Security warning over ‘Tomorrowland of Africa’
The embassies of three Western countries have warned citizens against attending an African music festival, amid a heightened terror threat.
East Africa’s biggest electronic music festival, Nyege Nyege is taking place in the city of Jinja, Uganda, from 9-12 November. Organised by Talent Africa Group, the event has been dubbed the “Tomorrowland of Africa” and is popular with international visitors who reportedly made up 5,000 of its 12,000 festival-goers last year.
However, the US and Irish embassies in Kampala, along with the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), have urged people to stay away from this weekend’s eighth edition.
“Due to increased terrorist activity, US Embassy Kampala recommends that individuals exercise an elevated degree of caution and reconsider attendance at upcoming large public gatherings, such as large-scale worship services and music and cultural festivals in Kampala and Jinja,” reads a travel alert.
“The US Embassy is directing its staff to not attend the Nyege Nyege festival in Jinja from November 9-12, 2023. Due to security concerns, we advise US citizens not attend the festival.”
According to Africa News, the warnings follow a number of deadly attacks in recent months in Uganda, attributed to Democratic Republic of Congo-based rebels, who have pledged allegiance to Islamic State.
Three people – including two honeymooning tourists – died in an attack in Queen Elizabeth National Park in Western Uganda on 17 October, while 42 people, including 37 pupils, were killed at a secondary school in June.
“There is a growing terror threat in Uganda, including targeting of foreigners”
“There is a growing terror threat in Uganda, including targeting of foreigners,” says the FCDO. “Avoid large gatherings, including large scale worship, and music and cultural festivals in Uganda.”
The British High Commission has advised against all but essential travel due to the “growing terror threat in Uganda, including the targeting of foreigners”, while the Irish Embassy has also issued a warning, with reference to “music and cultural festivals in Uganda”.
Uganda’s First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for East African Community Affairs, Rebecca Kadaga, played down safety concerns during a tour of the festival venue, reports The Independent.
“The president has requested me to assure you that all the major events in Jinja – starting with this one… are fully secure,” she said, adding that senior military and police officers had been deployed to oversee security at the festival.
A record label, booking agency and music studio also operate under the Nyege Nyege umbrella. Artists and DJ’s performing at this year’s event include Kampire, Aunty Rayzor, Menzi, Mika Oki, Rosa Pistola, Afrorack, Meme, Model Home and Karol Kasita. A four-day festival pass costs US$180.
The Ugandan parliament banned the festival, which was first held in 2015, in 2022, accusing it of “promoting immorality”, but later reversed the decision.
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.
LIVE urges government to revise ‘Martyn’s Law’
UK trade body LIVE is calling on the government to revise anti-terror measures for venues after proposed legislation was included in the King’s Speech.
In his first address to both Houses of Parliament since becoming monarch, King Charles yesterday (7 November) outlined the laws government ministers intended to pass in the year ahead, including to “protect public premises from terrorism in light of the Manchester Arena attack”.
The Terrorism (Protection of Premises) Bill – also known as Protect Duty – has been dubbed ‘Martyn’s Law’ in tribute of Martyn Hett, who was killed alongside 21 others in the bombing following an Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena on 22 May 2017.
It will require venues to take steps to improve public safety, with measures dependent on the size of the venue and the activity taking place. Penalties for non-compliance would range from fines to permanent closure and criminal sanctions.
However, following pre-legislative scrutiny of the bill earlier this year, the Home Affairs Committee warned that it would “place a significant and disproportionate burden on smaller venues” in its current form, while “failing to ensure adequate safety measures at all public events at risk of terror attacks”.
LIVE, the voice of the UK’s live music and entertainment business, argues the draft legislation has been “rushed through the pre-legislative scrutiny stage and lacks any thorough impact assessment, which risks leaving the bill in a sub-optimal state. Not least in the treatment of grey space in public areas outside of venues and events”.
“The live music sector fully supports cooperative efforts to make venues as safe as possible for fans,” says LIVE CEO Jon Collins. “Venues and festivals throughout the country are already working extensively with relevant authorities and continuously review security arrangements.
