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Manchester Arena attack: Inquiry publishes first report

There were multiple “missed opportunities” to prevent or minimise the impact of the Manchester Arena bombing May 2017, the public investigation into the attack has found.

The Manchester Arena Inquiry, led by chairman Sir John Saunders, today (17 June) published the first of three reports about the terror attack, which killed 22 people at an Ariana Grande concert on 22 May 2017. The report, which looks into security arrangements at the arena on the night of the bombing, concludes that bomber Salman Abedi should have been identified as a threat on the night of the attack.

In his 204-page report, Sir John found a number of security failures that he says would have reduced the impact of the bombing, if not prevented it completely. The “most striking missed opportunity”, the report details, came from a member of the public, who raised concerns to stewards about Abedi’s suspicious behaviour in the run-up to the attack.

Although the stewards, Mohammed Agha and Kyle Lawler, took steps to investigate the man’s concerns, with Lawler stating that he thought “there was something wrong” with Abedi’s behaviour and trying to get through to a superior on the radio, his efforts were ‘inadequate’, says Sir John.

While approach by a steward or BTP officer may have caused Abedi to detonate his device, “it is likely that fewer people would have been killed” than were on 22 May, says Sir John. (Abedi ultimately set off his bomb as fans were leaving the show.)

Other failings identified by the inquiry include the lack of British Transport Police (BTP) officers in the arena’s foyer, for which there was “no satisfactory explanation”; a CCTV blind spot near the arena’s City room that allowed Abedi to hide from security cameras; and inadequate counter-terrorism training given the stewards.

Sir John additionally found that after the Paris attack of November 2017, the arena’s operator, SMG, should have “sought to push the security perimeter out, beyond the City room” to make “hostile reconnaissance” of the arena (now called AO Arena) more difficult for Abedi.

“We are carefully reviewing the findings outlined in volume one of the Manchester Arena Inquiry report”

Among Sir John’s recommendations are passing ‘protect duty’ legislation (sometimes called ‘Martyn’s law’, after one of the victims) for large venues such as arenas which would require them to consider terrorist threats and implement further protective security and preparations.

The public inquiry was set up in September 2020 to examine the circumstances leading up to and surrounding the bombing, and followed an earlier review headed by Lord Kerslake whose findings were published in March 2018. Though part one of Manchester Arena Inquiry says it holds BTP, SMG and security provider Showsec, “principally responsible for the missed opportunities”, the Kerslake report found that SMG and Showsec’s response to the attack went “above and beyond” the call of duty.

In a statement, SMG (now part of ASM Global), says that while security around live shows, and at Manchester Arena particularly, has “changed dramatically” since the 2017 attack, the company will take on board Sir John’s recommendations after having reviewed the full report in detail.

The statement reads: “On 22 May 2017, 22 innocent people tragically lost their lives and many others were injured when a terrorist detonated a bomb. The attack shocked the nation and the devastating impact was felt far beyond the city of Manchester.

“The impact was also felt across the industry and the environment in which we all operated changed dramatically that evening.

“Since the inquiry began, questions have been asked of SMG and others about the security operations in place that evening. Throughout, we’ve been committed to working with the inquiry to help the families of victims and survivors better understand the events of that evening, as well as look at the lessons learnt.

”During the inquiry process, the experts stated that they did not see evidence that the security operation in place at Manchester Arena was out of step with the operations being used at other comparable venues. In fact, the standards that we adopted were in line with published industry guidance at the time. However, this doesn’t give us any comfort. Our guests came to the arena to enjoy a show but were met with a horrific tragedy. For that we are truly sorry.

”All of us at Manchester Arena have learnt a lot since the events of that night and our security measures continue to evolve to reflect the threats we face today. Since the attack, we have further extended the security perimeter, adopted a more intensive approach to checking and searching including the use of walk through metal detectors and installed a new CCTV and access control system.

”All of us at Manchester Arena have learnt a lot since the events of that night”

“However, out of respect for those who tragically lost their lives on 22 May 2017, and those whose lives changed forever, we can never be satisfied that we have done enough. To that end, we will be reviewing the report findings in detail and the recommendations that have been put forward. Any additional actions we should take, we will take as we continuously challenge ourselves to be better.

“Finally, we share the chair’s admiration for those who responded so selflessly and heroically to this atrocity.”

“The chairman, Sir John Saunders, and the inquiry legal team have put an enormous amount of work and effort into this important public inquiry,” reads a statement from Showsec. “Showsec has learnt lessons from the terrible events of 22 May 2017 and, as the chairman has acknowledged, Showsec improvements are already in place.

