programmes for event professionals
- Four tests of these new training formats on site with European experts in the field, at La Seine Musicale (Paris), Barclaycard Arena (Hamburg), MaMa Festival (Paris) and Eurosonic Noorderslag (Groningen)
- Two hackathons to develop technological solutions for welcoming and securing audiences, one in person at Wallifornia Music Tech (Belgium) and the other online in 2021
- An overview of European experiments (and lessons learned from them) following the pandemic’s emergence in March 2020
Five events were used to disseminate the results of the Safe project. These included an online webinar, broadcast in French on 26 February, and the recent 33rd International Live Music Conference (ILMC), which took place online from 3 to 5 March.
Following the initial broadcast of the webinar, which can be watched back on the Safe YouTube channel, 67% of participants said they plan to use Safe resources and 70% will to share the information presented with their colleagues.
Live events professionals may access the Safe project resources at www.thesafeproject.eu.
Safe to hold hackathon on Covid-19 solutions for live
Safe – a European project that deals with event safety, security and crowd management – is inviting the public to join its hackathon, which aims to find innovative and viable solutions to help festival and events manage the constraints caused by Covid-19.
The hackathon will take place in the form of an ideation camp with four different focus groups, which will be guided by experts from the live sector, safety management, technology, data, smart cities and sociology:
- Tracing, guided by Paul Williams (head of security, AEG, O2 Arena), will focus on how to collect and streamline Covid-related health data from live events participants and how to process them at an operational level while ensuring users’ acceptance and personal data treatment compliance.
- Customer journey, guided Daniel Fletcher (chief innovation officer, Primavera Sound) will tackle how to imagine and design the implementation of Covid protection measures in the customer experience journey, with the contribution of technology and data flow to avoid frictions and facilitate seamless access.
- Flow and distancing management, guided by Morten Therkildsen (head of security, health and safety at Roskilde Festival) asks what is the right set and use of advanced tools to facilitate crowd management and meet the requirements of social distancing and available spaces for participants (crowd counter, distance measurement or capacity simulation)?
- Social Acceptance, guided by Pascal Viot (head of safety, security and services at Paléo Festival, director of the Swiss Institute for Urban and Event Safety), will address a transversal framework for reflection on the social acceptability of Covid protection measures (in general as in connection with event activity). Existing tensions exacerbated after 2015 terrorism attacks are palpable today with Covid when it comes to the point of balance between control and freedom, the imposition of measures and the social acceptability of these. How could live events become a laboratory for measures and civic behaviours to be adopted in our daily lives?
The Safe hackathon will take place on 21 and 22 January from 9:30 am –12:30 pm CET. Each group will host a maximum of 12 participants and registration is now open.
Safe is a project lead by Prodiss, with International Live Music Conference (ILMC), Le Laba, Issue, Wallifornia, TSC Group Management, Mind Over Matter Consultancy, BDV and European Arenas Association, and backed by the European Union via Erasmus Plus program.
UK production pros launch Covid-19 working group
Professionals from across the UK concert touring sector have joined forces to launch the PSA Tour Production Group (PSA TPG), a new association that aims to provide a unified industry response to the impact of Covid-19 on live music events.
The group is a new arm of the Production Services Association (PSA), the trade body for the live event production industry, and includes tour managers, production managers, safety professionals, venue and festival managers, travel and logistics specialists, promoters and suppliers. Past and present clients of the PSA TPG team include artists such as Adele, Madonna, Pink, U2, Ed Sheeran and Spice Girls and events including Isle of Wight Festival, Lollapalooza and British Summer Time Hyde Park (pictured).
The formation of the group centres on getting touring professionals back to work safely, and supporting the sector’s survival, “in a pre-vaccine Covid-19 era”, according to the PSA, when tour-specific safety guidelines working around local threat levels will become the norm.
To that end, PSA TPG today (30 July) released a Working Procedures Guidance document which outlines how touring productions – defined as one-off shows, festivals and live events of any size that require moving personnel and equipment to a new destination – can better align with suppliers, venues and promoters to assist risk management relating to transmission of the coronavirus.
“Based around a hierarchy of control (including elimination, substitution, engineering controls, administration and PPE) and a responsive threat scale, the guidance details different levels of design, schedule and control measures appropriate to conditions,” explains the group. “These measures include social distancing, health declarations and monitoring, hygiene and cleaning, and mitigation.”
there’s no better group of people to find the solution than those that deliver shows for a living
The document is designed to add to existing guidance “by outlining practical measures that will inform tour-specific risk assessments and method statements”, the association adds. Production industry professionals are encouraged to provide feedback on the guidance via the PSA website.
Take That production manager Chris Vaughan says: “We have brought together the leading experts in live music concert touring to agree on how tours should be run whilst the threat of Covid-19 remains with us.
“Production and tour managers are responsible for the operational, logistical, financial, creative and technical delivery of concerts around the world and, as such, we are proposing a series of guidelines that can be practically and realistically implemented.”
Sam Smith’s production manager, Wob Roberts, adds: “Covid-19 is an unwelcome addition to the rider, yet there’s no better group of people to find the solution than those that deliver shows for a living. More than a document, this is intended to be a responsive set of protocols that efficiently move with a changing environment.”
“From an industry whose timeless motto is ‘the show must go on’, the pandemic has been a devastating blow, both economically and for the mental wellbeing of the huge number of people who work behind the scenes,” comments Mark Ward, production director of BST Hyde Park. “These new documents offer many of the answers those people are searching for.”
This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times.