“Government must urgently redesign the bill to ensure it is workable, places no disproportionate burdens on venues”
“We share the assessment of the Home Affairs Committee which identified serious concerns about the proportionality of the bill and a range of unfinished provisions. The committee’s report vindicated our members’ view that the draft bill is impractical, misses its core aim, and, through the excessive penalties it proposes, would create existential risk for live music venues.
“Government must urgently redesign the bill to ensure it is workable, places no disproportionate burdens on venues and crucially delivers greater reassurance and safety for concertgoers.
“We will continue to engage with government and parliamentarians to ensure the bill is appropriately revised and strengthened as it goes through parliament.”
Under the current plans, a standard tier will apply to locations with a maximum capacity of over 100. This will include training, information sharing and completion of a preparedness plan to embed practices, such as locking doors to delay attackers’ progress or knowledge on lifesaving treatments that can be administered by staff while awaiting emergency services.
Locations with a capacity of over 800 people will additionally be required to undertake a risk assessment to inform the development and implementation of a thorough security plan. Subsequent measures could include developing a vigilance and security culture, implementation of physical measures like CCTV or new systems and processes to enable better consideration of security.
The Manchester Arena Inquiry, led by chairman Sir John Saunders, published the final of three reports about the bombing earlier this year, concluding that security services missed a “significant” opportunity to take action that could have prevented the attack.
The second inquiry into the attack, published in November 2022, made a series of recommendations for events after identifying numerous failings by the emergency services, while the first report, published in June 2021, which found there were multiple “missed opportunities” to prevent or minimise the impact of the bombing.
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.
Sweden introduces bag ban for major events
Sweden has banned bags at major events such as large concerts and festivals in response to the heightened terror threat in the country.
The Swedish Police Agency says the total bag ban, which also includes sporting events, is “based on the current situation in society and the fact that the terror threat level is a four”.
The move follows the fatal shooting of two Swedish football fans last month in Brussels, three miles from the King Baudoin Stadium, in an apparent terror attack before Sweden’s Euro 2024 qualifier in Belgium.
“It is a concrete measure that will limit the possibilities of bringing objects that could pose a danger to people visiting an event,” says Per Engström, section manager for coordination at Sweden’s national operational department.
Live music trade body Svensk Live has contacted the police to establish what they mean by “larger events” in connection with the bag ban.
“By ‘larger events’, the police mean that they are events such as arena concerts or similar”
“By ‘larger events’, the police mean that they are events such as arena concerts or similar, but add that individual assessments are made where the organiser in dialogue with the police must make an assessment,” the organisation tells its members. “This means that we recommend organisers to get in touch with their respective contacts at the police to find out what applies to you. The decision has been made to avoid serious crime.”
Exceptions may be made for people who need to bring a bag into a public event for medical reasons.
The Swedish Security Service raised the terrorist threat level in August alert following a spate of Quran burnings in Sweden, which sparked protests in Muslim countries.
“Sweden has gone from being considered a legitimate target to a prioritised target for terrorist attacks,” said prime minister Ulf Kristersson at the time. “Safeguarding the freedom, safety and security of Swedish citizens – in Sweden and abroad – is the government’s single most important task. We defend our open society against those who threaten it, and we stand up for our democratic values, but we also protect ourselves.”
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.
Geneva Arena concert cancelled over terror threat
A concert at Geneva Arena was cancelled shortly before it was due to start following an online terror threat.
French rapper Lomepal was set to headline the 9,500-cap Swiss arena on Saturday night (25 February), but the venue was evacuated after a threat was allegedly made on a social network.
“We received information that a threat had been made targeting the concert,” police spokesperson Tiffany Cudré-Mauroux tells Keystone-SDA news agency, via Swiss Info. “For precautionary reasons, it was decided to evacuate the premises and to carry out a search.”
Emergency services including police, bomb disposal experts and firefighters were deployed to the scene along with sniffer dogs. The Office of the Attorney General of Geneva says a 40-year-old man has been arrested and is set to appear before prosecutors.
