Considerations or fear of crowd modelling

This week we had the pleasure of attending a briefing session by Ken Scott of the SGSA, about the inclusion of Zone Ex in the latest (6th) edition of the Green Guide. Now this is not what we are going to discuss today; although it is a fantastic inclusion. We would like to focus on the subject that was brought up by Ken several times in the room, the use of Computer Modelling for crowded events and the development of crowd safety solutions.

So, why do we want to focus on this? Well, we like to watch people when we are in briefings. To see what is being picked up on;  what may be drawing attention and what is being overlooked or avoided. It seemed that when computer modelling was mentioned, there was a lot of blank expressions or confused looks. Why? Why would anyone not enthusiastically embrace something that can provide a safe environment to test new systems, designs, layouts and management processes?

We continued to look around the room and look and look and look. Then we smiled when the very simple realisation came across us. If we looked at everyone in the room and put a profile to it – 90-10 Male to female, Age – 35 – 65. What does that mean to us. We are looking at a generation that struggle to keep up with the latest developments in tech – smartphones, apps, games, cloud platforms, wifi and all those new fangled things the kids play with.

Computer simulation software is scary stuff to most. The videos may look amazing, but how do you get that thing that sits on your desk to do that? Learning a computer system is not a quick process or easy to someone that may only use Word, Excel and Email in their daily work life.

There is also the variety of software and uses. They are powerful tools, do you actually need all the things they can do? If the thought of using this type of system scares the living bejeezus out of you, it is for good reason. When discussing a system lately, we could see several problems with self; or inhouse use. The users ability to use the system. Understanding the variance in output. The time to create what can be a very complex environment. Also the legal aspects, who is qualified to use a software system? Not many people in crowd safety have PhDs in Engineering or Computer engineering and not many of those that would have those types of qualifications have the expertise in understanding crowds that a Safety officer or crowd manager would have. If plans devised through these systems lead to harm of death at a crowded event, then who is to blame – the operator, those on the ground, the finance team that signed of the purchase, the CEO?

There is also the fear of spending money wisely. Software and training is not cheap. Millennials may not appreciate this, but think back to Betamax and VHS. You do not want to pick the wrong one. Software companies provide a product and to stay in business that means sales and you are a potential sale. To all these companies there sales men see you as a new client and their platform is the one for you. How often have you seen a salesman, say a rival product is much better for you and you should go for that.

So if not buying the systems for self use, how about going to a company to carry out the work for you, again not a cheap option. As well as gaining access to the system, you are paying for a trained operator, their time, cost of any output and a profit to be made. All of this also has the back and forth of alterations and variations. Another minefield to pass through.

Ken, also brought up another point. You can make a computer give you a desired output through manipulation, as Ken said, put rubbish in, get rubbish out. Who is the impartial expert to modotare this input and output. Would you know that the input is correct and that what comes out the other end is realistic?

Such a powerful tool, that could help solve so many problems and test new solutions in a safe environment, But, it is out of the reach of so many organisations and professionals that could gain benefit from it. Either through fear, budget, training, vision, time, mistrust or resistance, it may be a very long time before we see use of crowd modelling in the day to day planning of safe events.

Workingwithcrowds 19th May 2019

An honest point of view

Over the past few weeks we have had the pleasure of spending time with some of the country’s finest crowd management experts as well as from around the globe. We have seen presentations and cutting edge tech in the field of crowd management and pointers in the direction of the ways forward. Over a few drinks of an evening though, you start to get a sense that something is not right in the industry as a whole. And it would appear we may all be guilty of burying our head in the sand.

Lets us cover a few subjects that came out of the conversations.

Who will lead us into the future?

We have noticed that a lot of the leaders, senior operators, “old heads” are heading off to pastures new. Thankfully some are heading into consultancy or training roles. This means the all that knowledge and experience can still be passed on. But, too much knowledge is slipping away and not being passed on; or worse, passed on but many are not listening. To replace this experience the industry relies on younger and enthusiastic people to lead the safety provision of our events.

Can we say they are all fit for the role though? Are they being pushed or rushing under their own power at a rate where vital learning’s from the past and experiences are being passed by, forgotten about or missed? The drive to win more business, retain and deploy staff, covering shortfalls, attempt to make a profit and somewhere in that mix make sure the workforce can do the job; at what point are they supposed to plan for the safety of an event? When are they supposed to develop their own skills? A younger workforce does not mean a better workforce. If the driving motivation behind their rise through the rank is a want of salary and title, there may have been a step missed. Most of the pioneers in the industry; especially in the UK, took a long time and went through the growing pains, to get to where they are. Just because you can get a qualification that says you can be a safety officer or security expert, does not mean you can do the job. Just look at all the outcry in the UK with the unsuitability of a great number of SIA badge holders, now relate that to looking after the safety of thousands and the care of a workforce.

All fishing in the same pond?

