Arts venues light up in 'Red Alert' to Government over live events industry

11 August 2020, 22:38

By Megan White

Hundreds of arts venues across the country have lit up red as part of a campaign to save the live events industry amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Southbank Centre, the Tate Modern and the Royal Festival Hall were among the venues to join the We Make Events: Red Alert demonstration in London, with thousands of workers lining the riverbanks and shining red lights.

The campaign, run by the Professional Lighting and Sound Association (PLASA), said without additional support, the UK is in danger of losing its global position as a world leader in world class events.

Industry professionals warn that without further government help, many workers in the industry will run out of money, with over 70 per cent of them self-employed and “slipping through the cracks” of government schemes.

They are calling for grants for businesses in the events supply chain, an extension of the furlough scheme until the industry is back up and running, and extension of the self-employment scheme tailored towards the industry.

The industry includes a huge number of areas, from production, audio, lighting and video to logistics, planning, transportation, and some of the world’s leading technology manufacturers.

Peter Heath, Managing Director of PLASA, said the industry is “slipping through the cracks” and faces “complete collapse” without more help.

He told LBC’s Senior Reporter Matthew Thompson: “Many of our members were finding it difficult and were having to lose staff before the end of furlough because they’re running out of cash - they couldn’t afford the additional contribution that employers have to make.

“We decided this is really the time to up our game and show the world who we are, because we’re a silent army.

“You won’t see them, the only time you might connect with them is if something goes wrong, and because we’re world leaders in what we do, not many things go wrong.

“All the government protection and support that’s there, we slip through the cracks, because we don’t fit into any particular genre, so we’re being missed.

“We’re trying to get to the government to say extend the furlough scheme, help us with the self-employed income scheme, and you need to give us grants, not loans.

The Tate Modern was among the venues to join the We Make Events: Red Alert demonstration
The Tate Modern was among the venues to join the We Make Events: Red Alert demonstration. Picture: LBC

“This is so we can retain our skills, retain our people, for when our industry returns to work whenever social distancing is gone.”

Mr Heath said there are a million people working within the industry, with around 600,000 working predominantly across the summer.

But he says with that gone, they’ve had “zero revenue.”

He added: “So 600,000, 70 per cent of those self-employed – it’s a lot of people and it’s a lot of skills that we could potentially lose, and with that gone or potentially gone, we could have a complete collapse in our industry.”

The government has pledged £1.6 billion to the arts sector, but Mr Heath says that’s not enough.

He said: “When the government announced that, they said it was to protect the crown jewels, which are properties, and London is full of these types of properties.

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“That money will also get out to the regionals, but it’s looking after buildings rather than people, providing a safe hold for those buildings until they can go back to work.

“We can’t go back to work with social distancing because it doesn’t add up financially for anyone, whether it’s a venue, an artist, or someone who works within the industry – it just doesn’t add up.”

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