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
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.”
MGM to pay $735m to Route 91 shooting victims
Hotel operator MGM Resorts International has reached a settlement of between US$735 million and $800m with the victims and survivors of the 2017 shooting at Route 91 Harvest festival (22,000-cap.) in Las Vegas.
According to Las Vegas law firm Eglet Adams, the final amount of the settlement is dependent on how many claimants come forward.
MGM subsidiary Mandalay Corps owns the Mandalay Bay hotel, from where gunman Stephen Paddock killed 58 and wounded a further 422 people attending the open-air country music festival in October 2017. A further 800 festivalgoers were injured in the panic following the shooting.
Hundreds of law suits have since been filed against the hotel giant, which also owns the venue at which the festival was taking place.
“Today’s agreement marks a milestone in the recovery process for the victims of the horrifying events of 1 October,” says attorney Robert Eglet, whose firm represents almost 2,500 victims of the massacre.
“While nothing will be able to bring back the lives lost or undo the horrors so many suffered on that day, this settlement will provide fair compensation for thousands of victims and their families.”
“While nothing will be able to bring back the lives lost or undo the horrors so many suffered on that day, this settlement will provide fair compensation for thousands of victims and their families”
“We hope this resolution will provide some sense of closure to our clients,” adds fellow attorney Mo Aziz, a partner at Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto & Azi, which represents more than 1,300 victims and survivors. “In this era of mass shootings, this settlement sends a strong message to the hospitality industry that all steps necessary to prevent mass shootings must be taken.”
MGM Resorts chairman and CEO Jim Murren, who says the deals represents “good corporate citizenship” on his company’s behalf, says, “our goal has always been to resolve these matters so our community and the victims and their families can move forward in the healing process.
“This agreement with the plaintiffs’ counsel is a major step, and one that we hoped for a long time would be possible.”
MGM Resorts had previously filed its own litigation against the victims in a bid to avoid liability. This settlement does not act as an admission of liability.
An IQ timeline of terror attacks at live music events and festivals predating the Las Vegas massacre is available here.
Anti-terrorism efforts at live events will form one focus of discussions at the Event Safety and Security Summit (E3S) on 8 October.
French decree offers funding for live event security
A new French decree focusing on safety at live events will provide funding for costs associated with security reinforcement, but will not cover expenses related to the deployment of extra police services.
A document penned by French interior minister Gerard Collomb last year proposed festivals and events reimburse the government for any law enforcement needed at live events, unless in the case of terrorist-related incidents.
The so-called ‘Collomb circular’ (circulaire Collomb) caused outcry among festival organisers who cited drastic security bill increases. Live music associations Prodiss and trade union Syndicat des Musiques Actuelles (SMA) lodged an appeal in November 2018, seeking a reversal of the proposals.
The so-called ‘Collomb circular’ caused outcry among festival organisers who cited drastic security bill increases
The new decree attempts to alleviate security costs and to improve safety at live events and shows, offering financial support to organisers to reinforce event security.
However, under the decree, the government will only reimburse losses incurred by public order-related cancellations of events in exceptional circumstances. Festival and event organisers are still required to cover the costs for policing in many cases, failing to satisfy the Prodiss and SMA appeal.
All companies pertaining to the National Centres of Choreography (Les Centres chorégraphiques nationaux – CCN), or those that pay entertainment tax, will be eligible for the extra funding.
The allocation of funding will be at the discretion of French minister of culture Françoise Nyssen, who will define the full details of the programme in the coming weeks.
E3S 2018: Collaboration key to securing the industry’s future
The Manchester Arena bombing of 22 May 2017 was a “game-changer” from a counter-terrorism perspective, laying bare the importance of a strong private security presence to combat the growing threat to ‘soft’ targets such as concerts, said Metropolitan police commander Lucy D’Orsi, opening the second edition of the Event Safety & Security Summit (E3S) on 30 October.
The Met’s deputy assistant commissioner in specialist operations gave a 15-minute welcome address in which she said the Manchester attack – along with the vehicle ramming attacks in Westminster and on London Bridge in March and June 2017, respectively – proved that “anything is potentially a target; anything is possible”.
D’Orsi’s address kicked off a packed day of panels, presentations and workshops for the sophomore E3S, which boasted more than double the content of last year’s debut event. More than 300 professionals from 20 markets attended the day.
Other highlights included a speech by Lord Kerslake, author of the eponymous inquiry into the Manchester Arena attack, who presented the key findings and recommendations of his report; panel sessions on ‘Protecting the Future of Live Events’, which examined what initiatives are helping develop an international safety culture, and ‘Learning Transferrable Lessons’, which considered operations from the World Cup to state visits by US presidents to learn lessons from each scenario; and a host of talks and workshops covering security training, emergency messaging, behavioural detection, lockdown procedures and more.
Lord Kerslake described the Manchester Arena bombing – the deadliest terrorist attack in the UK since the 7/7 bombings of 2005 – as a “brutal, real-world test” of the venue’s security procedures.
The Manchester Arena bombing was a “brutal, real-world test” of the venue’s security procedures
He identified four key lessons event organisers and venues should learn from the tragedy: That his review, commissioned by mayor of Manchester Andy Burnham, was “the right thing to do, and should become standard practice in future”; that “importance of partnerships” between stakeholders, as well as thorough emergency planning, “cannot be overstated”; that a “genuinely multi-agency approach” is needed in case of emergency (“even in strong partnerships, the tendency of agencies under pressure to default to a single-agency way of working is extremely strong,” he explained); and that however good those plans are, “the reality will be different. There is no substitution for good situational awareness and discretion.”
As terrible as the attack was, Lord Kerslake concluded, had it taken place ten minutes later – when more young fans were exiting the arena – the outcome would have even worse. “We cannot afford to be complacent,” he said.
