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Unsung Heroes 2020: Bobby Bähler, Gurtenfestival

Unsung Heroes 2020, published in IQ 95 just before Christmas, is a tribute to some of the organisations and individuals who have gone above and beyond to help others during a year unlike any other – be that through their efforts to protect the industry, or helping those who were in desperate need.

We turned to the readership and asked you to nominate worthy causes and personalities for consideration as the inaugural members of our Unsung Heroes awards. Now, IQ can reveal the dozen most-voted Unsung Heroes of 2020, continuing with Paul Reed of the AIF, who follows AIF’s Paul Reed.


Frustrated by the Swiss government’s handling of the pandemic restrictions, the Gurtenfestival team’s initial interaction with the authorities was to scold them for their haphazard approach, and bemoan the lack of dialogue regarding the live events sector.

However, director Bobby Bähler soon realised that, rather than bad will, the government actually didn’t understand the festival industry; the complexity of building a temporary festival ‘city,’ and the fact that an event that lasts four days can have a planning phase of several months, involving several hundred people.

“We went out on a limb and told [the government] that if they had a problem we could solve it, no matter what it was”

“We went out on a limb and told them that if they had a problem we could solve it, no matter what it was,” recalls Bähler. “A week later we received a request to build a [coronavirus] test centre that could test up to 1,500 people per day. After two meetings and 12 hours’ conception, we had the solution. And after nine days, the first person was tested.”

Bähler and his colleagues used Gurtenfestival subsidiary, EventOn, to build a software package for the test centre, making sure it could map the entire test process and handle everything automatically from registration to reporting the test result.

“We developed the entire medical process, engaged our event physicians, trained laymen to become test persons, and created the entire public and internal communication,” he tells IQ. “Our team at Gurtenfestival has really done a very extraordinary job, and it is an honour to work with them.”

All too aware of the serious strain coronavirus was having on the health care system, Bähler turned to the experts he knows to run the centre.

“In order to not deprive the health care system of specialist staff, we wrote to all of our employees – around 1,900 people – from the Gurtenfestival. Within 48 hours, we had well over 250 applications from people who wanted to work with us,” says Bähler.

“We were able to relieve the burden on the health system and provide jobs for people in our industry and the catering trade”

“In this way, we were able to relieve the burden on the health system and provide jobs for people from our industry and the catering trade, where they could earn good money with a meaningful job.

“All these people were laymen and were trained and prepared for their work by specialised personnel. Now, we have tested almost 10,000 people since 9 November and to date no significant errors or false results have been found.”

For the construction of the test centre, Bähler hired regional companies to deliver tents, containers, heaters, vehicles, etc. “Maybe we were able to save 2020 for some of the suppliers, with a good order before the end of the year, as many had suffered a 90% drop in sales this year.”

At press time, about 150 people from the live events industry remain employed part-time at the test centre. “But what is much more important is that we were able to show that we are professionals and that we can simply create something big and good out of nothing, with almost no time,” states Bähler.

“We are used to creating playgrounds for artists and demanding guests under the most difficult circumstances… this time we created a ‘testival’ instead of a festival.”

“Most likely we will run the test centre until the end of January 2021 and by then we will have tested 20-30,000 people”

The Gurtenfestival staff expects the centre to become increasingly busy as the holiday season rolls around, with concerned citizens anxious to know they are virus-free before attending family dinners and gatherings.

“Most likely we will run the test centre until the end of January 2021 and by then we will have tested 20-30,000 people,” adds Bähler.

But the work might not end there, as the Swiss government has also asked Bähler if the Gurtenfestival crew can assist in creating vaccination centres when the medicines start to become available.

“We must stand together through this time,” adds Bähler. “The virus will pass, but what remains is the deep desire to be together, to enjoy music, theatre and culture of all kinds in one place… When the post-corona period begins, a new and very promising time for us will begin. Society will appreciate that we exist and will take pleasure in compensating for what the pandemic has so miserably forbidden for so long.”

 


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Unsung Heroes 2020: Alexandra Ampofo

Unsung Heroes 2020, published in IQ 95 just before Christmas, is a tribute to some of the organisations and individuals who have gone above and beyond to help others during a year unlike any other – be that through their efforts to protect the industry, or helping those who were in desperate need.

We turned to the readership and asked you to nominate worthy causes and personalities for consideration as the inaugural members of our Unsung Heroes awards. Now, IQ can reveal the dozen most-voted Unsung Heroes of 2020, continuing with UK-based concert promoter Alexandra Ampofo, who joins the previously announced #feedourcrew in South Africa.


