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ID&T to sue Dutch gov over “disproportionate” restrictions

ID&T, the promoter behind festivals including Mysteryland and Awakenings, has announced it is taking the Dutch government to court over new Covid restrictions, which have been reimposed just weeks after they were lifted.

Prime minister Mark Rutte held a press conference last Friday (9 July), in which he announced that restrictions would renew on 10 July and remain until 14 August, in an effort to halt a sudden surge in Covid-19 restrictions.

Under the new measures, multi-day events will be banned and only one-day festivals will be permitted until 14 August, provided visitors are given a seat and no more than a thousand people attend.

In the press conference, Rutte said the government won’t give any more clarity until 14 August for events after that date – leaving organisers in a stalemate situation.

ID&T called the measures “disproportionate” and announced that the company would be filing a draft subpoena with the court today (12 July).

“It is our expertise to organise events well and safely and we know that our audience has the discipline,” says said Ritty van Straalen, CEO of ID&T.

“It feels like a death knell for our industry”

“We are now the good who suffer from the bad and it seems that the government prefers holidays over festivals. You can’t go into recess at a crucial moment like this and leave the industry dangling. Young people are disproportionately affected by these measures. The social importance of our industry is enormous.”

Mojo-promoted event A Campingflight to Lowlands Paradise (aka Lowlands) is due to take place on 20–22 August but festival director Eric van Eerdenburg tells IQ that the Dutch government has created an “unworkable situation”.

“For our festivals, Lowlands (20–22 August) and Down The Rabbit Hole (27–29 Aug), as well as suppliers and artists, this has created a lot of uncertainty. We are already building the infrastructure as we speak, and will continue to do so as we believe it should be possible to let them happen,” says Eerdenburg.

“Our belief is based on a constructive relationship between Mojo and the ministries of health and economic affairs, as well as the Outbreak Management Team that advises the government, we will get more clarity on how we can move on after close consultation in the next few days,” he added.

The Association of Dutch Poppodia and Festivals (VNPF) and the Association of Event Makers (VVEM) are also hoping to sit down with ministers to get a perspective on the summer season and discuss extra support measures.

In January, the government announced a €385 million insurance fund which would compensate organisers 80% of the costs of their event if it is cancelled due to state-enforced coronavirus measures.

“You can’t go into recess at a crucial moment like this and leave the industry dangling”

However, VNPF and VVEM are calling for the compensation to be increased to 100% and extended to organisers who have to cancel within an “unreasonably short period of time” but can’t claim under the scheme.

Eerdenburg says that Mojo is also pushing for the scheme to cover fees for UK artists, as well as those of Dutch and EU artists.

In a joint statement, the VNPF and VVEM wrote: “It feels like a death knell for our industry. Of course, it is understandable that measures are taken when the infection rate increases. However, within those measures, the industry that has not contributed to that higher infection rate at all is being hit hard. It was precisely our industry – the only industry in the Netherlands – that has actively sought solutions in recent months in collaboration with science and ministries.”

Fieldlab Evenementen – an initiative of the Dutch government and several trade bodies – recently revealed findings from three months’ worth of pilot events in the Netherlands show that the risk of Covid-19 infection, when following certain hygiene and testing protocols, is about the same as being at home.

According to OurWorldinData, daily cases in the Netherlands have risen almost sevenfold, from a rolling seven-day average of 49.2 per million people on 4 July to 328.7 on Sunday (11 July).

The Dutch prime minister today (12 July) acknowledged that the cabinet made an error of judgment with the rapid relaxation at the end of June. “What we thought was possible, was not possible.”

 


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Resurgent live music sector faces staff shortages

UK industry bodies including LIVE (Live music Industries Venues and Entertainment), the Concert Promoters Association, the Events Industry Forum and the UK Crowd Management Association have written to the prime minister regarding what they describe as crippling staff shortages across large parts of the UK economy.

The live entertainment and events associations are joined by trade bodies representing other sectors, including hospitality, food and drink and retail, in calling for government action to help remediate the situation, with the letter suggesting that EU workers could be allowed to return on a short-term basis to help fill the empty roles.

