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Music and theatre sue UK govt for pilot show data

Live music industry body LIVE and a range of theatre businesses, including Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group, Cameron Mackintosh, Michael Harrison and Sonia Friedman, have commenced legal proceedings against the UK government to force it to hand over the report from its series of test events, the Events Research Programme (ERP).

The ERP is the government’s research into Covid-19 mitigations in sport, entertainment and business conferences settings. The music industry and theatre businesses have repeatedly called on the government to outline the scientific basis for its decision to maintain restrictions on events. Despite portions of the ERP economic impact assessment being leaked to the media this week, the government refused calls from many MPs in a debate on Tuesday 22 June to release the report in full.

Several UK festivals, including Kendal Calling, Truck and Let’s Rock, have cited the non-release of the ERP data as a reason for cancelling their 2021 events. “Without this safety guidance, there are numerous aspects of the festival we cannot plan, and which could lay us wide open to last minute unforeseen regulations or requirements which could scupper an already built festival,” reads a statement from Kendal Calling, which cancelled earlier this week.

Stuart Galbraith, CEO of Kilimanjaro Live (which recently acquired Let’s Rock) and co-founder of LIVE (Live music Industry Venues and Entertainment), the representative body for the live music industry, says: “The live music industry has been very willing to work with government for the last year to show that our industry can operate safely. But it is intolerable that after running pilot shows for the government’s Events Research Programme, at our own cost, we have been blocked from seeing the results, leaving the whole sector in limbo with the real chance that the entire summer could collapse for the second year running.

“Even now, the live music sector has no idea what the rest of the summer brings, and we are left with a complete inability to plan ahead due to the government’s continued unwillingness to provide some form of insurance to enable events to move forward.”

“The govt’s actions are forcing theatre and music companies off a cliff as the summer wears on, whilst cherry-picking high-profile sporting events to go ahead”

In the legal action, lodged today, the parties assert that the government has “flagrantly breached the ‘duty of candour’ which requires it to be transparent when faced with a legal challenge and that none of the reasons given for withholding the Events Research Programme material they seek withstand scrutiny”. They have asked the court to consider their application at an urgent hearing as soon as possible.

“The government’s actions are forcing theatre and music companies off a cliff as the summer wears on, whilst cherry-picking high-profile sporting events to go ahead,” comments theatre impresario Andrew Lloyd Webber. “The situation is beyond urgent.”

As well as declining to publish the ERP results, the bodies argue that the British government is yet to provide any form of insurance scheme for the sector or to make it clear what kind of ongoing mitigations may be required in the future – effectively making it impossible to plan for any live entertainment business. According to recent research from LIVE the potential four-week delay to reopening will lead to around 5,000 live music gigs being cancelled, as well as numerous theatre productions across the country, costing hundreds of millions of pounds in lost income.

Peter Gabriel, speaking for WOMAD Festival, says: “Without immediate government intervention, the festival industry is on the brink of collapse. That doesn’t mean cash, it means providing the certainty to enable us to deliver festivals, guidance on safety, and an understanding of how their timing affects us in the real world.

“We struggle to understand why these trials took place if the government can’t now tell us the results and how that will affect all of us”

“At the end of this week, WOMAD will be faced with one very difficult and heart-wrenching decision. Millions of pounds of investment and the livelihood of around five thousand people are at stake. Several pilot events have been successfully run over recent months. But, like other festival teams, we need to be told what that research means for WOMAD. We struggle to understand why these trials took place if the government can’t now tell us the results and how that will affect all of us.”

While today’s suit focuses on forcing the government to release the findings of its pilot programme, the suit is also critical of the lack of guidance for the forthcoming step four – the final stage of reopening, provisionally scheduled for 19 July. Lack of clear guidance was a contributing factor to Kendal Calling cancelling earlier this week despite it taking place after the step 4 date.

Craig Hassall, CEO of the Royal Albert Hall, says: “The chronic uncertainty and endless indecisiveness from government, and pilot events with no published results, have damaged audience confidence and further harmed a sector that has already been decimated by the pandemic. For as long as venues like the Royal Albert Hall, and hundreds more across the country, are prevented from effectively operating with no justification, we cannot play our part in supporting the critical ecosystem of freelancers, small businesses and suppliers who rely on us and who are so desperately in need of work.”

Live entertainment and theatre generate £11.25 billion in gross value added each year, and the sectors support just under one million jobs between them.

LIVE’s members are the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF), Association for Electronic Music (AFEM), Association of Festival Organisers (AFO), Association of Independent Promoters (AIP), British Association of Concert Halls (BACH), Concert Promoters Association (CPA), Featured Artist Coalition (FAC), The Entertainment Agents’ Association (TEAA), Music Venue Trust (MVT), Music Managers Forum (MMF), National Arenas Association (NAA), Production Services Association (PSA) and Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers (STAR).


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Womad NZ secures $1.9 million underwrite

Womad New Zealand has secured a NZ$1.9 million (US$1.3m) underwrite from New Plymouth District Council (NPDC) in case the festival is cancelled due to Covid-19.

The news comes after NPDC last week announced it had renewed its host city deal for the New Zealand edition of the international arts festival, for another five years.

Following a meeting on Tuesday (25 May), the council has now agreed to eliminate the financial risk posed by a potential Covid-19 outbreak for the organiser by underwriting the festival.

While numerous countries have announced government-backed insurance schemes for live events, it’s a rare occurrence for one to be singled out for a safety net.

Mayor Neil Holdom, a long-time Womad supporter, had urged councillors to agree the underwrite, but warned them that, in doing so, they were effectively writing a cheque.

“The probability [of cancellation] I think is very low and the benefits very large”

Councillor Richard Handley added: “What’s the probability [of the festival being called off]? The probability I think is very low and the benefits very large. And we all know the benefits. Womad is a part of our DNA.”