No missing this one, the pond is getting smaller and everyone is fighting over what is available. This has lead to the same person being employed by multiple companies. Allowing them to chose the higher rate of pay, the nicer job….closer to home…..ect. You can bounce from company to company, miss the ones with the require screening checks (will probably get brought in by then from another supplier to do the same job anyway), go for the ones that are cash in hand, the ones with lower operating costs so can pay 20p more per hour.

Sound about right?

We also have to contend with a service industry that pays more for you to serve French fries than it does to look after people safety; and you don’t need qualifications for that or shell out over £200 for a licence.

Why should i spend my free time training?

Following on from the last point, why should I spend my own free time training?

Couple of point here – I could be a student, do I really want more to study? I could be someone that just wants to see the team I support or band I like playing, why should I do anything extra for you to pay me minimum wage? I could easily go and get a service job in a catering unit and get more money (they do tend to be at the same events in the same number these days). Also, not all providers are equal. Go to any large event, two people working next to one another all day, one is being told by his employer he has to do these courses, the other started with another company yesterday, is getting cash at the end of the week and no mention of training.

When we look at the industry today and where to think about signing on to work for a safety provider what would our thoughts be? Well for one, we are taking the SIA course, because you are going to pay me more per hour and let’s be honest for the majority of DS on an event, stand about a lot; do some searching, maybe a bit of pass checking and if they offer me more money a response team.

Level 2 in spectator safety, that one is getting ducked. Reasoning, I don’t want to do football, plus I am a door supervisor.

Why would we spend weeks studying, sitting tests and being watched, when I can spend 3 days in a class and get more money for it. If I play the system right as well, the government or the employer will pay for the badge and speed it up going through. (and I can work on the doors at night, can’t go doing that with a level 2).

You get what you pay for.

Money is tight. That seems to be the cry across the nation. The constant requests to shave the costs, can you save a few extra pounds? The desire to have a First Class supply of well trained, presentable and engaging safety experts to also deliver the highest standards of customer service, but only pay the least amount as possible. We have heard of large scale events swapping safety suppliers over a couple of pence per hour. What does that say about the event?

There is always someone out there that will say they can do it cheaper. We don’t deny they probably could, not sure they are going to provide trained staff though, that is normally the first thing to go; along with the notion of screening the workforce.

But, it is cheaper, so maybe they can settle of second class.

We walk a very tightrope

With the loss of experience and the ever tightening budget, the need to push on to the next job or juggle several jobs on the same day/weekend/night; just to make a few extra pounds, are we a step away from it all going wrong. The least harm that could happen is a loss of reputation at worse, the loss of life.

With all the juggling, are we really paying attention to the events we are working on, giving them the time and effort they deserve. Did we do all the paperwork we need to; translating them in to operational plans, resolve and put in place all the contingency plans. Do we have all the facilities we need for the workforce, the equipment, the time to brief them correctly?

Close calls are on the rise, the hiding of being short staff is more frequent, and the industry is not in good shape (just an opinion).

As we said, an honest point of view. We make general assumptions, but there may be some truths in there. Maybe we all need to get together more and share a drink and chat, you never know it may solve a few problems.

Working with crowds 10th December 2018 

Back in the Pit

This week we took the last chance to say goodbye to old friends. This being to attend a concert for a toe tapping little band called SLAYER \m/ (yes you should be shouting the name). Now, when we say “old friends”, we do not know the band members personally, but they have been in our lives longer than most people we know and they have brought great joy to us and some of our most memorable crowd experiences.

YouTube @Corné K Published on Jun 6, 2014

On a farewell tour, this would be the last time we would see the band live. In our younger years we have seen them several times as a paying customer, later that turned into being on the other side of the barrier as a part of the crowd safety team. In their own way, we enjoyed both experiences.

Now, it was time to return to the busier side of the barrier. We had a problem though! After many years of working crowded events, observation and learnings, the reality set in – it has been a long time since we were in the middle of the mosh pit. More accustomed now to observing and providing the safety net for others, could we return to the middle of the crowd and join in?

Deep breath……..breathe…….breathe……….SLAYER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

What can we say, our inner 18 year old headbanger came screaming out and we went for it.

Suddenly, you remember what fascinates you about live music (having seen over 7000 live acts, it can be jading), the energy of those around you is infectious and the sheer joy of being battered, bruised and damaging your vocal cords for the next few weeks, puts a huge smile on your face.

This is not pop music, this is brutal; from the deafening power of instruments being played to the  extreme, singing that resembles the cries of a thousand dying warriors and lyrics not for the faint hearted. With that comes a crowd just as ferocious.

You will find no slow ballads here, the pace goes from fast to frantic. The mosh pits only pauses to consume what oxygen they can, wipe sweat from brows and prepare for the next round. The energy from the crowd in front of stage, mirrors that being blasted at them (the mind refers back to a Journal submission from Tony Duncan on the rate of BPM indicating the levels of energy, activity and crowd surfing from an audience).

We have to admit though we could not step away from years of learning and observations. So, we decided to use our nights entertainment as a refresher in extreme crowd interaction.

