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Please don’t let us down, Prime Minister

Dear Boris,

I’m a director of Britannia Row Productions, an audio supply company.

During the past 40 years, we have been privileged to have provided equipment and technicians to many major concert artists, including Pink Floyd, Peter Gabriel, the Cure, Depeche Mode, Robbie Williams, Simply Red, Mumford and Sons and Harry Styles, and live events such as Her Majesty’s Golden and Diamond Jubilees, Live 8, the Barcelona and London Olympics, the Rugby World Cup and the FA Cup finals.

We currently employ around 70 staff and 100 freelance people, with most of our staff currently on furlough.

As well as providing the most state-of-the-art equipment, we supply audio engineers and technicians, and over the years both our company and many of our people have gained an international reputation for excellence in our field.

I, like most of my colleagues who provide these services, prefer to be in the background and have never sought or received assistance from government in the past, but the current crisis in our industry has compelled me to step forward and make a direct and public plea for you to help the hundreds of thousands of people who work in our industry.

Please don’t lay waste to an industry that brings enormous enjoyment to simply being alive

Boris, when you and your colleagues go to a concert, you expect a visual and audio experience to enhance the performance of your favourite performer, but perhaps don’t give much thought as to how all of these amazing visuals and stirring sounds are achieved. Quite rightly, you simply enjoy the moment.

Well, the reality is that behind the scenes, hundreds of people will have made that show possible. The artists, and their managers and production crew, have worked for months with lighting video and audio designers to produce shows that will thrill their fans and ensure concert spend is boosting the economy.

Promoters have been appointed to provide the venues to accommodate these performances.

Service companies have been chosen to provide the production expertise, the equipment, technicians, stagehands, security, catering, etc., etc., to make these events happen safely and seamlessly, every night, and on time.

The skills involved don’t just happen; they take years of training and experience to acquire.

British technicians are famed throughout the world. These skills will be lost if people leave our industry in desperation

British technicians are famed throughout the world. These skills will be lost if people leave our industry in desperation as they seek other work in order to feed themselves and their families.

I often hear you and your colleagues talk of the ‘hard-working’ people in the UK. Well, the people in my industry do work hard and are essential to a sector which contributes literally billions to our economy.

Please, don’t let them down – support them until we can find a way to bring back our live concerts and events. We don’t live by bread alone, as the old saying goes.

Please don’t lay waste to an industry that brings enormous enjoyment to simply being alive.

Bryan Grant

 


Bryan Grant is co-founder and director of Britannia Row Productions.

Spanish protesters declare ‘alerta roja’

The Spanish production sector has become the latest to take to the streets as part of the increasingly international #WeMakeEvents/Red Alert protest movement.

According to the Spanish Association of Music Promoters (APM), yesterday (17 September) saw some 16,000 live entertainment professionals hold protests – while prominent buildings and venues were illuminated red – in 28 cities to raise awareness of the state’s perceived lack of support for the sector during the coronavirus crisis.

The demonstrations, plans for which were announced earlier this month, follow similar protests in France, the US, the Netherlands, the UK, Belgium and Germany. As in Belgium, the Spanish demonstrators flooded the streets with empty flight cases symbolising widespread unemployment among production crews and staff.

Protesters also called for the creation of a pan-industry working group to build “firm, solid and durable foundations for the sector, which needs laws adapted to its special circumstances and particularities”, reports APM, “allowing all those involved to have legal certainty” about the future.

The Alerta Roja (Red Alert) campaign had previously declined a meeting with the minister of culture and sports, noting that: “We need a meeting with all the ministries involved: culture and sports, labour, industry, tourism, economic affairs and the treasury.”

“We, along with everyone who works in the live events sector, are on red alert”

Posting on Twitter, a spokesperson said yesterday had been a historic day for the Spanish live events business.

UK entertainment technology association Plasa, one of the driving forces behind the UK-born #WeMakeEvents campaign, thanked the “global industry community for stepping out of the shadows and calling for further support”.

A statement from the 16,000-capacity WiZink Center in Madrid – normally Spain’s most-visited indoor arena – explained: “Today our facade is lit up red to support the Alerta Roja campaign. Because we, and everyone who works in the live events sector, are on red alert.”


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US live sector adopts #WeMakeEvents campaign

North America is adopting the UK-born initiative #WeMakeEvents with a day of action that will see 1,500 venues lit in red to symbolise the live event industry’s red alert.

The call-to-arms, which will take place on 1 September, has been organised in the hope that the US government will take notice and provide the appropriate support by way of relief funding and necessary legislation.

“Live events have been completely halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” reads a statement from #WeMakeEvents, North America.

“Because our business is rooted in large group gatherings, we were one of the first industries to be completely shut down (early March) and will be one of the last to return to any operations (well into 2021), let alone restore former prosperity (likely not until 2022 or beyond).

“The live event industry in North America directly employs more than 12 million people and includes hundreds of thousands of businesses with a combined economic impact of over US$1 trillion. This likely includes someone you know, are close to, or it may even include you. If we do not receive government assistance the live events industry will literally collapse, including all of the people involved.”

The campaign sees #WeMakeEvents partner with ExtendPUA.org, which is requesting a continuation and expansion of the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, and Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, which supplements earnings per week for those on unemployment and opens up unemployment to 1099 workers.

The campaign comes after a survey conducted by National Independent Venue Association (NIVA), a new alliance of US grassroots music venues, found that 90% of its members said that if the shutdowns lasted six months or more with no federal help, they would never reopen.

“We were one of the first industries to be shut down and will be one of the last to return, let alone restore former prosperity”

In April, NIVA wrote to members of the US Congress to ask for immediate assistance for a sector it says is facing an existential crisis as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Now, the alliance is lobbying to push two bills through Congress before the end of August in order to keep independent venues nationwide from permanently closing.

The #SaveOurStagesAct is a new $10 billion grant program for live venue operators, promoters, producers, and talent representatives provides grants of either 45% of gross revenue from 2019 or $12 million (whichever is less), as well as supplemental grants of up to half the original grant if the entity is still experiencing 80%+ revenue loss as of Dec. 1, 2020.

The grants can be used for payroll and benefits, rent, utilities, mortgage interest payments, interest payments, insurance, personal protective equipment (PPE), existing loans, payments to 1099 employees, and other ordinary and necessary business expenses.

The #RestartAct (Reviving the Economy Sustainably Towards a Recovery) is a new loan program that provides funding for six months of payroll, benefits, fixed operating expenses, PPE, accounts payable, and other ordinary and necessary business expenses, with loan amounts of either 45% of gross revenue from 2019 or $12 million (whichever is less).

It features partial loan forgiveness based on losses in revenue, a seven-year loan term, and no principal payments for the first two years. The bill also extends the covered period for loans under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) from eight weeks to 16 weeks. The Restart Act is currently moving through congress but has stalled.

NIVA is also lobbying for tax relief and additional unemployment insurance for employees of shuttered businesses.

Currently, NIVA has nearly 2,000 charter members in all 50 states, including 9:30 Club in D.C., First Avenue in Minneapolis, Chicago Independent Venue LeagueWorld Cafe Live in PhiladelphiaPabst Theater Group in MilwaukeeRed River Cultural District in Austin, and Exit/In in Nashville.

 


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