A key theme of the E3S 2018 was the importance of openness among stakeholders and the ability – and will – to share crucial information.
The O2 head of operations Danielle Kennedy-Clark said the live events industry needs to get better at sharing data with each other. “As a venue,” she commented, “we have a very close relationship with local authorities and other stakeholders […] but I do still feel a lot of the time security is seen as a big secret. We’re getting better but there’s still a long way to come.”
Tony Duncan, who works as tour security director for artists including U2, Madonna, Rihanna and Sir Paul McCartney, said the events security landscape is currently “fractured at best”, tending to “react to big events”. The industry could, he suggested, benefit from “formalis[ing] procedures across the board”.
“A lot of the time security is seen as a big secret”
One popular presentation at E3S was a preview of the new Green Guide, given by Ken Scott of the Sports Grounds Safety Authority. Scott also spoke about how his organisation, formerly the Football Licensing Authority, was formed after the Hillsborough disaster to “sit over the top of all those competing commercial entities [football clubs] and take the best bits of each, which you [the entertainment industry] don’t have”. “Maybe you need something similar,” he said.
The SEC’s Jeanette Roberts, a former inspector for the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), suggested there could be an HSE-style government agency to set security standards industry wide. With HSE, she explained, “what they did was reach out to the industry for their knowledge – it was a brave step for the agency to go and say, ‘We need your help’.”
From a police perspective, D’Orsi concluded by saying it’s a long-term police goal to share as much information on threats as possible with venues and private security companies. Addressing delegates, she said: “Many of you represent iconic locations and events which are often broadcast live – and if you look at the propaganda put out by ISIL [Islamic State], Al-Qaeda and other groups, you are attractive targets.
“There will be less policing at live events in future – but the ambition to share as much as we can with you is very strong, and I’m confident we will achieve that.”
Terrorists looked to attack festivals in Barcelona and Benicassim
The group responsible for the terror attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils on 17 August 2017 had also researched music clubs and festivals in Barcelona and Benicassim as potential next targets, police information acquired by Spanish news agency EFE has revealed.
According to the report, the men searched the internet extensively for information on the Rototom Sunsplash Festival in Benicassim, The Razzmatazz concert venue in Barcelona and various LGBT clubs in Sitges, Barcelona. It is thought by police that the group were taking inspiration from the 2015 attack on the Bataclan in Paris and the 2016 attack at Pulse nightclub in Florida.
The information released by police is largely the result of the mobile phone records accessed from a phone belonging to one of the members of the terrorist groups, found in the chalet in which they planned the 17 August attacks. Also on the phone were searches looking for the capacity of the Colossos club in Barcelona.
Other web searches included “Barcelona concerts calendar,” “all festivals 19.08.2017 in the Valencian community,” “major festivals in Sitges 2017” and “major festivals Sitges Les Barrancas”.
The Mossos d’Esquarda, the Catalonian police force, said an attack on any of the places researched in Barcelona and Benicassim would have been a “valid target” for a terrorist attack, since they represent, “by way of music and shows”, the Western way of life that runs against jihadist ideology.
Other web searches included “Barcelona concerts calendar,” “all festivals 19.08.2017 in the Valencian community,” “major festivals in Sitges 2017” and “major festivals Sitges Les Barrancas” (a rural area of Catalonia). The searches were conducted in the period from 13 August to 17 August, the days leading up to the attacks.
In the two attacks actually carried out by the terrorist group, some 15 people were killed. In the most violent attack, the one on La Rambla, a popular tourist destination in Barcelona, a further 130 people were injured. Six attackers were killed by police.
The news that terrorists sought to attack popular music events in Spain comes as similar attacks have risen in frequency in recent years. Alongside the Pulse nightclub shooting and the Bataclan attack, other attacks in just last year involving live music have included the Manchester Arena bombing in May 2017 which killed 22 people, the shooting at BPM festival in Mexico in January 2017 where five people were killed and the shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Music festival in Las Vegas in October 2017, which left 58 people dead.
French government seeks to charge festivals for police presence
A controversial new memo has angered festival organisers in France, as it seeks to force festivals to reimburse the French government for any law enforcement needed at events. Under the new proposals, pushed by interior minister Gerard Collomb, festivals would be charged for any law enforcement called in for anything not related to terrorism.
The idea has largely been met with scorn throughout the industry, with organisers saying the proposal would not be financially viable without huge increases in ticket prices to cover the costs. The situation was highlighted by organisers behind France’s Eurockéennes. The new proposals would see the festival’s security bill rise from €30,000 to €254,000, a near 800% increase.
According to the proposal, festivals will not have to pay for police in the instance of a terror-related incident, however anything unrelated to terror will be chargeable. The problem, highlighted by media and organisers alike, is that the distinction between terror and non-terror related incidents is becoming increasingly blurry.
“The worst thing is that the police are there to ensure the safety of citizens, who already finance these operations by their taxes. “
France officially ended its state of emergency, declared after a string of deadly terrorist attacks across 2015 and 2016, last year. After the events at Paris’ Bataclan in 2015, the French government set up an emergency fund to cover the costs of heightened security around the country. This fund will be removed next year, leaving festivals, or rather festivalgoers, to foot the bill.
Organisers say this charge would mean fans paying twice for police protection. Yann Bramouillé, organiser of Couvre-Feu festival in western France, explains: “The worst thing is that the police are there to ensure the safety of citizens, who already finance these operations by their taxes.
“The increase in ticket prices, which is essential for our survival, would make them pay for this service a second time.”
Since the Charlie Hebdo attack in 2015, event security has drastically risen in cost, but payouts from the emergency fund have slowly decreased. These latest proposals have yet to be accepted or confirmed, causing organisers considerable distress. For now, festival organisers can only wait to see what decision will be made.