What did we come across:

  • We had a greater awareness of density; were as years ago we would say we are getting crushed or ‘it was packed’, we started putting figures on this. It went from 2ppm2 in the mosh pit to 6ppm2 at the front barrier when we ventured there.
  • Surfers range from those venturing forth for the first time to veterans that should know better at their age (risk of breaking hips is a lot higher these day…after all this was a school night and the boss expect you at work the next day). Also the older the suffer the greater the weight on the crowd…..what can I say, we have all put a few pounds on over the years)
  • Mosh pit rules are still the same, if they fall pick them up, keep those elbows in and no Hardcore nonsense.
  • We are one, we have one goal and the leaders are on stage. The young learn from the older ones with experience and everyone is welcome (rule breakers are admonished and persistent offenders are either rejected from the group of retribution taken)

What new observations crossed our minds:

  • There was a greater number of females in the crowd, mosh pits and surfing. Traditionally a male dominated arena, this brought a smile from us, as females are treated as equals and with respect. Those I seen in the crowd were aware that when females crowd surf, placement of hands to assist is considered. Mosh pits are not the safest places to be for the uninitiated and a hard learning ground. Male/female it does not matter; you learn, you take the knocks and bruises and come out after it wiser. All are treated the same, you are; in this case, a metalhead.
  • During the two crowd collapses we seen, the younger members of the crowd seemed to be a bit slower in picking up those on the floor. Is this lack of experience? A lack of appreciation of risk (we are now 30 years since the deaths of 2 concert goers at the Monsters of Rock Festival; do not underestimate the impact that had on us that attended metal concerts in the UK). A great percentage of those attending this concert where not even born when this tragedy happened. Have modern safety measures and the passing of time brought about a complacency or lack of understanding in younger metalheads?

We found ourselves fully aware of our surroundings for the first time at a metal concert; years ago the consumption of many beers and the invulnerability (or perceived) of youth blurred our surroundings.

The placement of body, the use of feet and leg position to balance against crowd sway and pulsing. Awareness that limbs being trapped could be released through thought and patience. When pressure was placed on the rib cage, through increased crowd density; the repositioning of arms to protect and relieve pressure was thought through. Being aware of those around you (and above) assists in protecting you from harm and causing harm. In the full headline set, only one elbow to the face (resulting in a nice fat lip) was our only memorable wound.

Our greatest learning though, was being part of the crowd again. Immersing ourselves in the group’s, behavior and actions. Years of observations had been enhanced by previous learnings from being part of the crowd. The passing of time can lessen our understanding though. Putting ourselves back in the mix; so to say, allowed a fresh perspective and this time we had a tool box of learnings to gain understanding from.

Not that we are recommending all those involved in crowd safety should place themselves in a mosh pit, but returning to the floor, being part of the crowd can refresh and enhance your understanding. Put some renewed energy in your step.

It has served us well, and to end this blog, all we can say is

SSSLLLLLLAAAAAAYYYYYEEEERRRRR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 14th November 2018

Distance, its hard to appreciate.

Do you appreciate the recommended safe distances?

After our interest was prodded in an question on line, our minds kept drifting back to the subject and realising how difficult it can be to appreciate distance in a built environment. The question was on the safe distance for a PSA or search area. In the UK we use the metric system and in this case we will look at search of a person and bag/ backpack. The UK guidance is a safe distance of 100m, incase of detonation.

If we consider the incident at the Stade de France, where security deterred the attack on the stadium, we can also consider what would have happened if the device was detonated at the turnstiles. This has lead to us pondering what 100 meters would look like at crowded places in the UK. A simple bit of time on Google maps (other maps are available), and we can suddenly grasp the area that 100 meters covers.

The next thing that must be remembered; the 3 dimensional world. A blast will radiate out from its centre point. If we follow guidance, a resulting 200meter diameter is created. We are no longer thinking in one direction, we think behind, to the side, above and below.

For the benefits of this simple blog though we will look at the 2 dimensional world. The following are some of the countries well known Stadiums and concert/event venues.

A simple exercise, maybe you can try it for your place of work and consider – what falls within the area that may be affected – neighbouring businesses, residences, transport routes? 6th November 2018

Does size matter ?

We will start this blog with a story.

A few years back whilst planning for an event; and defending them against objections, we were tasked with proving that the space being used would be safe. In this case a large open outdoor space that would have entertainment and suitable facilities introduced. We created our plan, but went a step further and created a use of space report. That being, created predicted use of space and measures to control higher risk areas. As part of this we asked for the cctv locations and provided 3d images of the predicted crowd at varying density. Come event day, we are asked through the course of the day to suggest the attendance. What was interesting was that we were challenged on this several times; a rare thing these days. After introducing the pre planned images, the doubts were calmed and agreement of the numbers provided agreed.

After a long day, we gave an attendance figure; with the understanding that due to not being able to see the full site at the peak of the event, this was only a prediction. All agreed to the figer and accepted the margin of error, but that the figure seemed a realistic number. On reading press coverage the next day, it seemed that someone in their wisdom had decided to double the figure we provided.