Womad NZ typically brings more than 11,000 visitors to the Taranaki region each year and pumps $6 million into the local economy, according to the festival.

This year’s festival, which would’ve taken place in March, was cancelled due to Covid-19, but less than 24 hours after securing the underwrite the organisers have announced plans for the 2022 edition.

The festival will return to its home of 18 years, New Plymouth’s Brooklands Park, between 18 and 20 March 2022 with a programme spanning music, arts and dance.

Womad International director Chris Smith says they were intending to deliver an international line-up, along with a raft of new ideas and developments to celebrate the festival’s return.

Womad NZ typically pumps $6 million into the local economy

“2021 was such a difficult year around the world, but this partnership agreement has been central to the decision to bring the festival back in 2022,” says Smith.

“Womad means so much to the people of New Plymouth who welcome our artists into their community and the festival brings a significant investment into the regional economy – We simply can’t wait to be back here in March.”

Womad NZ will continue to be produced by Taft (Taranaki Arts Festival Trust) which has presented the festival in New Plymouth since 2003.

“Over the last 30 years, Taft has proven that we have the expertise to deliver world-class festivals and events that have positioned Taranaki as a tourist destination, boosted the local economy, and ensured that our people access arts and cultural experiences outside of the metropolitan areas,” says CEO of Taft, Suzanne Porter.

“Taft is incredibly grateful for the surety that NPDC has provided, ensuring that Womad NZ can still call the beautiful Bowl of Brooklands, Taranaki, its home here in New Zealand. We are delighted to be partnering with Womad International once again.”

Womad also takes place in Wiltshire, UK; Cáceres and Gran Canaria, Spain; Adelaide, Australia and Recoleta, Chile.


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BST Hyde Park 2020 cancelled

AEG Presents’ British Summer Time (BST) Hyde Park will not take place this year, as the ongoing coronavirus pandemic claims another UK summer staple.

The festival, which was to take place over two weeks from 2 to 12 July, was set to feature headline acts including Post Malone, Little Mix, Kendrick Lamar, Pearl Jam, Taylor Swift and Duran Duran.

The cancellation follows that of All Points East festival, which was called off at the end of March.

“It is with great sadness that we have made the difficult decision to cancel BST Hyde Park 2020,” reads a statement from organisers.

“After closely following government actions and statements during the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as consulting with our partners The Royal Parks and wider agencies, we have concluded that this is the only possible outcome.”

“It is with great sadness that we have made the difficult decision to cancel BST Hyde Park 2020”

Ticketholders will contacted by ticketing agencies by 6 May with information on the refund process.

“We look forward to welcoming you back in 2021 and will be in touch about plans soon. In the meantime, please follow the advice and stay safe,” state organisers.

This year was to be the eighth outing for BST Hyde Park, combining two weekend of music with free-to-access midweek events. Over the years, BST has seen performances from acts including the Rolling Stones, Bon Jovi, Celine Dion, Stevie Wonder, Lionel Richie, the Cure, Black Sabbath and Barbra Streisand.

Other UK events to be called off this summer due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic include Glastonbury Festival, Isle of Wight Festival, Download, Lovebox, Parklife, Womad, Cambridge Folk Festival, Country to Country Festival, Radio One’s Big Weekend and Edinburgh Fringe Festival, as well as industry conferences including The Great Escape and the Ticketing Professionals Conference.


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How Eventbrite solves the problem of queues

The 2017 festival season has brought issues for promoters and attendees alike. Apart from the bad weather and unexpected event cancellations, long queues at the gates have dampened the festival spirit for many.

The case for fixing the queue problem is obvious: every minute spent in queues detracts from a positive festival experience for attendees, and for promoters represents lost sales on food, drinks and merchandise.

Comprehensive entry management is one of the key ways to tackle queues, and Eventbrite, one of the world’s leading providers of live event technology, has developed a 360° approach to reducing waiting times, starting from the moment that tickets go on sale. Real-time access to ticket data enables promoters to deal with attendee issues as they occur – and live attendance tracking helps boost sales of last minute tickets and merch.

Eventbrite’s box office kit includes dedicated ticket scanners, capable of processing 20 tickets per minute. A five-hour battery makes sure that peak time entry is covered on a single charge. A card reader, also included, enables onsite ticket sales via chip and pin or contactless. Eventbrite offers the equipment for purchase or hire to best fit an event’s budget.

“The transition to Eventbrite was smooth, with very little communication from customers adapting to the new system”

For festivals with thousands of attendees, Eventbrite’s integrated RFID solution takes event production up another notch, with rapid entry and onsite transactions at the tap of a wristband. Attendees can optionally link their wristband to their email account or social media profiles, which opens up new options for fans, events and sponsors to connect and interact. The first European event to implement Eventbrite’s RFID technology is the Reeperbahn Festival Conference 2017 in Hamburg.

Beyond tech
Whichever solution organisers go for, Eventbrite’s field services team stands by to create a strategy unique to any given event, as well as give support on the day, overseeing the technology from load-in to de-rig. It’s an approach that aims to combine the best live event technology with professional onsite support. Proven at festivals like BPM, WOMAD and Ramblin’ Man, it ensures a great experience for attendees and promoters alike.

As WOMAD’s festival director, Chris Smith, explains: “The transition to Eventbrite was smooth, with very little communication from customers adapting to the new system. It was also simple for the team to use, and removed administrative hurdles. Accurate reporting and timely payouts are essential to help the business side of WOMAD run smoothly.”

The figures speak for themselves: Using Eventbrite’s ticket sales data, WOMAD was able to come up with new incentives, which helped their early-bird presales increase by 167%.


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