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Sony’s Senbla acquires first festivals

London-based promoter Senbla has acquired its first greenfield festivals, snapping up boutique UK events Strawberries & Creem and The Cambridge Club.

Senbla – itself acquired by Sony Music last year – says the deal will allow S&C Productions, the company behind the festivals, to expand their offering, with both events expanding to two days, with larger production and capacities of up to 20,000 apiece in 2021.

Founded in 2014, Cambridge’s Strawberries & Creem has grown from a small club event to a 10,000-capacity greenfield festival, having hosted performances by the likes of Skepta, Nelly, Kano, J Hus, T-Pain, Shaggy, Stefflon Don and Ms Dynamite.

The Cambridge Club launched in 2017, with past performers including Sister Sledge, Gabriella and Craig Charles.

Senbla CEO Ollie Rosenblatt comments: “We’ve been looking to move into the festival space for some time now, and this young team, full of positive energy, have created two unique events that have the potential to have a seismic impact on the UK scene.

“Strawberries & Creem should be the biggest multi-genre festival in the country, celebrating an array of brilliant and ground-breaking artists alongside legendary acts across hip hop, rap, dancehall, Afrobeats and electronic dance music, while The Cambridge Club will have a totally unique entertainment offering across music, comedy, theatre, technology, food and drink for all ages, taking its inspiration from the heritage of the great city in which it is located.

“We have reached the point where our festivals deserve to be standalone, weekend events”

“I truly believe these are two of the most exciting properties in the marketplace, and both will be major events in the festival calendar.”

The festivals will continue to be led by William Young (managing director), Chris Jammer (brand and partnerships), Preye Crooks (music and talent), Sam Mellor (marketing and communications), Frazer Robinson (event promotions) and Louise Young (finance and operations).

“We’ve been growing our festivals year on year since we started and, after laying the foundations and building two strong brands, we have reached the point where they deserve to be standalone, weekend events, with expanded capacities, upgraded production and improved experiential offerings,” explains Young.

“With the backing of Senbla and Sony, we’re confident that we can take all of these key elements to the next level, as well as enhancing our ability to compete for world-class artist bookings. We want both Strawberries & Creem and The Cambridge Club to be the leading festivals of their kind in the UK, and this is the best possible next step to achieving that vision.”

Past Senbla events include concerts by Burt Bacharach, Diana Ross, Marc Almond, Michael Bublé, Ennio Morricone and Quincy Jones, and screenings with live orchestra of Love Actually, Harry Potter, Star Wars, Beauty and the Beast and Joker.

 


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Debut IPM Says! panel highlights live’s resilience

The inaugural virtual ILMC Production Meeting (IPM) panel, IPM Says!, took place last week, with eight live event production professionals coming together to discuss positive ways of moving forward from the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

IPM’s Carl A H Martin chaired the panel, entitled It Ain’t All Doom and Gloom, which reflected on the resilience of the industry, the creativity of those within it and the road to recovery.

ITB agent Steve Zapp stressed that different markets were moving at different speeds, with “very little” currently possible in the UK. However, whereas the earlier weeks of the crisis had been characterised by cancellations and postponements, conversation has now turned to recovery.



Andy Lenthall from trade association Production Services Association (PSA) said while members were currently doing little in live events, the organisation has been busy helping them to navigate this “temporary normal” and “helping people to help themselves”.

“I have faith in an industry that is resilient and full of resolve to get back to work,” said Lenthall, who stated he was looking forward to the release of UK government guidance on how to get back to work safely.

For Sarah Hemsley-Cole, company director of Cardiff-based SC Productions, work has not fully come to a halt, with the company getting involved in various products, including helping to set up a makeshift field hospital at the Principality Stadium.

“I have faith in an industry that is resilient and full of resolve to get back to work”

Vatiswa Gilivane, business development manager at the 20,000-capacity Ticketpro Dome in Johannesburg, said her team has also found alternative ways of working, with events still prohibited in South Africa.

“We had to change the way we think,” said Gilivane. “We could no longer rely on others to bring us opportunities, but had to use our own expertise and start creating our own content.”

Máté Horváth from Hungary’s DDW Music said things are opening up in the country for open-air shows, with some venues now also beginning to open up in different ways, acting as beer gardens, for example, in order to generate some revenue.

The ban on large-scale events in Hungary expires on 15 August, said Horváth , “so there could be some major festivals going ahead after this date, with a line-up of domestic acts”.

In general, shows are being moved to 2021, added Horvath, and although this may be a less optimistic scenario, “it is much more secure” and likely to be better for the industry in the long run.

Alberto Artese from Italian industry organisation Assomusica said that live shows will be permitted again in Italy in the next week “but there will be many rules”. From 15 June, 1,000 fans will be allowed at open-air shows and 200 people – including staff and artists – at indoor shows.

“We could no longer rely on others to bring us opportunities, but had to use our own expertise and start creating our own content”

The viability of capacity limits and social distancing measures was a talking point for panellists, with many stressing the importance of proper collaboration between the industry and national governments.

ASM Global’s Paul Sergeant OBE spoke of the newly formed Live Entertainment Industry Forum in Australia, which acts as a conduit between the live industry and the government, developing a way to safely reopen events.

Neighbouring New Zealand is lifting all restrictions on live events this week, focusing on contact tracing to prevent outbreaks of the virus, rather than relying on social distancing measures. “We’d like to think Australia might follow suit in the not too distant future,” said Sergeant.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport in the UK has similarly asked for industry input on how to reopen safely, said Lenthall.

“Every government around the world sees the value of live events, but we are going to be the last to reopen as we are the most challenging environment.”

Lenthall stressed that social distancing cannot be a financially viable solution for live events. “Globally, we will see a different approach that doesn’t include distancing.”

“Every government around the world sees the value of live events, but we are going to be the last to reopen as we are the most challenging environment”

Zapp agreed that alternative forms of live shows, such as drive-ins, behind-closed-doors concerts and pay-per-view virtual events, while “great as a one-off” have a “lesser impact” over time.

For Zapp, one of the most encouraging things throughout the crisis has been the “incredibly low” number of refund requests, which indicates that fans are keen to get back to events and has helped to avoid “massive problems” with cash flow.

Chrissy Uerlings of Germany’s CU Production Gmbh summed up much of what had been said, pointing out that problem solving and coming up with creative solutions had become key, something that the live industry has always excelled at.

“We have to be smart and it was clear that, for many of us as freelancers, we had to do this on our own.

“If you let loose, then you have two hands free – and that makes you creative.”

IPM Says! will be back next month, with full details available on the IPM LinkedIn page and the International Live Music Conference (ILMC) Facebook page in due course.

 


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