9 Months later
A few words on what Working With Crowds have been up to and casting an eye over the horizon.
9 months…….9 months……and no blogs, limited updates of the website, removal of news, a new look, a full 24hrs broken and a lot of time wondering what to do with 6 years worth of gathering.
2020, what a year (insert any joke, meme that you have saved). I guess we should start this mental note with what happened to us last year. After a normal start to the year, just like the rest of the planet we hit that point where the world fell apart and we found ourselves watching the news round the clock, trawling Twitter and other social feeds, trying to understand how the globe managed to get itself into this mess. I guess it shows how interconnected we all are these days and there are very few nations isolated now.
So what does a website that focuses on crowds do when crowds are no longer allowed to gather? Well, we started off trying to share as much information we could gather on COVID 19, from research to government guidance. But, after a while, it changed that often and in so many directions, it became counter productive. We also hit a point where those in the industry that would be planning and delivering crowded events, had their plans and contingencies, they were just not allowed to do so and this had not changed.
After that short burst of sharing, we went into research mode. Relooking at the work we had done for crowded places previously; ingress rates, how to search with social distancing in mind, the use of space ect. The same as many people would have been doing around the globe. Then what do you do…………..We pottered about! What else could we do, we tinkered with the site ,explored new ideas and prepared for the return of crowds………and we wait.
“ If like me, your social media feeds may be full of the large scale doom and gloom,but there are also the personal hardships of those friends that are going through hell, financially and mentally.“
We move forward to the present and contemplate what is ahead of us as hopefully the world gets vaccinated and ready to return to “normal”. We could go into a session of sucking eggs and talk about planning details and such, but we thought we would share some of our thoughts on crowded places. So, let’s not do that and look out with that.
Will we return to normal? Normal is a long way away and it will be a slow and frustrating path. There is a risk of those that will rush, trip, fall and maybe set us back a bit. There will be mistakes, finger pointing, media sensationalism and many will fail, maybe not in planning, but financially. Sell out events may take a long time to come and costs are not going to get any cheaper. We may see stripped back events to save costs, but man power may have to increase as well as space and management of that space and that all comes at a cost.
Brexit! We are not delving into this too much, it is what it is and the UK will live with the decisions it has made. We have yet to see how this will have an impact on the events industry and it would be naive of us to think this will not have an impact. From increased tour costs to bands, attracting the international business community to conferences and exhibitions or delays in moving from the UK to anywhere now. There will be travel delays at ports and airports for sports fans following their teams and heroes, that cannot be questioned. A lot of this is unknown and will be for sometime to come and will slowly unveil itself. There is no doubt it will be painful at points and frustrating, but like everything else, we will adapt to it…….eventually.
Will we meet again? In this I am not talking about crowds, I am talking about those friends, colleagues, experts, professionals we have worked with and alongside for years. It may be something we have not considered yet, but we may not all be returning to the live event industry. If like me, your social media feeds may be full of the large scale doom and gloom,but there are also the personal hardships of those friends that are going through hell, financially and mentally. As a transient workforce in places many may not consider the tight bonds that have been created through years of working hard, playing hard and delivering events year on year. The events industry relies on self employed contractors that’s livelihood is fully tied to live crowded events and in 2020 that vanished.
We may not see many of our friends return when events return. This may be due to having to move on for health, wellbeing or the simple fact we need money to live and the unstable environment of freelancing finally proved too much. How many will not be working in retail, factories and offices, taking their expertise to other areas and a loss to the events industry. Where this focuses on individuals, have we contemplated those that have to supply mass workforces to the events sector?
Hospitality, security, stewarding, volunteers are all areas that are required to supply large quantities of trained staff to the events that we all love attending and have been on hold. In the whole this is a casual workforce (or zero hours if you prefer) that has not been utilised for over 9 months now. Have we considered the impact this will have on these providers? Are they confident they can supply the volume that will be required? There has to be a thought in the attrition on these workforces. Where freelance specialists have ties to the industry they work in and will fight to stay in it, can the same be said for the casual workforce. Many of them, especially volunteers, stewards and hospitality have not been engaged since the introduction of the first lockdown. Many did not get support through government schemes such as furlough; through many reasons that their employers will argue about. If you were not looked after by your employer are you going to hang about or move on? This is a great risk to events in itself, where for a period of time there will be shortfalls in staff levels, new staff that are rushed through training or at all, and limited or no experience…..and they are still going to get paid minimum wage or just above it.
Our divisions have shone through during this pandemic and they are not healing. As we distanced ourselves, the focus on social platforms has only added fuel to the fire; look at the recent fire stoking and eventual banning from social media of a man that was supposed to bring stability to a nation.
From leave or remain, referendums, BLM, anti-vaxxers/ lockdown, climate change, boomers or Gen Z, or the rise to the surface of right wing beliefs, we are growing apart and less tolerant of each other’s opinions. This will follow us back into the world of live events and may become a feature of how we plan in the future. One interesting part of the pandemic has been the willingness to comply with rules, or in more recent times, non compliance in a greater percentage of the populations. Initially we all joined in, we clapped on our door steps, we stayed home and we looked after one another. For whatever reason you want to pinpoint as the catalyst, it cannot be denied this was greatly eroded over the year to when we in the UK entered into another lockdown, the struggle to enforce this has been challenging. Has this demonstrated the need for consistent messaging and planning ahead to account for longevity and the worst case scenario? Did the constant changes and differences in what we perceive as acting as one and the rules applied to everyone dismantle what worked so well at the start? In my opinion, YES! But that is my opinion and I would not force that onto anyone. I would be happy to debate it and listen to other opinions and I am flexible if I feel as though I am wrong in my opinion, that is what talking achieves.
Going into a new year with the possible return to events and crowds returning in sight is a far better place to be in. We should not get too excited, it will be a slow return and all depends on vaccination. It is a start though, so we have time to plan and be ready to bring reassurance back to live events and help those attending understand what is required and how they can be part of the process.
10th January 2021