“While the overall picture is complex, one short-term solution with immediate benefit would be to temporarily ease immigration requirements for the large numbers of workers, particularly from the EU, who have returned to their homelands during the lockdowns. This has contributed greatly to the shortfalls,” reads the letter, which can be read here.

“Indeed, a study in 2020 by the UK’s Economic Statistics Centre of Excellence estimated that 1.3 million migrants left the UK between July 2019 and September 2020. This figure was based on UK labour statistics, and represents over 4% of the UK workforce.

“Unfortunately, evidence suggests that those unemployed within the UK workforce seem unwilling to take on many of the jobs where there are vacancies in the industries we represent. To help resolve this we ask that all those who have worked in the UK over the last three years are given the freedom to return to work here with less restrictive immigration regulations on a short-term basis.

“One short-term solution with immediate benefit would be to temporarily ease immigration requirements”

“A relaxation of the rules does not need to be open ended but it needs to happen quickly if we are to support the recovery of the UK economy.”

The letter comes as entertainment and hospitality businesses in other countries also warn they are facing a staff shortage as they begin to reopen this summer.

In the Netherlands, live music association VNPF is warning that the industry will likely be short of staff when full-capacity shows restart later this year, with many professionals having left the industry over the past 16 months.

Both venues and festivals are short of people, VNPF director Berend Schans tells NU.nl, with the former sector having laid off an average of 20% of their staff last year and the latter probably even more. “Exact figures are lacking, but because that industry [festivals] has been hit even harder than venues, and they have received relatively less government support, I would say that the situation there is even more serious, especially in view of the lay-offs at Mojo Concerts and ID&T, for example.”

Similarly, France, the US and New Zealand are all facing post-pandemic labour shortages, particularly in the hospitality sector, and while the issue has been exacerbated by Brexit in the UK, experts have been warning of shortages for months.

“This will need a government intervention to ensure that the industry has the ability to provide enough staff”

The UK Door Security Association (UKDSA) said back in march that venues and clubs could face trouble reopening as planned following an exodus of security staff during the pandemic.

In addition to EU workers who have gone home, many qualified door staff were forced to find work elsewhere when venues were closed in March 2020.

According to the Security Industry Authority (SIA), over a quarter of the UK’s total security workforce were non-UK nationals in 2018. The UKDSA estimates that over half of the vacancies in the sector may be left unfilled when business restarts gets back to normal later this summer.

“This will need a government intervention to ensure that the industry has the ability to provide enough staff,” says Michael Kill, CEO of the Night Time Industries Association. Concerning new elements in the SIA door supervisor licence which require more training for door staff, Kill adds: “While the training is welcomed, it is not timely given the current economic situation across most of the sector, and consideration needs to be given to it being pushed back to 2022.”

Read IQ’s feature on the challenges of recruiting and restaffing post-pandemic in the latest, 100th issue of the magazine.

 


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Netherlands mulls cancellation fund for concerts

The Dutch government is considering introducing a German-style fund to reimburse organisers whose events are cancelled by coronavirus restrictions.

Following lobbying by the Alliance of Event Builders (Alliantie van Evenementenbouwers), an umbrella group whose members include promoters’ association VVEM and festival/venues body VNPF, calls for a cancellation fund have reached the corridors of power in the Netherlands, with minister of culture Ingrid van Engelshoven said to be close to making a decision on the way forward for live events.

In December, Germany became the latest European country to set up a cancellation fund, worth €2.5 billion, to de-risk the organising of live events while Covid-19 (and associated restrictions on freedom of assembly and movement) is still a threat.

Austria, meanwhile, set up a €300 million fund of its own in October, while pressure is growing in the UK for a similar government-backed insurance fund.

“We are happy to make it a happy new year, but we need a guarantee fund from the government”

A spokesperson for van Engelshoven (pictured) tells the VPRO the minister will announce whether her department is backing a ‘guarantee fund’ by early February at the latest.