A 40-year-old man has been arrested and is set to appear before prosecutors
Promoter Soldout Productions confirms to Radio Lac that “the concert was cancelled and the hall was evacuated on the orders of the police”, adding that the evacuation took place “calmly and without clashes”.
Director Julien Rouyer tells Le Temps the company is doing everything it can to find a replacement date for the show, which was part of Lomepal’s tour of Switzerland, France and Belgium.
A Geneva Arena statement says: “The Lomepal concert scheduled for this Saturday at the Geneva Arena unfortunately had to be cancelled and the room evacuated on the orders of the cantonal police. At the request of the authorities, no information could be given to the public during the evening.
“The management of the artist, Soldout Productions and the arena are doing everything possible to find a replacement date. Tickets from February 25 will be valid for the new date.
“As soon as this is communicated, more information will be sent about the procedure to follow for the possible reimbursement of tickets in the event that the spectators cannot/do not wish to attend the new concert. We are sorry for this situation and thank the fans for their understanding.”
Anti-terror legislation for UK venues moves closer
UK venues would have a legal duty to protect the public from terrorist attacks under new legislation being considered by the government following the Manchester Arena bombing.
The government has today (10 January) published a summary of responses to the Protect Duty public consultation.
Protect Duty, which would standardise more stringent, airport-style security checks at major entertainment and sporting venues, has been championed by victims’ groups, including the Martyn’s Law campaign established by Figen Murray following the loss of her son in the May 2017 attack in Manchester, which killed 22 people at an Ariana Grande concert.
“Following the tragic attack at the Manchester Arena, we have worked closely with Figen Murray, victims’ groups and partners to develop proposals to improve protective security around the country,” says home secretary Priti Patel. “I am grateful for their tireless commitment to the duty and those who responded to the consultation; the majority of whom agreed tougher measures are needed to protect the public from harm.
“We will never allow terrorists to restrict our freedoms and way of life, which is why we are committed to bringing forward legislation this year, that will strike the right balance between public safety, whilst not placing excessive burden on small businesses.”
A total of 2,755 responses were received from organisations, sectors and campaigners during the consultation period, which ran from 26 February to 2 July 2021. The majority supported plans to introduce stronger measures – including a legal requirement for some public places to ensure preparedness for, and protection from, terrorist attacks.
Taking measures to ensure that there is an appropriate and consistent approach to protective security and preparedness at public places is a reasonable ask
In the ministerial foreword to the government response document, security and borders minister Damian Hinds MP reasserts his commitment to advancing the legislation.
“Terrorist attacks can potentially occur anywhere, in large or small venues, at a range of locations,” he says. “It is vital that the government continues to consider how and where improvements can be made to combat the threat of terrorism and further enhance public security.
“The Protect Duty would be one means by which we seek to further enhance public security, sitting alongside our existing and ongoing work programmes to achieve this aim. I have noted the strength of views expressed in response to several consultation questions, that it is right that those responsible for public places should take measures to protect the public and to prepare their staff to respond appropriately. In short, taking measures to ensure that there is an appropriate and consistent approach to protective security and preparedness at public places is a reasonable ask.”
He concludes: “I recently met Figen Murray… and other representatives of the Survivors Against Terror Campaign Team, who have campaigned for ‘Martyn’s Law’, to ensure a specific legislative requirement be developed.
“I have also engaged with the Counter Terrorism Advisory Network, a national stakeholder forum, whose membership includes survivors of terrorism. Listening to and reflecting on the experience of survivors has reaffirmed my commitment to take forward Protect Duty legislation.”
The government is now set to process its response to the consultation and progress the legislation, with further announcements due from the Home Office over the coming months.
Arnaud Meersseman: Bataclan attack spurred me on
AEG Presents’ Arnaud Meersseman has said the attack on the Bataclan, which took place five years ago today, left him more determined than ever to keep working in live music.
Meersseman, whose then-company, Nous Productions, was the promoter of the ill-fated show, says that the alternative to continuing – to quit promoting concerts – would have been to hand victory to the terrorists responsible.