“Having been provided with the first volume of the report, Showsec will take some time to consider both Sir John’s criticisms and his recommendations before responding as he has requested. As always, the families are at the forefront of our minds.”

Lucy D’Orsi, chief constable of the BTP, comments: “We are carefully reviewing the findings outlined in volume one of the Manchester Arena Inquiry report today.

“I would like to reassure everyone that British Transport Police, as you would expect, has been reviewing procedures, operational planning and training since this dreadful attack took place in 2017. We continue to work closely with our emergency service colleagues, Greater Manchester Police and other experts to strengthen our multi-agency preparedness for major incidents. We are committed to ensuring our staff are supported and prepared to undertake the roles they are required to do.

“We will never forget that 22 people tragically lost their lives following the truly evil actions of the attacker and many received life changing injuries . They continue to be at the forefront of our thoughts as are their loved ones and all those affected by this dreadful attack.”


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Arthur Awards 2020: All the winners

The 26th annual Arthur Awards, the live music industry’s equivalent of the Oscars, took place at London’s Sheraton Grand Park Lane hotel last night. The awards, which take place as part of the ongoing International Live Music Conference (ILMC), honoured the industry’s best and brightest across 11 awards categories.

The prizes were handed out during the Arthur Awards Winners’ Dinner, hosted by CAA’s Emma Banks, who took to the stage in a full hazmat suit and gas mask emblazoned with the letters CAA across her back in hazard warning tape.

As the evening culminated with The Bottle Award, the unique industry achievement gong, Emma was invited back on stage to receive it, to loud applause and a standing ovation. “If I should say anything, it’s that we should all pick up the phone more,” she said. “You can’t have a relationship via text message or Whatsapp. We need to speak to each, to be more nice to each other.”

It was a successful night all round for CAA, as Summer Marshall won the Second Least Offensive Agent award.

The prizes were handed out during the Arthur Awards Winners’ Dinner, hosted by CAA’s Emma Banks

Elsewhere, Live Nation’s Kelly Chappel took the best promoter gong, French festival Eurockéennes was crowned best festival, All Points East won best new event, London’s Roundhouse received the best venue award and Charly Beedell-Tuck from Solo Agency won the Tomorrow’s New Boss award, which recognises the industry’s most promising new business talent.

Notably, all Arthurs for individuals – the prizes for best assistant, professional services, new business talent, agent and promoter, as well as the Bottle award – went to women.

The full list of winners is below:

Venue (First Venue To Come Into Your Head)
Roundhouse, UK

Promoter (The Promoters’ Promoter)
Kelly Chappel, Live Nation

Festival (Liggers’ Favourite Festival)
Eurockéennes, France

Agent (Second Least Offensive Agent)
Summer Marshall, CAA

Production Services (Services Above and Beyond)

Professional Services (Most Professional Professional)
Tina Richard, T&S Immigration Services

New Gig on the Block (New Event)
All Points East, UK

Assistant (The People’s Assistant)
San Phillips, Kilimanjaro Live

Ticketing (The Golden Ticket)

New Business Talent (Tomorrow’s New Boss)
Charly Beedell-Tuck, Solo

The Bottle Award
Emma Banks, CAA

Prior to the Arthurs, ILMC head Greg Parmley presented two special ILMC Medal of Honour awards for longstanding service to the organisation. Production manager Bill Martin and agenda consultant Allan McGowan were both invited to the stage. “Bill is nothing short of a magician,” Parmley said,  “He juggles set design, lighting, stands, stages, and a hundred other elements to make the conference and this dinner happen every year.”

And speaking of McGowan, he said, “Across two decades, Allan has been a central figure in all of ILMC’s panels, putting hundreds of them together. And for ten years, his role as associate editor on IQ was instrumental in the magazine’s growth.”


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New chair for UK Crowd Management Association

The United Kingdom Crowd Management Association (UKCMA) has elected Eric Stuart as chairperson, succeeding Showsec’s Mark Harding.

Gentian Events director Stuart steps up following a ten-year tenure for Harding at the head of the association, which represents more than 40 British crowd-management firms.

UKCMA achievements over the past decade include the creation of National Occupational Standards and subsequent event industry qualifications, while Harding was also seconded to the SIA Strategic Advisory Group and will continue his work with the Safety Industry Authority.

He comments: “It has been an honour chairing the UKCMA throughout a decade of hard work; receiving SIA recognition has been ground-breaking for the industry.