Jolanda Jansen, a spokesperson for the alliance, comments: “I am looking enthusiastically at the 2021 events schedule, with major international crowd-pullers, such as the Eurovision Song Contest and [the delayed] Euro 2020, set to really put the Netherlands on the map,” says alliance spokesperson Jolanda Jansen. “In addition, we have a rich festival culture with around 1,200 festivals, from small to large, throughout the country, and we know a large number of clubs and theatres.

“Almost everyone in our industry is eager and ready to get back to work. We are happy to make it a happy new year, but we need commitments and a guarantee fund, on the German model, from the government to continue.”

 


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Ben je oké? Biz backs Dutch anti-harassment initiative

To mark 6–12 October’s ‘national action week’ against unwanted sexual behaviour, Dutch promoters’ association VNPF, along with some of the Netherlands’ leading music venues and festivals, have thrown their support behind Ben je oké?, a new campaign taking aim at sexual harassment at night-time events.

An initiative of sexual and reproductive rights charity Rutgers, Ben je oké? (Dutch for ‘Are you okay?’) is backed by VNPF (Dutch Promoters and Festivals Association), Celebrate Safe and No Thanks!, and seeks to raise awareness of sexual harassment in a country where more than half of women and one in five men have been the victim of inappropriate sexual behaviour, according to Rutgers.

The idea behind the campaign is simple: To encourage concertgoers who witness unwanted sexual behaviour to ask the victim, “Are you okay?”. There are videos on the Ben je oké? website showing how to discuss the incident and deal with the reaction of the other person, and people are encouraged to share their stories and photos on social sites such as Instagram and Snapchat to normalise such conversations. “This way we can make it clear that it is okay to discuss inappropriate sexual behaviour,” says Rutgers director Ton Coenen.

“We believe that the Netherlands is ready for a cultural change”

Although sexual harassment is common throughout society at large, Coenen says it’s especially prevalent at concerts, festivals and nightlife events, “where flirting plays a big role, and boundaries blur”.

“These figures are unfortunately not new,” says Coenen. “We believe that the Netherlands is ready for a cultural change. A culture in which everyone realises that sexual [interaction] is only okay if you both want it.”

Other supporters of the campaign include Eurosonic Noorderslag, Welcome to the Village and venues TivoliVredenburg, Melkweg and Luxor Live, as well as several Dutch municipalities.

“It is important that we work together as venues, clubs [and] festivals […] to make going out safer by reducing unwanted sexual behaviour,” says Sandrijn Dekkers, GM of Amsterdam’s Melkweg.

 


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Industry groups protest Dutch smoking ban

Representatives of the Netherlands’ two major live music industry associations have written to Dutch health minister Paul Blokhuis to appeal a recent legal ruling that outlaws smoking in music venues.

As a result of a decision by the Hague’s court of appeal on 13 February, indoor smoking rooms are no longer permitted in cafés, bars, restaurants, nightclubs, concert halls and other venues where food may be served. Although smoking has been prohibited indoors in the Netherlands since 2008, these venues were previously excluded from the ban – a position the court now says violates the United Nations’ framework convention on tobacco control.

The decision was met with dismay by the Dutch Promoters and Festivals Association (VNPF) and Association of Event Producers (VVEM) – which between them represent major arenas such as Amsterdam ArenA, GelreDome, AFAS Live and Ziggo Dome, along with more than 400 festivals and events – with the associations warning, among other things, that forcing smokers outdoors presents a danger to public safety.

The letter, seen by Entertainment Business, urges Blokhuis to consider appealing against the judgment on a number of grounds.

The associations say that to force smokers to light up outside “is impossible and irresponsible”

Among their objections are that the ban creates legal inequality – penalising venues while allowing offices and other public spaces to continuing to provide indoor smoking rooms – and makes existing smoking rooms, often built at significant cost to the venues, worthless without providing for compensation.

On the safety front, meanwhile, the associations say that to force smokers to light up outside “is impossible and irresponsible”. “The objective of a good promoter is to keep visitors safe and secure,” the letter reads, saying “it is simply impossible and unsafe” having “thousands and thousands of people [walking] in and out” of major venues such as the 17,000-cap. Ziggo Dome to smoke.