Meersseman was one of hundreds of people injured when three heavily armed Islamic State gunmen attacked the Paris venue during a performance by Eagles of Death Metal on 13 November 2015. Ninety people, including the band’s merchandise manager, Nick Alexander, lost their lives in what was then the deadliest attack on a live music event.
The attack, along with subsequent terrorist incidents at Manchester Arena and the Route 91 Harvest festival, had far-reaching implications for the live business, with stricter security and safety protocols becoming standard at large events.
The tragedy also continues to affect the survivors: As Meersseman points out, an article in this morning’s Le Monde reveals that some 30% of people who were at the Bataclan completely changed their career direction in the years following the attack.
“Convincing AEG to open their French office, and them trusting me to do, was me saying, ‘I’m still standing’”
For Meersseman, however, the choice was clear. “Yes, I was attacked and wounded at my place of work, but it’s more than just work – it’s my passion, my lifestyle, and the only job I’ve ever done,” he tells IQ.
Now general manager and VP of AEG Presents France, Meersseman says he “lost himself in work” in the aftermath of the attack. “I think I was pushed forward [by it],” he explains.
“Going after AEG and convincing them to open their French office, and them trusting me to do, was me saying, ‘I’m still standing.’ Because if I stopped, they’d have won.”
Five years on, 13 November understandably remains a “strange time” for Meersseman – although it gets “a little less strange ever year”, becoming more like a “black-and-white movie” than personally lived trauma, he explains.
While planning for terrorism is “now an accepted part of our jobs”, especially around periods of increased violence, the way Meersseman sees it, fans, artists and the industry have two options: “You either completely stop your life, or you carry on. And if you don’t carry on, they’ve won.” The latter, he adds, was “never an option”.
$800m for Route 91 Harvest victims
Survivors of the 2017 Route 91 Harvest massacre and their families will receive a collective pay-out of US$800 million, a US court has confirmed.
Hotel operator MGM Resorts International, whose Las Vegas Mandalay Bay hotel was the site of the shooting, agreed a settlement with victims last October, with the amount of compensation estimated at $735–800m depending on the amount of the claimants.
In her court order, Clark County, Nevada, judge Linda Bell said there was “near-unanimous participation in the settlement among potential claimants”, with a total of 4,400 claimants, according to the Associated Press, nudging the settlement towards the maximum $800m figure.
“We are grateful that the decision brings families, victims and the community closer to closure”
MGM acknowledges no liability for the attack, and will pay $49m of the settlement, compared to $751m from its insurance companies, reports AP.
Fifty-eight people were killed and a further 422 injured when gunman Stephen Paddock opened fire on Route 91 Harvest, a Live Nation-promoted open-air country music festival, from 32nd floor of the MGM Mandalay Bay on 1 October 2017.
The attack – the deadliest mass shooting in US history – also caused a mass panic that left another 800 festivalgoers injured.
“We are grateful that the decision brings families, victims and the community closer to closure,” says MGM in a statement.
United We Stream marks anniversary of Manchester Arena attack
The Manchester edition of United We Stream, a fundraising initiative launched in cities worldwide in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, is putting on a special four-hour show to mark the third anniversary of the Manchester Arena bombing.
The show begins at 8 p.m. tonight (22 May), marking three years to the day of the bomb attack that killed 22 people outside the 21,000-capacity arena following an Ariana Grande concert.
The commemorative show, which is organised by Greater Manchester’s night-time economy advisor Sacha Lord, will see Spice girl Melanie C perform a DJ set, promising “some uplifting pop bangers” and “a few cheeky classics from the north west [of England]”. The show will be available to watch on the United We Stream platform.
The Manchester Survivors Choir, made up of almost 100 people who were at the arena on the night of the attack, will also perform as part of the event, joined by former Coronation Street actress Catherine Tydesley.
Thanks to the efforts of United We Stream production team, led by director Colin McKevitt, the choir is able to perform together outdoors at Manchester’s Media City, while adhering to social distancing and infection control guidelines.