The purpose of this story is as a way of introduction, that we have some experience in working with large crowds and prediction of attendance when in open spaces without entry counts. This experience is always interesting and challenging, along with being exciting and frustrating. This frustration, generally comes when your hard work is ignored for the benefit of increasing the profile of the event.

In recent years, we have paid attention to the media coverage of large crowds and the attendance figures attached to them. Sometimes they make us smile; at the blatant fibs being told and other times a raised eyebrow in confusion as to why a count of the crowd is being provided.

Through our involvement in planning for events large and small, we take it upon ourselves to understand the use of space, where people will gather, areas of higher risk, variations of density, ingress/egress routes, use of circulation space and a good few other reasons. Not at any point has this been carried out to assist promote the event. Involvement with the press is the last thing and the first thing on our mind. What do we mean by that?

Your work on an event is to create a safe environment, remove risk from those attending. The last thing you would want is to be in the press for all the wrong reasons. A classic and ongoing case of this is the Love Parade Disaster; which we run ongoing coverage of the court case, of an event where the planning and understanding of crowd movements went wrong in the planning stage. This is an example of when press interest is not positive or assist the event continuing going forward.

In 1995, we seen (in our mind) the first high profile debate over the estimated attendance at an event. This was the Million Man march, taking place in Washington D.C. to promote African American unity and family values; surely an amazing effort of organisation and solidarity. From that day though to this, there is disagreement on the amount that attended, from a few hundred thousand people to over the million person estimate. In our innocence from far across the water, we were confused by the debate and why would people question such a worthy effort. Then the penny drops, the understanding that this debate is political, has racism at the core of it and turns a positive message into an accusation of failure.

From then we can see from time to time, the prediction of crowd attendance. This is mainly at political rallies and religious gatherings. Possibly the highest profile debate was in 2017 at Donald Trumps inauguration. Self proclaiming this event to be the highest attended presidential inauguration ever, divided the nation and world, where pro and critics debated the size of the crowd; much of it with great humour.

What the majority seen as funny; the internet loves poking fun at the world, others seen as controversial. The darker underbelly of political one upmanship and manipulation of the press, circumvents the accuracy of understanding a crowd attendance.

Why is it important to understand an event attendance; this is our list of reasons.

  • Monitoring of crowds for increased risk through unpredicted use of space
  • Assessment of the planning predictions
  • Continued learning of crowds at the event
  • Assist in future planning for the event
  • Continued improvement for licence conditions

As you can see, there is no inclusion of press relations. Our reasons are simple, you cannot win. If you provide an accurate figure, it has to match what was predicted in the planning stage. Why do we say that.

  • Underestimation of crowd attendance: This can lead to questions over the event planning from licencing. Where more people attended than planned, did you have the safety measures to remove risk, can the space accommodate the attendance.
  • Overestimation of crowd attendance: This can be a PR disaster and financially. Looking at finance first, a lot of money may have been wasted on facilities and safety measures that were not required. PR – the event would look like a failure, especially if there is an announcement of the predicted attendance before the event.

One of the roles of public relations is to assist promote the event in a positive manner. If you say a number, they want to increase that number; in their minds bigger is better. They may not consider that an exaggeration may cause post event issues for the safety planning team. As they say, go big or go home (so we have heard anyway). That is why we always take the press release of attendance figures with a pinch of salt. On the other hand, if this comes from the planning team (in the UK normally fronted by the police) this is more that likely to be factual. After all, what benefit do they get from telling a white lie.

Recent years have taught us that crowd counting is heading down a path that distracts from its origins. We fully understand that there are occasions when overestimation of an attendance can bring positive results; psychological fo those that attended and promotion of the event. Unfortunately in this day and age there is always someone out there that wants to spin this into a negative or manipulate it to suit their needs. The internet provides the world with a voice and that can be either positive or negative.

Does size matter?

If we judge the success of an event by the amount that attended, we have lost our way. If you feel the need to justify that attendance, then again we would question the motivation behind this. In our mind, prediction of crowd size should be purely based on safety reasons.

The continuation of crowd estimates for press relations only adds fuel to a fire, that in the long run you will not control. You may be accused of inaccuracy, lying, falsehood or being unprofessional. We are not saying that it is wrong to do it, far from this. We are saying that your best intentions may be used in a way that you can not control and not in a positive manner. As long as this is understood, then we hope your calculations are right. 26th August 2018


The frustration of operations vs academia

It’s been a bit of time since we put fingers to keys and blogged, mostly this is due to operational commitments.

It is partly through this, that frustration spawns this blog. Since finishing further education just over a year ago, the want for self improvement kindles within. This is not easily achieved for those in full time employment, especially operational within the events industry. Our hours vary; long days, weekends, evenings and when we do get time off, we try to catch up with life. We aplaude all those that are enrolled in any form of further education whilst performing their day job.

Academic study not only allows time for self improvement,but, where it is grasped; the opportunity to advance the field we are engaged in. The problem being, that most practitioners do not get the time to develop their thoughts and ideas fully, just getting their results has to do. The opportunity is sometimes lost due to time constraints and pressure.