“For the entire event sector,” they conclude, “it is of the utmost importance that clarification is soon given about whether smoking rooms may or may not be used” by music venues.

 


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Int’l associations pay respects to bomb victims

Live industry associations across Europe have paid their respects to the victims of Monday’s suicide bombing at Manchester Arena, which left 22 people – many of them children – dead.

Amid news Ariana Grande is expected to call off the rest of her Dangerous Woman tour in the wake of the attack, associations of promoters, venues and festivals across the continent have issued statements expressing solidarity with all those affected by the tragedy.

Dutch promoters’ association VNPF says it “deplores this attack” and offers its thoughts to both “relatives and friends of the victims” and the organisers of the Grande concert.

“We stand in solidarity with the United Kingdom,” reads a VNPF statement. “It was an attack on freedom. Terror can not destroy freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.”

“An attack like this is always an act of cruelty, but even more so when it affects children”

Prodiss in France – itself no stranger to attacks on live music – says the industry is “deeply touched by the Manchester bombing, which once again struck at our youth and our freedom”.

Animadas Productions director Albert Salmerón, recently appointed president of Spain’s Association of Music Promoters (APM), says APM stands in “utter solidarity with the victims and their respective families”.

“An attack like this is always an act of cruelty, but even more so when it affects children,” comments Salmerón.

APM – which calls the bombing an “attack on on the freedom that allows us to enjoy music and decide what to do at all times” – adds that “there is nothing that should make our societies succumb to the fear terrorists seek to instil”.

“The industry is deeply touched by the Manchester bombing, which once again struck at our youth and our freedom”

In Denmark, meanwhile, Dansk Live boss Jakob Brixvold calls the bombing a “terrible tragedy” and a “cowardly attack on live music, the community and our values”.

He warns, however, that it can “be extremely difficult to curb” incidents where, as in Manchester, the perpetrator attacks from just outside the venue, echoing comments made yesterday by Reg Walker – but reassures Danish promoters that the “level of security at Danish events in generally high”.

Along with several other associations, including Norske Konsertarrangører in Norway, Livemusik Sverige in Sweden, Petzi in Switzerland and Music Venue Trust in the UK, Dansk Live is participating in a memorial for the victims this Friday (26 May).

Live DMA’s One Minute of Noise encourages venues across Europe to mark the attack by holding a minute’s silence at 9.59pm – followed by a minute of the exact opposite at 10 to show that live music “will not be silenced”.

 


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Dutch festival attendance grows to all-time high

The number of festival tickets sold in the Netherlands grew to a record high of over 23 million in 2015 – equivalent to one ticket for everyone in the country, plus another six million – a report commissioned by Dutch industry associations VNPF and VVEM has revealed.

Festival attendance rose 2.7%, with the two organisations citing a shift from smaller to medium-sized events and an increase in the number of festivals (up 4.5% on 2014, to 837 events).

Spending was also up, and by a higher margin than the increase in visitor numbers – 9%, to €513.1 million – with an average spend of €37 per visitor per festival.

Festival attendance rose 2.7% amid a shift from small to medium-sized events and an increase in the number of festivals

Amsterdam Dance Event (ADE) was for the third year running the festival with the highest attendance, although the report says the capital appears to have reached a “festival ceiling”, with arts and cultural events growing faster than music festivals. Other towns and cities in the province of North Holland, such as Alkmaar, Harlem and Zaanstad, “seemed to benefit [most] from the Amsterdam ‘festival ceiling'”, it notes.

A total of 365,000 people attended ADE in 2015, with Pinkpop (whose attendance fell from 194,000 to 175,000) the next most-visited music festival. (In between the two are the International Film Festival Rotterdam, the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam and car festival Zwarte Cross.)

The Flying Dutch, promoted by ADE organiser (and major SFX creditor) Alda Events, was the biggest newcomer, with 100,000 visitors for its first edition in June.

 


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