Venues and crew report ‘red alert’ for live music and theater


The music industry team paraded with their gear cases in Manchester on Tuesday

Concert halls, theaters and their workforce are taking part in a day of action across the UK to shine a light on the crisis facing live events.

The jobless music industry team were among those who took part in a march in Manchester on Tuesday.

More than 300 venues, including the National Theater in London and the Royal Festival Hall, will later turn on their red lights as part of the Red Alert campaign.

Peter Gabriel, Imogen Heap and The Cure have expressed their support for the initiative.

The Red Alert movement and #WeMakeEvents marches aim to raise awareness of the threat of job losses in the sector.

Producers, engineers, tour directors, security staff, truck drivers and cleaners also marched past some of Manchester’s closed venues.

Activists held up placards as they walked through Manchester

Similar protests are taking place in other cities. The Mac in Belfast, the Blackwood Miners’ Institute in South Wales, the Aberdeen Arts Center and the Britannia Panopticon Music Hall in Glasgow are among the other venues that will be lit in red.

Virtually all UK sites have been closed for five months, meaning many are at risk.

Organizers of Tuesday’s protests say around a million people work in the events industry, many of whom are freelancers, and risk losing their livelihoods without additional government support.

‘Everything went off like a light switch’

Independent audio technician Alistair Westell had been booked for several events around the world before the coronavirus outbreak.

“For me personally, everything in my diary came out in March, including the Tokyo Olympics, which I should have worked on last week,” he told BBC News. “I’m used to silencing spells, but with that, everything went off like a switch.” [Most events] have been postponed until next year, if at all.

“I have to admit I had a few sleepless nights. Fortunately, I have a partner who is still working, but the money I live on is savings, so it affected us a lot.

Westell explained that freelancers and site staff are essential to the success of an event, even if they “are not very visible.”

“We are often backstage – if we are seen it usually means something is wrong! ” he said. “We try to stay in the background, and that’s one of the reasons we’ve been forgotten. ”

The work involved in setting up a live event like a concert or a conference is “a huge team effort,” he added.

“There’s the lighting, the graphics, the sound, the video, the rigging, the staging… and then you have the other side – the washroom and catering for the audience, the performers and the crew. Then there’s security – you often see security personnel pulling people out of the crowd up front when they’re in trouble. ”

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The Cure, directed by Robert Smith, expressed support

On Monday, it was announced that Elbow and a series of other bands will perform one-off concerts to raise funds for popular music venues.

On Tuesday, the Arctic Monkeys announced a Crowdfunder campaign to raise funds for The Leadmill in their hometown of Sheffield and other locations.

Nightclub and festival promoter Sacha Lord, who is a nightlife economics advisor for Greater Manchester, said the work of many crucial events staff was “invisible to the public”.

“From my own experience with [music festival] Parklife, there are around 4,500 people working on it, ”he told Radio Manchester.

“The stages don’t stand up on their own, the Portaloos don’t come by themselves, the fences, the arenas, the lighting designers, it’s a vast band of independents working behind the scenes, and unfortunately they have been forgotten.

Singer-songwriter Peter Gabriel said: “A lot of the great arts have now received some support, but the people who work on the festival side and live events have been forgotten.

“A lot of these people are freelancers, so don’t fall for time off plans. So, at the moment, they feel the pinch very badly. “

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The National Theater was wrapped in a strip last month as part of another campaign

Last month the government announced a £ 1.57bn support package to protect theaters, galleries and museums. The government has already said this will mean more work for freelancers.

The leave program and freelance support is expected to end in the coming months – and many freelancers were not eligible at all.

“Without major and immediate government support, the entire supply chain for the live events industry is at risk of collapsing,” members of The Cure said in a statement.

” The goal [of the campaign] is to extend the financial support of individuals and businesses in this sector, until they can return to work. ”

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