Where can operational leaders within the crowd safety industry develop their ideas then? Do crowd management providers (operators) have research departments, think tanks or partnerships with universities? Do they allow members of their teams or themselves the time to develop, research and test theory? We are sure that this happens in some places, but it may be limited. Does this leave it down to consultants to bridge the gap between academia and operations?

There is a stumbling block if operators want to develop an idea and round it out academically. That being the access to academic publishing, journals, research papers and libraries. The vast amount of knowledge on a subject is out of reach of most operators due to availability and cost. When you have to pay in excess of £25 for a single bit of literature and rounding out your idea could require upto 50 such papers, most individuals are priced out of participating. Employers are reluctant to source the required literature, because the 1 person in 20 that would read and understand the work, does not constitute a good investment.

Do not take this as a slight, we do not challenge the authors right to charge or how ever a charge has be imposed on a piece of work. We just point out, that this creates a divide between academia and the industry.

In an ideal world, all crowd safety providers would work in partnership with universities and colleges, as far as we are concerned. This could either be through sponsorship, providing work experience or grants. Creating an ever evolving open resource of knowledge and output. Knowledge should be shared, especially when it comes to safety. Were the inability to develop safety practice is stifled or not attainable, then what is the point of it.

Our operational suppliers should be pioneering the development of the industry. Instead, they grasp at the rare idea that comes along to give them an advantage over their competitors. They may deploy half baked and understood concepts, in the hope that their services are chosen over others. When was the last time someone said, we came up with this idea and it made our events safer……would you all like to have a look and try?

On looking for academic material to share on this site, it is overwhelming the amount available. What is open source and free to share, is a far smaller percentage. It is there if you look though. We are sometimes dreamers, we like the idea of all information being free for us all to develop and learn from one another. We have laughed along with others that refer to this site as the Wikileaks of crowd safety. (We do not breach copyright and if we do, we would quickly remove it……just pointing this out). We share to help, it is that simple. The struggle to understand and make crowded places safer does not get easier year on year, it just changes. We have to learn to change and stay ahead of the curve. 21st May 2018


The weather effect

Well what a week it has been. Life has been consumed with basics, bread,milk, heat and catching up on daytime tv ( and understanding I never need to watch it again). Thanks to beasts from eastern regions an storming Emma, the United kingdom basically ground to a stand still for 2 days.

During that time events were cancelled, government adviced not to travel and roads up and down the country impassable. We must say, the right advice was given and the cancellation of events was the correct thing to do (in our opinion). Travelling to events during dangerous conditions increases risk, in an industry that tries to reduce risk were it can.

As the weekend approached and cabin fever set in a nation of sports lovers, concert and club goers were split over the cancellations continuing over the weekend. Were safe to do so stadiums and arenas open when they could clear the grounds and public transport limped back into functional service. Was there still a risk though?

Let’s split this into two parts, working personal and customers.

Working personal are those that you need on event days to run your operation. Not the full time management but the ones that you rely on; generally paid minimum wage (yes, that is a personal opinion on pay, they deserve more) Your stewards, catering staff, car park attendants and hospitality. When making the decision to green light an event, how much consideration was given to the workforce being able to get to work? Not just the customers, but those you need to open your venue. We are sure that it was, but was there a realistic view of the levels of staff that would be able to get to work. If you are being paid minimum wage, are you going to go the extra mile to get into work? There are always a percentage of those that will try the best they can to get to work, the dedicated, the passionat , but to most it is just a job and not a job they feel loyalty to.

There is then the consideration of your customers. Again they are advised not to travel unless it is essential. Does attending an event fall under that banner? For a few maybe, but entertainment is something you are meant to enjoy, not risk life and limb over. It was disheartening to see some events being postponed very late in the day, taking it to the final hour before pulling the plug. Where is the customer service in that. We understand the money involved and the passing of the buck as no one wants to take the blame and backlash. Over last week though the backlash came when the delay in postponing events was held up. Those events that cancelled early and let the customers know as soon as possible were seen to receive praise and thanks. Delays damaged reputations more that cancelling. Social media is a powerful tool and those frustrated and angered are the first to voice their opinion, but if you manage to hit the common consensus on the head, they are also quick to praise.

There is then the question of those events that finally got the break in the weather to get up and running, events like football games and concerts. Was the decision made on the event space and area around it being safe? How far out did those that are responsible for safety look. There are reasons we ask this…..

We watched masses of people walking on roads because all the effort rightly was put into clearing roads, but paths were not cleared. The risk of slipping on the paths forced pedestrians to walk on roads. A balance of risk by pedestrian, but something events seemed to ignore out with the perimeter of there event space. In our minds we seen that the greater number of people you attract, the further out from your venue you need to consider as being safe to use.