“The future is very bright at the UKCMA”

“The commercial acumen and industry knowledge of the membership provides a solid platform for the new chairperson to take the association to the next stage of development.”

Other UKCMA personnel changes include Steve Blake of Storm4Events joining Tony Ball of SES Group (Show and Event) as a second vice-chairperson to support Stuart.

Anne Marie Chebib, who remains in post as secretary of the UKCMA, says: “The association sends immense thanks to Mark Harding for his tireless efforts over many years, and the support he continues to show in an ambassadorial role to ensure continuity for the organisation.

“We are also extremely excited to welcome Eric Stuart into role as the new chairperson and the creation of a new vice-chairperson role to support. The future is very bright at the UKCMA. We look forward to continuing improvement for all members and stakeholders”.


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Showsec renews with SMG Europe

Showsec has renewed its contract with the UK’s leading arena operator, SMG Europe, for a further five years.

The deal – which follows on from a previous five-year contract signed in February 2013 – will see Showsec providing security and crowd management services across eight SMG-run sites, including Manchester Arena (21,000-cap.), Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre (8,500-cap.), Metro Radio Arena (11,000-cap.), First Direct Arena (13,500-cap.), Baths Hall (1,024-cap.), York Barbican (1,900-cap.), Bridgewater Hall (2,341-cap.) and the recently opened Bonus Arena (3,500-cap.) in Hull.

Showsec will also look after the Event Complex Aberdeen (TECA), a new £333 million conference, exhibition and event venue opening in Scotland next year.

The companies’ relationship dates back to 1995, when SMG was contracted to provide security for the then-new Manchester Arena. Both SMG and Showsec were singled out for praise by Lord Kerslake for their respective roles in the aftermath of the Manchester Arena bombing in May 2017.

“We’re delighted to renew our contract with SMG, a company Showsec has grown up with”

John Sharkey, executive VP of SMG’s European operations, comments: “The security and crowd management dynamic is forever changing, and Showsec’s ability to manage to stay ahead of the curve with its training and recruitment programmes is part of our decision to continue with our long relationship.

“I’m reassured that these venues and their visitors are in the very best hands.”

“We’re delighted to renew our contract with SMG, a company Showsec has grown up with, and to continue refining and delivering a contemporary customer service across the SMG portfolio,” adds Showsec managing director Mark Harding.

“The Bonus Arena is an exciting new element in the equation, bringing the biggest performances to Hull on the back of its hugely successful year as city of culture. We are equally as excited for TECA’s opening, too.”


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Kerslake report: SMG, Showsec praised for “above and beyond” Manchester response

Manchester Arena operator SMG Europe and security provider Showsec went “above and beyond their roles to provide humanitarian assistance” to victims of the terror attack of 22 May 2017, according to an independent inquiry into the response to the bombing, the findings of which were released today.

The Kerslake review – established by the mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, and chaired by former Civil Service head Bob Kerslake, Baron Kerslake – found significant failings on the part of the Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS), whose firefighters, it says, did not arrive at the scene until two hours after the bombing.

The report also highlights communication issues between police and other agencies – a consequence of the former’s multiple “wide-ranging and testing” duties on the night – and the “complete failure” of an emergency telephony system provided by Vodafone, which caused “considerable distress on the night to families who were frantically seeking to find out more information about what had happened to their loved ones”.

Despite these failures, emergency services, arena bosses, staff, first-aiders and the wider local community were commended for their response to the attack by Salman Ramadan Abedi, a suicide bomber who detonated an improvised device outside the 21,000-cap. venue’s foyer after a show by Ariana Grande, killing 22.

Investment in emergency planning meant staff “were generally able to act with a high degree of confidence”, concluded the Kerslake-chaired panel, while “good judgement was exercised by was exercised key emergency personnel at critical points during the evening”.

“The stewards had formed a human wall to stop people going towards the smoke, which was extremely brave”

“Based on everything seen and heard, the panel believes that staff at the arena made a positive difference and that, without their contributions, the response would have been diminished,” concludes the report. “The panel recognises that SMG, Showsec and EMT-UK [first-aid] personnel went above and beyond their roles to provide humanitarian assistance, and that many of them attended to casualties in the foyer to the best of their abilities, putting aside concern for their own safety in order to try to save others.”

The report also includes several witness testimonies, many of whom praise Showsec’s stewards’ actions in the aftermath of the attack.

“When I was in the main arena, the stewards had formed a human wall to stop people going towards the smoke, which I believe was extremely brave,” said one, with another attendee adding that stewards “were fantastic and were trying to calm everyone down.”

