18 Nov 2020
By Alison McRae, Senior Director at Glasgow Chamber of Commerce
The theme for this year’s ‘Glasglow’ event in Glasgow’s Botanic Gardens was aptly billed as the ‘The Power Within’. The essence of it was about the potential for hope amidst these very trying times, and if ever we needed a sentiment like that it is now.
Not only did Itison’s Founder & CEO Oli Norman and his 160 strong team have to lobby to change legislation to make this outdoor event experience happen, their tenacity, creativity and commitment of substantive addition investment made that experience a reality.
The event rekindled a feeling of social connectedness and let us not underestimate the importance of this alone, with wellbeing and mental health spoken of even more widely now due to the constraints being imposed upon us as a result of this crisis.
But let’s be clear, the additional requirements to be COVID-19 compliant were extensive including almost double the number of stewards, CCTV and a rapid response team for any ‘bunching’ or other unexpected issues. As Oli Norman says – it was pretty much safer than going for a walk in the park!
Public health is of course key, however de-risking is core business to event companies and COVID-19 is one more risk on an already long list which includes terrorism, fire hazards, protecting vulnerable people and other transmittable diseases.
From small conferences to large scale arena gigs and sporting events, there are so many types of events and it is acknowledged that some will take more time to transition amidst these current challenging conditions but right now there is pretty much a blanket approach preventing any to go ahead. There is a need for a more pragmatic and longer-term plan, both to ensure we realise the economic benefits and to provide some respite.
Where capacity can be based on the ability to physically distance, as we’ve seen in supermarkets and large stores, allowing certain events to take place now would allow the sector to breathe again until we can see mass testing in place to enable larger numbers once more.
Nothing can be done without risk, so we must find a way for the sector to mitigate the risks in a way that Government will accept. Otherwise we are going to find ourselves in a veritable pickle if we lose core and supply chain businesses and their talent pools, which are needed to keep this internationally renowned sector in Glasgow vibrant and thriving.
Subsidy in addition to the relaunched furlough scheme will be required to assist with the additional costs of running a business with limited income prospects. However, a deal breaker in planning is that is it not possible to get insurance for COVID related cancellations. The Concert Promoters Association and UK Live are currently speaking to DCMS on this and the ask is clear – share the risk between events, insurance and Government, with the Government being an insurer of last resort if further cancellations are required. It would enable event companies to take the risk and start planning effectively for the required 6-12 months ahead. It is welcomed news that DF Concerts is intending to return to live events next summer, even though new major touring gigs are not being planned now until 2022.
Undoubtedly the SEC will be amongst the last to reopen and it is absolutely core to the economic recovery for our city and a beacon of hope connecting us to what feels like the lost dimension. Glasgow is planning to welcome COP26 as a live event this time next year. These next few months are now more crucial than ever to ensure that all the supporting businesses – large and small – are given the financial help needed to enable their survival so that we are in a position to provide the globally recognised experience, for which we are so well known, at this game-changing event.
This article was first published in the Herald Scotland on 18 November 2020.