The lost drivers? with public transport unreliable and in places not available, many took to using their cars; were normally they would not to attend an event. Firstly this increased traffic were advice was to not. Secondly, were to put the car. Main routes were cleared, but most on street parking spaces were filled with cars not moving, those abandoned and the gaps filled with piles on snow. The hunt for the sneaky side street to park up in was knocked on the head as they were not cleared and unusable. We watched drivers go round and round in circles in the hope that a gap would appear. It must have been frustration and not the best way to start your day of enjoyable entertainment.

All of these are just observations. The thoughts that maybe it is just not outside your venues door you need to think about, but further afield. Also, risk to reputation can be greater in the long run than the monetary value of a cancelled event. 5th March

Is selling out your festival a good thing?

Seems like a rather strange question, but to crowd managers and security providers, it could be rather relevant if not thought about.

We noticed this week the announcement of a line up for a large scale urban music festival in a British city. Lots of trending and popular artists and sure to be a massive draw. Seems they have got the line up spot on, less than 2 days later it is being announced as a sell out. Fantastic news, high fives and pats on the backs all round. But is this a massive headache for the crowd management and security provider?

If an event has proven that popular and sold out so quickly, what happens to those wanting to attend but never got a ticket? Do you think they might just go along on the off chance they may get a ticket off a tout? Do you think the touts may have bulk bought tickets because they took the chance this might happen and they can rake the money in?

This leads to the potential of hundreds if not thousands of non ticket holders on the perimeter of your event. Public transport allows them easy access to the area. The city has a massive population and following of the acts on offer. The event is in a public space, so you cannot restrict people using the area.

All in all; if not monitored and measures put in place, the potential for a testing few days is a lot higher. Selling out a festival that quickly, indicates that demand is higher than provision. Easy access to the area of the event allows the ability to take that chance and see if you can get in. In recent years we have seen incidents of this nature, gate crashing; Wireless festival in London and RATM in London. We are sure this will have been considered and the plans already underway to prevent this occurring, but it is worth considering if your event looks like it has the potential to head down that path.

Food for thought. 24th January 2018


Just what have we been up to at Working with Crowds?

Time sure moves fast when you work in this industry. New things are happening all around us and we are attempting to take in as much as possible and share with the community. There are always moments of doubt though; is this worth doing, spending the time to collect all the information in, search for news and developments in the industry?

For the past year we have juggled the site and social media accounts, with the daily commitment of events and projects. We are not going to lie, this has not been an easy year. That is seen by us taking some periods of time out, to allow focus else were. So, a decision had to be made; to scrap it all and just move on, maybe pass it on to others to continue with or to develop the site and try new routes with it.

We had decided the path of development.

As with all projects……we need a plan. This one has two stages.

Stage One

We are revamping the site. A fresh look,  interactivity and graphics. We also decided to introduce a logo to the site and across the social media platforms. This provides continuity to all the platforms. We hope you like it.

Stage Two

This is a long term project; still under wraps and will be for some time. The concept is to give longevity to the site and take part of it in another direction. We will continue to develop this as we run the site; which would then have 2 branches.

We are looking forward to working on this and hope that it will serve us and others well further down the line. 19 January 2018


HB 183 Crowd Management and Crowded Places (Standards Australia).

This morning we received some great news from Australia and the standardisation of crowd management in the country. This shows that determination and the efforts of like minded professionals can change an industry for the better. We wish all those involved the  best and look forward to seeing all that comes in the future.

In 2001, I was part of the security management team that worked at Big Day Out when Jessica Michalik died. The “Jessica Recommendations” were released. Several of those recommendations referred to Guidance (Pts 1 @ 4)

  1. That a ‘working party’ be established under the auspices of WorkCover Authority of NSW, to review current ‘entertainment’ industry standards and practices and develop guidelines to ensure the safety and comfort of patrons attending large scale events. This working party should comprise of representatives from the police, ambulance, fire brigade, local government, promoters, security, entertainers and any other appropriate ‘stakeholders’. Given then changing dynamics of rock and pop festivals and the alarming number of deaths at outdoor venues, the working party should be established forthwith. The ‘working party’ to devise guidelines for promoters to be adopted at events such as the Big Day Out and other large scale entertainment events. The guidelines should be developed with the intention that they be adopted as a ‘National Code of Conduct’. Australian Standard AS:4360 of 1999 should be used when considering the issues of ‘risk assessment’. The working party should have regard to (but not limited to): crowd numbers generally and at individual venues the compulsory preparation of comprehensive ‘risk assessment’ emergency protocols for stopping artists during performance age restrictions the accessibility of water, shade and first aid the suitability of crowd activity such as moshing, slam dancing, crowd surfing etc barrier configurations


  1. That a National Code of Conduct be adopted by each state and territory, to ensure uniformity of approach to safety issues for large scale events.

Over the years myself and several others have attempted to get these recommendations looked at.

In 2016 I submitted a proposal to Standards Australia for a Crowd Management Standard, in 2017 this proposal was accepted and today 17th January 2018 we had our first planning meeting for HB 183 Crowd Management and Crowded Places (Standards Australia).

Special thanks to Tara Hopton Fda, Paul Corcoran OAM for assisting in the proposal and some fine tuning and also to Mick Upton (RIP) for advice and encouragement in persevering.