“I felt the evacuation was done as calmly as possible considering,” said another.

Despite this, many of those who attended the show said they believed there was insufficient security at the arena, with bag searches particularly identified as being “inconsistent”. ““The security could have been better and there should have been more searches,” said one concertgoer.

However, Lord Kerslake’s panel countered criticisms of a perceived lack of security, pointing out that “the bomber had not attempted to gain entry to the actual venue, but had remained in the foyer, which was outside of the security zone”.

“There is a lot to be proud of in the response to the attack”

“The Manchester Arena attack was devastating for many thousands of people. We must think first and always of the families of those who have been bereaved, those injured and all those affected by this act of terror,” says Lord Kerslake, commenting on the publication of the report. “We have ensured that their views have been front and centre throughout this process.

“There is a lot to be proud of in the response to the attack, both for the city region of Greater Manchester and for the emergency services. The benefits of collaborative working and planning for emergencies were demonstrated to the full. And there were hundreds, if not thousands, of individual acts of bravery and selflessness.

“But it’s also vital to learn the lessons around things that did not go so well. It matters not just for the people of Greater Manchester and beyond who were caught up in the terrible events of that night, but also for places that might be caught up in such an attack in the future.

“I would like to thank all of those who contributed to this report. There was honesty, there was soul-searching, and there was a determination that their insight would benefit others in the future.”

Manchester Arena reopened on 11 September with the We Are Manchester benefit concert, headlined by Noel Gallagher.


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“A phenomenal success”: We are Manchester unites a city

Music returned to Manchester Arena for the first time since May on Saturday, as a capacity crowd turned out for We are Manchester, a benefit concert that marked the reopening of the venue and raised funds for a memorial to the victims of 22 May’s bombing.

James Allen, general manager of the 21,000-cap. venue, says the show was a “phenomenal success and this was down to the commitment of everyone involved, from the amazing artists to the dedicated arena teams, production and emergency services.

“However, it was the people who attended on the night representing Manchester who embraced the spirit of the event, and showed the strength that Manchester has – and that the arena is truly a part of the Manchester community.”

As with Eagles of Death Metal’s return to Paris, the concert – organised by the arena’s operator, SMG Europe – opened not with a minute’s silence, but a ‘minute of noise’, conducted by poet Longfella:

Other performances included the Courteeners, Blossoms, Rick Astley, Bugzy Malone, Pixie Lott, comedian Peter Kay and headliner Noel Gallagher, who shed a tear before performing Oasis’s ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’ – a song which has become symbolic of the city’s resilience, and was performed by Coldplay and Ariana Grande at June’s One Love Manchester concert.

The arena has been closed since 22 May, when a Muslim suicide bomber, Salman Ramadan Abedi, detonated an improvised device outside its foyer after a show by Grande, killing 22.

Security for the reopening was provided by Showsec, with Kay – a former arena steward – wearing a yellow Showsec jacket on stage. The company describes the event as marking both a “new era for the rejuvenated Manchester Arena” and a chance for its stewards to “settle in and feel comfortable working at the venue once again”.

Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, appeared before the show and read out the names of all those who lost their lives in the attack. “Thank you for being who you are,” he told concertgoers. “We are Manchester, a city united. Nothing will ever change us. Nothing will ever divide us.”

“We have had to come back to show defiance, to show we are not scared and we don’t want Manchester to be scared”

Those injured in the attack, along with families who lost loved ones, were among those in attendance at the show.

Charlotte Campbell, whose 15-year-old daughter, Olivia, was killed in the attack, told the Press Association: “It feels surreal at the minute. We have had to come back to show defiance, to show we are not scared and we don’t want Manchester to be scared.

“Music was Olivia’s life. If she had been still here today she would have been walking through those doors with us, showing her defiance, that they may have got her but she’s not beaten. She’s here with us. It’s a massive mix of emotions, there will be tears, there will be laughter, but the main thing is we are here. We have proved no one is going to beat us.”


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Security at “max capacity” after 40% drop in licence renewals

Britain is facing the prospect of a shortage of qualified event security staff following a sharp drop in the number of Security Industry Authority (SIA) licences being reissued.

Licence renewals have fallen almost 40% since 2013, according to a report published by the United Kingdom Crowd Management Association (UKCMA) – a situation which, if allowed to continue, could have a “dramatic” effect on safety at venues and large events in the UK.