“At a time when we are living through another period when we need the city region to come together, we felt it right to pay tribute”
“I know how difficult this week is, not just for the families of the 22 lives that were lost, but also for the many families, NHS, police, paramedics, firefighters, first responders and people who pulled together on the evening of one of Greater Manchester’s worst days,” says Lord.
“I also understand the importance of coming together on this date, remembering those lives and paying tribute to those who risked their lives. At a time when we are living through another period when we need the city region to come together, we felt it right to pay tribute, but also allow residents of the city-region to dance their way through it, safely in their homes.”
Set up by Lord and Manchester mayor Andy Burnham, United We Stream has raised £320,000 for the city’s night-time economy, cultural organisations and chosen local charities.
United We Stream Greater Manchester is live every weekend. Viewers can watch for free and are encouraged to buy a ‘virtual ticket’ for any price they choose. Originally established by Berlin night Tsar Lutz Leichsenring, United We Stream has now launched in Belgrade, Detroit, Amsterdam, Hamburg, Stuttgart and Cologne.
It is normal to experience strong emotional reactions and thoughts ahead of the three year anniversary of the Manchester Arena attack this Friday. If you’re struggling during this time, please remember that help and support is available.
Please contact the Greater Manchester Resilience Hub:
Phone: 0333 009 5071
Email: [email protected]
The hub is open Tuesday to Friday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and until 8 p.m. on Wednesdays.
Security today: distraction and stagnation
“What has changed since Manchester?” It’s a good question, with a mixed answer. An awful lot has changed. But the bigger question is: “Has it all been beneficial?”
The answer, according to many of my colleagues, would be a simple “no” – and I would have to agree. Yes, a lot of good work has been done, but the direction and focus has often been confused.
Better CCTV, behavioural detection, closer relationships (in some places) with police and some re-engagement have undoubtedly been among the improvements. One really positive action has been the closer scrutiny by safety advisory groups (SAGs) into matters of event security – although the advice has not always been quite as helpful as it might be if SAG members had some training and better understanding of events.
So much money, time and effort has been spent in keeping ramming vehicles away from crowds that other risks have been side-lined and the ‘old-fashioned’ model of risk assessment seems to have been lost in the process. Of course, the consequences of a vehicle attack are likely to be catastrophic, but how great is the likelihood of it occurring? When we look at the risk of drugs, weather and all the other methods of terrorism delivery, the ramming attack risk must be placed within a range of threats and assessed properly. Yet, for the last two years, it seems to have been almost the only focus of many who give security advice for events.
It has taken the mayor of Manchester, Andy Burnham, to push for a wider review of event security overall, under the banner of ‘Martyn’s law’, after one of the victims of the Manchester attack.
I write this as the director of Gentian Events Limited, but I am also the chair of the United Kingdom Crowd Management Association (UKCMA), a group whose sole purpose is to try to keep crowds safe wherever they gather. The UKCMA wrote to Mr Burnham offering support for his cause two months ago and we are hopeful he will take us up on that offer.
When we look at the risk of drugs, weather and all the other methods of terrorism delivery, the ramming attack risk must be placed within a range of threats and assessed properly
We do believe more can be done, but a knee-jerk instigation of measures that are not commensurate with the threat cannot be the way.
For the last two years, we have exposed hundreds of thousands to lengthy waits outdoors in extremes of heat and rain while enhanced searches have been implemented. We may have deterrred and kept out terrorists, but we have created far higher-density crowds in vulnerable locations outside while doing so.
Worse in many ways, we have ‘locked down’ open street events by blocking off roads with concrete blockers, vans and HGVs to prevent hostile vehicle attacks. To date, none of those crowds have been impacted by other incidents, because if we had another Manchester, or a firearms/knife attack, a building fire, gas explosion or a drone crashing during these events, our policy of ‘run, hide, tell’ would immediately fail as people run towards blocked exit routes.
In the context of crowds, we are certainly seeing more ‘stampede-like’ behaviour, as frightened people misunderstand what their senses or other information sources are telling them and just run: The Black Friday 2017 incident at Oxford Circus in London (60+ injured as they “escaped” from an innocuous fight); the crowd-initiated evacuation at Global Gathering in New York (a fallen barrier sounding like a gun, with seven injured); and, just last month, self-evacuations at Bank tube station in London (another fight), and 22 injured in New York when a motorbike backfired. Free-running crowds will hurt themselves and each other. But if they run into a dead end caused by hostile-vehicle mitigation measures, the consequences will be worse.