I would like to think that based on the coroners recommendations we now have the “Jessica Guidelines”

James Fidler Fda.


Consume to queue to consume to queue…..repeat till the end

It has been a fair bit of time since we put together a blog; what can we say, life has been busy over the past few weeks, months….year? There were some events, lots of crowds, a load of plans, versions of plans, last minute changes and somewhere in there, the time to update the website.

We sent out a tweet into the twitterverse the other day, after seeing the first draft of a stadium concert plan for summer 2018 (and Santa has not even dropped off his presents yet). These get the blood pumping and the juices flowing, looking forward to longer days and the promise of the sun shining down on us all. This is then followed by the flash backs to this years events, the chance to fix small problems ahead of time, to review the operations and look for the new systems to deliver a more dynamic and stable process.

Then……there are those things that just bug you and you wish you could fix. This brought to the front an itch that we have scratched at for years, but never had time to consider the solution – Toilets! Not just your bog (get it!!!) standard toilets, but toilets during events. Why are there always queues? ALWAYS; unless you get in there within the first hour after doors open.

In the UK, the purple guide and a few other forms of reference, provides us with pointers in the ratios of loos to visitors. If this is the case, why are there always queues? Is it because this has been written in a room, looking at the average use of the toilet by a person over a day. Stadium concerts have the advantage of having facilities built in to service the supporters and then supplement these by a few temporary toilets to accommodate those on the pitch; correct?

Things to consider when thinking about this.

We are not being sexist, but football stadiums still lean towards male use. Concerts do not match the same demographic as football and god forbid you end up with females in the majority (ladies, what can we say – some still think it’s a man’s world)

Most concerts show higher levels of consumption, alcohol, coffee and food. Your average football fan will turn up just before kick-off, have a pie and a Bovril or even a pint (sorry Scotland), then spend 45 – 90 minutes watching the game. At half time, there is a rush on the toilets and you may have to queue; a stadium cannot facilitate the capacity for a 5-minute burst. This is accepted. But, a concert has a longer time line, more breaks and the opportunity to consume more – and you can consume whilst watching the entertainment (limited during a football game).

Consume more – expel more. It is that simple, the more you put in, the more must come out. Were as at a football game, a fan may visit the facilities once, maybe twice a game; a concert goer may visit twice that; or more for the weak bladdered or greedy.

Woman take longer in a toilet, sorry there is no discussion on this one. We all know it’s true – clothing, chatting and for some the draw of a mirror (or selfie???? We just don’t understand the selfie or portrait in the toilet fixation of some). All this adds time to the visit. Gents….we just hope you wash your hands at some point during the day (YES…that is a joke).

All of this adds up to time spent in the toilets. Was this built into the calculations for suggesting the toilets required for an event?

Having thought about it for a few years and not had time to research, maybe it is time to do so. Is the guidance accurate for your event? Can a more accurate calculation be obtained…thoughts;


Arrival profile

Serving outlets/points

Historic sales profile

Customer profile (known to consume more?)

Preference of consumption (wine, spirits, pints of lager or cider?)

Weather conditions (we visit more when it is colder)

All these let us look at each event and venue and build a more accurate requirement of facilities. It must be one of the biggest complaints at most events, toilets, not enough toilets, queues at toilets……. the list goes on.

Food for thought, if by chance you already have something on this subject, please feel free to share and help improve everyone’s events. 8th December 2017

Nice Terror Attack – Was it a case of us burying our heads in the sand

I am going to go back a bit, to when I was younger to start with. A young lad that liked nothing better than watching action movies, going to the video shop (pre Netflix generation – same thing but you have to leave the house to get the movie and you had to give it back; after you rewound the tape) and hiring the latest movie that I was far too young to watch.

In these movies I seen films such and Gauntlet (Clint Eastwood classic right there), Convoy, Speed, Mad Max, II and III and even up to modern movies, World War Z and the Matrix, where large vehicles where used as weapons to crash through roadblocks or just as weapons.

If you lived in the UK, how about 1996 Manchester, 1993 Bishopsgate, 2007 Glasgow Airport; where we see trucks, large cars getting used in terror attacks.  Every other day since the mid 90’s footage from some middle eastern country uses some type of vehicle as a weapon.

So what makes us think that is was never going to be used in Europe to bring harm to people? At what stage did we convince ourselves that this was never going to happen? Is it not easier to get hold of truck than explosives?

A quick question. How many times have you put in road closures around an outdoor event, but somehow a vehicle has managed to get in (no you cannot count the local authority bin truck that appears out of nowhere)?

What do you have in place to stop a vehicle getting into you event? Is it a steward and some cones and road closed sign? In the past 48hrs we have seen 2 run away vehicles in the UK that caused damage and harm; can those cones stop that.

Now we are treating this blog with a pinch of humour. That is because we spend a fair bit of time thinking what bad people out there could do to our event (not a happy life sometimes). Trucks, buses and cars are a risk to an event, they must be thought about, but there are measures out there that can stop this happening; look into it.