In addition to her regular duties as a promoter at Metropolis Music, Alex Ampofo has won praise from bosses for her consistent, caring communication with colleagues, as well as her tireless work with industry organisations Women Connect, Acoustic Live and Embrace Nation.

Ampofo launched Acoustic Live as an effort to keep stripped back music alive. “Over the last few months, we have been putting together webinars focused on moving the diversity dial in touring, hosting socially distanced music and poetry workshops, and continuing to support up-and-coming musicians with free services,” she tells IQ. “I also now sit on the board of directors for The F List, a directory of UK female musicians. Our mission is to help female and gender-minority musicians overcome structural barriers in the music industry.”

Also a not-for-profit female collective, Women Connect has a remit to create safer, inclusive spaces and equal opportunities for women, non-binary and gender-fluid people in the creative industry. Ampofo reports, “This year we managed to throw a sold-out international women’s party at Sony Music (pre-Covid), hosted themed online events to raise money for different charities, and started our own mentoring scheme with a full house of 20 mentees.”

“Our aim is to bring a new depth to understanding what our privileges are and encourage a safe space for open dialogue”

She continues, “Embrace Nation is also doing really well. We’ve had some great interaction in our company communications, and we’re doing our best to keep the conversations going, especially those about appropriate terminology, background and culture. Our aim is to bring a new depth to understanding what our privileges are and encourage a safe space for open dialogue.”

Also one of IQ’s New Bosses in 2020, Ampofo is inspiring other young people in the industry to engage in extra-curricular activities that, over time, will help make the live entertainment industry a better working environment.

She concludes, “It’s so important to communicate while we are all isolated, I think times like these can really highlight how vulnerable people actually are, and how much we rely on physical interaction in our day-to-day lives. Social media has made it easier to check in on our loved ones, that’s something to take advantage of if extra support is needed.”

 


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Christmas has come early this year: Read IQ 95 now

IQ 95, the latest issue of the live music industry’s favourite monthly magazine, is available to read online now.

December’s IQ Magazine is packed with the essential news, features, comments and columns – featuring a spectrum of voices from the international live industry.

The ILMC 33 conference guide gives readers a glimpse of next year’s global gathering of live music professionals, sharing details on how to register, who is playing and what to expect.

While the International Ticketing Yearbook assembles industry leaders from around the world to discuss the past, present and future of the ticketing business.

Elsewhere, IQ hails some of the Unsung Heroes who have been putting the welfare of others first during this trying year.

This year’s ITY assembles industry leaders to discuss the past, present and future of the ticketing business

And readers can also expect comments from Iceland Airwaves’s Will Larnach-Jones and European Commissioner Mariya Gabriel, alongside the second edition of our Covid Kit features and a 40th-anniversary feature on the iconic Resorts World Arena.

That’s in addition to all the regular content you’ve come to expect from your monthly IQ Magazine, including news analysis and new agency signings, the majority of which will appear online in some form in the next four weeks.

Whet your appetite with the preview below, but if you can’t wait for your fix of essential live music industry features, opinion and analysis, click here to subscribe now and receive IQ 95 in full.

 


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Penny Mellor to receive Unsung Hero award

Veteran concert safety specialist Penny Mellor is to be presented with the Unsung Hero award at the Festival Congress Awards in Cardiff next month in recognition of her more than four decades consulting on event welfare and health and safety.

Congress organiser Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) will honour Mellor (pictured) for her “over 40 years [of] managing welfare services and developing good practice guidance” at the event on 1 November.

Mellor, a longtime member of the International Live Music Conference (ILMC) team, worked from 1996 to 1999 on the UK Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) Event Safety Guide, and has also contributed to the Home Office’s ‘safer clubbing’ guidance for harm reduction at clubs and dance music events and the European Occupational Safety and Health Agency’s health and safety guidelines for workers at live music events.

“I am delighted that [our] work has been recognised by festival organisers and others, and that its importance is acknowledged”

She also works with A Greener Festival, and last year produced a Welfare Handbook section for the Purple Guide.

She tells IQ she was “shocked” to get AIF’s call but is “delighted to receive the award on behalf of all the real unsung heroes and heroines in the welfare teams who have helped and supported people at festivals over the years. They have done amazing work, often in very difficult circumstances, and have had to deal with some very upsetting and challenging experiences.”

She adds: “I am also delighted that this work has been recognised by festival organisers and others and that its importance is acknowledged. It’s been a hugely exciting journey through the festival timeline for me, and I look forward to interesting things to come.”

 


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