This Wednesday, several of the city’s most recognisable buildings will be lit up in red. But this time, it’s nothing to do with an art installation or celebrating football success, but rather to highlight the dire and immediate danger facing one of our biggest industries.
When we visited Adlib’s vast headquarters in Knowsley, we looked in on the warehouse. As far as the eye could see was cutting-edge audio-visual equipment, the tools of the trade upon which the event specialists have built a multi-million pound international business. However what was missing was the staff who bring it to life – on a typical (pre-Covid) day this warehouse would have around 50 people unpacking, designing, testing, repairing and stacking. Today, just three staff were in the space, making preparations for the Good Business Festival, one of the few events which Adlib still has on in October.
Managing Director Andy Dockerty tells us that the company has lost more than £10m of agreed work in the last six months as events in the UK and across Europe have been cancelled because of Covid. The immediate future looks no brighter either, with a further £5m loss forecast.
The severe financial impact has seen Adlib make 55 staff redundant, which Andy describes as the ‘worst thing I’ve ever had to do’. 112 of the workforce remain on furlough. When live events do open up again, Andy predicts will see a sudden sharp increase in demand and return to sustainable profitability. He points to the fact that, of all the live concerts postponed since March, only 20% of tickets have been returned; the overwhelming majority of people are holding on in the hopes of going on a re-arranged date. The same picture is reflected across festivals, sporting events and consumer exhibitions.
Adlib is by no means an outlier, with the events industry going from the UK’s fastest-growing sector to one of its most decimated in a matter of months. It accounts for 600,000 jobs across the UK, growing to seven figures in festival season, and covers a huge range of roles – from sound engineers to stage managers, transportation to ticketing. It’s no surprise then that the absence of live events has had huge ramifications.
It’s why so many of our most famous buildings are lighting up red this Wednesday, as part of the #WeMakeEvents campaign urging the Government to intervene and save this vital industry. The campaign’s stated aims are below:
What we want
We want to go back to work.
What we need to help us do that
Government backed COVID – 19 Insurance Scheme
Why – to ensure if local lockdowns happen event organisers will recover costs and attendees will receive a refund.
Government support for widespread proactive COVID -19 testing for event attendees
Why – To give confidence to attendees and organisers that the event is safe and COVID – 19 Compliant
A three-year extension to the reduced cultural VAT rate on tickets in line with DCMS recommendations
Why – To stimulate the return of a viable event sector
Until we can go back to work, and the industry is allowed to operate in a way that is not limited by social distancing, we are calling on the Government for:
Grants – not loans – made available to businesses in the events supply chain.
Why – to give companies the flexibility to allocate financial resources where they need it most, to keep their business afloat and to enable them to keep employees, adding value to the UK economy and culture in the future.
A specific job support scheme for live events supply chain until the government guidelines change on social distancing to allow a commercially viable return to work.
Why – To allow employers to retain highly skilled people in preparation for a return to work; to support the freelance community, including single director companies; and to support all those excluded by the current government eligibility criteria. This will help us to be ready to kickstart the industry and hence the UK economy.
For more details on the campaign and the impact of the live events sector, see the website here: https://www.plasa.org/we-make-events/