What really keeps us up late at night are motorcycles and scooters. They move fast, fit through gaps and seem to be the new favourite in action movies (Bourne, Bond, Mission Impossible). A couple of bad men on a bike could cause more damage than we can imagine.

There is no excuse for any event not to have considered this and implemented some form of preventative measure.

Food for though

WorkingWithCrowds 19th July 2016

Is the good life coming to an end for the Blue badge?

Treading old ground here, but as another summer is upon us and we are coming across what we have all known for awhile. Where do you get all the security you need?

Door Supervisors; known to hang about the local pub and club doors or the local music venue. In some parts of the country they bounce between multiple companies, some just hang about on that door step all night, some work at sporting venues and music venues.

With the country now seeming to be spent of large scale multiple day events that require vast amount of security the only events that require large numbers of security is music festivals. Now, this may sound cynical; but where is the draw for these people to go and work in festivals? Most of them have shifts at weekends anyway. You could pay them a bit more? But does that compensate for letting down their regular income, go to a muddy field, get no sleep, hardly any food and deal with pissed up and drugged up teenagers. You can stay at home and get that on a normal weekend and still have a takeaway and your own bed at the end of the night.

What about the London bubble? Is that fading away with the national living wage starting to kick in. We don’t see the clients putting up the wages of door supervisors to keep them ahead of the rest. The pub doors don’t change, or nightclubs. Only events- music and sport do we see the difference; just where you need the bulk of security. If the living wage is getting closer to that pay threshold that the blue badge graces you with, then where is the incentive to go get one? Go work at the football or a concert and get paid a couple of pence less and you don’t have to take all the grief.

Is the living wage going to cause a headache in years to come or sooner? Are you paying attention? Are their signs?

  • Is it easy to get door supervisors for large scale events?
  • Do your door supervisors work for you exclusively?
  • Are your stewards upgrading to door supervisors?
  • Are you seeing a reluctance to do so?

Have we seen the end of the good times and racking in money for the provision of door supervisors? Can you man your events without having to go to subcontractors? Are you client wanting you too save money because you want them to cover the cost of the living wage or increases in national minimum wage——on that..

Side note. If you employ a company to provide you with stewards and security and are arguing over the age limit of the national minimum wage then get a grip. We have seen and discussed with providers that have to provide under 25 year olds to clients because they are not willing to foot the increases. You are putting people’s safety at risk doing this, so much experience out there getting lost from event over a few pence.

As an industry it is getting ever closer to that day when you have to say- sorry but we cannot meet demand. For years the security/stewarding suppliers have been asked to cut and cut to save clients money. We are now coming to that stage where we cannot cut anymore.

I will give you a quick example of where we have come from. My first festival – taken there by bus, worked the shift, provided with three hot meals, taken at the end of the night to accommodation – bed, tv, hot showers. Couple of years later – the accommodation was gone and the showers where kind of warm. Couple of years after that – the 3 hot meals where down to 1 hot meal and a grab bag.

Not much motivation there to go to those festivals. This is something that need addressed before the reason that your festival never happened is because you could not get enough security (Yes, we know how close this comes every year now for so many events)

Anyway, food for thought

WorkingWithCrowds 19th July 2016

Is it a festival or Tough Mudder?


As we pass through another festival season in the Northern hemisphere, we get to learn more about what we can do for our customers and how to improve our service. No matter how much we plan, sometimes the weather tries it’s hardest to spoil all our months of planning.

It is amazing what a bit of rain can do to an event and devastating what a lot of rain can do. Mud! Mud! Mud! All our planning and effort for turn those Green fields into a small town to provide entertainment to thousands and a bit of rain can suddenly through a big spanner in that planning.

Green grass becomes dark green, then brown then it vanishes. It is replaced with a river of water and soil. The repeated pounding of feet over those Green fields helps turn the hardened ground into soft loose mud. Then if is rains heavy enough the ground says—that’s it! Enough, and starts forming puddles, that can turn into ponds, small lakes, rivers and lakes.

We guess that is the problem when you use a Green field site, unless the weather is favourable you are subject to the ground conditions.

It is an amazing thing to watch, your average festival camper, or Tough Mudder contestant in training. They spend days in conditions that you would normally see the UN Peacekeepers fly in to rescue them from. They will carry a whole weekends/weeks camping supplies, clothing, food and double that weight with beer and cider. Tramping over field and hill to find that pitch that they will call home for days, mentally challenge themselves to build their home (beer and tent building is not a good mix) and then they will venture forth to their chosen entertainment.

After the hard slog from entrance/campsite into the arena the endurance section starts. To stand all day, well you have to because there are no seats. So the challenge begins – Stand, drink, Stand, trudge, stand, beer, trudge, sing, dance, trudge and beer. Repeat until you can no longer do so; the festival version of last man standing.

Why do they do it? Why?2

This happens a lot more often that we would like and yet we have not moved forward. What can we do? Is there an alternative? Or do we just keep going down the same old path.

Food for though.

WorkingWithCrowds 18th July 2016

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