Hull-based events professionals stand with colleagues all over UK in red alert call to government

We Make Events
Workers and freelancers from Hull’s vibrant live events sector stand in solidarity, expressing the urgent message that the live events industry is in ‘red alert’, with many thousands about to lose their livelihoods. Photo: Jerome Whittingham @photomoments

On Tuesday 11th August, the live events industry across the UK came together in solidarity to host a series of creative actions to help save the live events and entertainment sector, which is on the verge of collapsing without financial support from the government.

Hundreds of venues turned their lights red, along with other creative activities being staged in more than 20 cities across the UK to symbolise the industry going into red alert.

In Hull, Hull City Hall and Hull Maritime Museum were illuminated red. Events industry professionals lit their phones red and stood in socially distanced solidarity. The Bonus Arena, Welly and Polar Bear also joined in the action.

Hull’s day of action complements activity all over the country, including London’s South Bank, where a boat made its way down the Thames – passing Royal Festival Hall, the National Theatre, the Tate and more, all illuminated red. 

The call to action hopes to raise awareness for more than a million professionals at risk of losing their jobs, 600,000 of whom deliver outdoor events. Around 70 per cent of the workforce is freelance. The imminent closure of the self-employed income support scheme at the end of the month threatens their livelihood. 

Unlike other industries, events, festivals, and performances have been unable to safely reopen due to social distancing guidance. They may not reopen until early 2021 – and opening times keep being pushed back. With no government support on the horizon for the event supply chain, redundancies have already begun. Research indicates that 25 per cent of companies will have served redundancy notices by end of August, this rises to 70 per cent by the end of December. 

Nineteen trade associations from the live events sector are collaborating for the first time to help save their industry – the initial #WeMakeEvents campaign by PLASA issued a ‘Red Alert’ last week, to symbolise the imminent danger the industry is in.

We Make Events
‘We Make Events’ projected onto Hull City Hall – where many of the city’s freelance creatives and technicians should have been working right now. Photo: Jerome Whittingham @photomoments

The socially distanced call to action shines a light on the collaborative nature of the industry. Platinum-selling artists Peter Gabriel, The Cure and Imogen Heap are a few of the many voices giving their support to this cause.

Peter Gabriel, singer, songwriter and activist, said: “The live events sector employs over 600,000 highly skilled people in the UK – event production, audio, lighting, video, logistics, planning, transportation and technology – over 70% of which are freelancers. All of whom have had no work for the past four months, with little likelihood of restarting until spring 2021 at the earliest.

“A lot of high arts have now been given some support, but people working on the festival side of things and in live events have been forgotten about, and I hope they are not forgotten about any longer. Around the UK they’ve created something which I think is the best in the world.

“Many of these people are freelancers, so don’t fall under furlough schemes. So right now, they are feeling the pinch very badly and if we want live events and festivals to stay an important British business then it needs to be supported. “

The Cure, award-winning rock band, issued a statement: “The events sector urgently needs government support to survive the Covid-19 crisis. Without major, immediate support from government, the entire live events sector supply chain is at risk of collapse.

“The aim is to have financial support extended for the people and companies in this sector, until they can return to work. “

Peter Heath, MD of PLASA, said: “The live events industry supply chain, essential to every single event in the UK, is set to completely collapse without financial support from the Government, due to social distancing prohibiting mass events. Large-scale events are not expected to reopen until spring 2021 at the earliest, and the reality is that the sector can’t wait that long. We’ve issued a ‘Red Alert’ after using #WeMakeEvents because the sector is on its last legs, and now the whole industry is coming together to ask the government to ‘throw us a line’.”

Hull action organisers Hugh Jones, MD of Hull stage, sound and lighting company HPSS, and Chris Clay, MD of Hull events production company Dock Street Events said in a joint statement: “Live events across the UK and around the world have been devasted by Covid-19, from major festivals and landmark theatres to grassroots venues, exhibitions and conferences. The UK live events industry, worth billions to the exchequer and a net contributor to the economy, is on the verge of collapse. Without further government support, hundreds of venues and supply companies will close, and many thousands of talented full-time staff and freelancers will lose their livelihoods.

“At this time of the year HPSS Ltd would normally be employing up to 40 freelancers from across the region all of whom have no work this year. Although the Job Retention Scheme, which we are very grateful for, has helped, when this stops in October, we will still have no work for these people until theatres and concert halls reopen. If these people leave the industry then, even when allowed, events will not happen.

“We are taking part in #WeMakeEvents Red Alert to raise awareness of the crisis facing our industry and to stand in solidarity with colleagues across the UK.”

[Jo Charlton – Comms Collective]