So, yes, things have changed – and, in some ways, improved. But there is much more to do. We are doing our best, but the security industry cannot do this alone: we need help and we need to work together to improve.
E3S showcases the human ‘heart’ of event safety
The annual Event Safety and Security Summit (E3S) took place yesterday (8 October) as experts dedicated to keeping venues, events and festivals safe descended on the Congress Centre in London for a packed schedule of panel discussions, keynote interviews, quick-fire presentations and interactive activities.
“Safety and security are the top priority for AEG and for the industry as a whole,” commented AEG’s senior vice president and chief security officer Matt Bettenhausen, as he took to the stage to deliver the opening address to a packed room of delegates.
Information sharing, technological innovations, training programmes, anti-terrorism strategies and crowd management techniques were all discussed at the conference, but it was the people behind the projects that came out as the heroes of the day.
“In the end, our most important resources are our people,” said Bettenhausen, explaining his mantra of enlisting, entrusting, empowering and encouraging, assuring every person in the chain of command has the knowledge, confidence and skills to act. “This is what allows me to do my job,” stressed Bettenhausen.
People also formed the centre of the closing remarks of this year’s E3S, delivered by Sir Paul McCartney’s director of security Mark Hamilton.
“People are at the heart of everything we do as safety and security professionals,” said Hamilton, noting that his experience as a young concertgoer gave him a “unique perspective on how audiences should be managed”, as well as an innate sense that something should be “changed and improved”.
“In the end, our most important resources are our people”
45 years on, the security veteran stated that the industry looked “better informed than ever” and commended the collaborative spirit and distinct lack of complacency of all those attending.
Bettenhausen commented on the success of wider industry, noting that the business is in rude health and referencing the ever-increasing demand from fans to attend events, as seen by the recent example of Glastonbury Festival’s recent rapid sell-out.
For Bettenhausen, this demand to attend events, especially before line-ups are even announced, is based on trust – trust both in the event organisers and in security teams and their capacity to keep fans safe and secure.
Terrorism, sadly, remains a serious threat for the events industry, albeit a low probability one, and was discussed by the AEG chief, as well as by representatives of Sportpaleis Antwerp, who recently conducted a major simulation of a terrorist attack in their Belgium arena.
This kind of activity paves the way for thorough planning, another key aspect of ensuring safety at live events. “An ounce of prevention equals a pound of cure,” former Californian governor Arnold Schwarzenegger likes to tell Bettenhausen, the AEG security chief mentioned casually.
Other E3S 2019 highlights included engaging discussions on the psychology and management of crowds, the safeguarding of vulnerable people and the threat of cyber incidents.
“We must never forget that we are dealing with people here, and all of the human factors arising from excitement, anticipation, fear, expectation and cultural influences”
The haphazard nature of much security training was a topic that cropped up throughout the day. Andrew Tatrai of Australia’s Aces Group presented his research on how to train crowd managers, explaining how technology can be used to “mimic human intuition” and make crowd management more measurable. Tatrai has now developed a crowd managers decision support tool, using technology to visualise crowd dynamics, predict behaviour, quickly identify risks and mitigate potential issues.
Crowd control has been a focus for Festival Republic in recent years, said the company’s health and safety events organiser Noel Painting, speaking on the ‘Dealing with high risk shows’ panel. “The key thing for events at a major London park is dividing the audience up so we have access to them,” Painting explained, referencing “incidents” at a festival this year, saying changes “certainly” needed to be made, with the introduction of more metalwork to ensure more effective crowd management.
The erratic nature of crowds was explored by Hamilton, as he concluded E3S 2019.
“We must never forget that we are dealing with people here,” concluded Hamilton, “and all of the human factors arising from excitement, anticipation, fear, expectation and cultural influences that are ever present and always changing.”