“Given the ongoing heightened security threat levels, the traditional government security services are heavily supplemented by private providers,” reads the report, which follows a February 2017 survey by the University of Derby, backed by UKCMA and the Football Safety Officers Association (FSOA) that sought to explain the “diminishing numbers” of stewards in the UK. “[T]he impact of diminishing numbers of trained security personnel could be dramatic.”

The six key reasons cited for the difficulty in retaining security workers are poor rates of pay; irregular work patterns; the casual nature of the workforce; competition; the cost of qualifications; and the availability of qualified staff. The report suggests the event security sector “seems to be struggling with financial viability, which is impacting on pay and training budgets”.

This lack of qualified stewards is corroborated by UKCMA’s membership, who told the association that, “especially over the busy summer period” many security providers have been working at “maximum capacity”.

“The government needs to collaborate with industry authorities on an action plan to address the deficiencies in skills and numbers of security personnel”

Showsec managing director Mark Harding, who is also chairman of UKCMA, says it’s “encouraging that the industry has recognised there is a problem, as this acquisition of evidence is all in the interest of public safety. The next stage is to engage stakeholders to find solutions.”

Solutions suggested by UKCMA include diverting money from the apprenticeship levy, which it says is “unsuitable for supporting the night-time economy”, to training more security staff; creating new, more flexible, qualifications as an alternative to the standard NVQ; and ensuring the private security sector has the “necessary resources” to meet the increase in demand following a string of terrorist attacks.

“The government needs to collaborate with industry authorities on an action plan to address the deficiencies in skills and numbers of security personnel,” continues Harding. “The private industry must have the capability and capacity to meet not only ongoing business, but [also] any upsurge in demand caused by one-off incidents.”

A panel at the upcoming Event Safety & Security Summit (E3S), The 3 Rs: Reaction, Response & Recovery, questions whether there is a shortage of trained security personnel and resources. E3S takes place at the Intercontinental Hotel at The O2 in London on 10 October.

Conference agenda for first E3S announced


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Crowd management leader Mick Upton passes

One of the UK’s most prominent crowd management specialists, Mick Upton, has passed away. Upton founded ShowSec International Ltd in 1982 and was the recipient of numerous awards recognising his contribution to the field.

“He gave many people (including me) a start in the industry and had a profound effect on everyone he met and worked with,” says Jon Corbishley at the Safety Officer Pty.

Following his retirement from ShowSec in 2000, Upton worked with Chris Kemp and Iain Hill on the development of the first ever crowd management foundation degree course at Buckinghamshire Chilterns University College (now Buckinghamshire New University).

A statement from ShowSec pays tribute a “pioneer in the crowd-management industry” who made it “his life’s work to enhance standards for crowd safety and promote a professional approach to event security.

“Above all, he was a kind and caring man, always taking time to provide others with advice or encouragement to assist them in their careers or lives. A true gentleman; may he rest in peace.”

“His sheer enthusiasm and lust for life were his hallmark and shone through”

In 2005, Upton was awarded a Doctorate for his work and he was appointed as the first Head of the Centre for Crowd Management & Security Studies at BNU. He retired from that position in December 2007.

“There are three things that stick in my mind about Mick,” says Kemp. “The first was the day I first met him back stage at Bon Jovi at Milton Keynes Bowl where we talked about the possibility of education courses for the crowd management industry. His sheer enthusiasm and lust for life were his hallmark and this shone through in just speaking about the possibilities.

“Secondly his generosity. Mick never wanted much, when we finished our first book, Case Studies in Crowd Management, Mick came to my house for Dinner with Iain Hill to celebrate, it was a great night and his generosity of spirit just amazed us as we talked for hours about the next steps. Thirdly, he was just a great guy, never saw the bad in others just the opportunities and possibilities. He was the last of a breed. The mould has been thrown away and he will be sorely missed.”

“He was just a great guy, never saw the bad in others just the opportunities and possibilities. He was the last of a breed”

Upton’s career in the security business began in the sixties when he worked as a close protection bodyguard for a wide range of VIP clients including the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Subsequently, as Head of Security at Artistes Services Ltd, he worked with celebrity clients that ranged from ABBA to Led Zeppelin.

It was this period that saw his keen interest in crowd management develop, specifically following the death of a young woman at a 1974 David Cassidy concert at which he was working.

Upton frequently consulted with police services, local authorities and foreign agencies on both crowd management and close security. In 2009, he acted as liaison between UK Special Forces and BNU to successfully establish civilian qualifications for military close protection training.

In addition to the book that Upton co-authored with Kemp and Hill, he also published From Ancient Rome to Rock & Roll – A Review of the UK Leisure Security Industry in 2007.


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