Bryan Raven is Managing Director of White Light Ltd.
Whilst issues like September 11th, the Foot & Mouth disease outbreak, and the 2008 financial crisis have certainly provided challenges in the past, the Covid-19 pandemic is in a different league. Not only the depth of the issue, the length of the disruption and the wider economic impact but also the human tragedy that has affected virtually everyone.
Adaptability has definitely been a key value. I don’t think, a year ago, I would have ever predicted that we would have been hosting church services, comedy nights and music videos in our warehouse as a way of earning money. I firmly believe virtual studios, the use of XR and the whole concept of hybrid events are here to stay and the fact that we were already working in that world has been a lifesaver for WL.
At the time I was helping a lot of the team write to their Member of Parliament and the open letter came out of a response to one of those MPs who wanted to know how he could help. Having written it I thought I would share it. I recently revisited the letter – see here. I never dreamt that the point about vaccines (which was added as a bit of a joke) would be pretty much the only area of help the industry is getting alongside furlough.
The campaign has had many facets to it. It was important for the Events community to feel that we were trying to do ‘something’ to help, we needed to raise awareness that the supply chain to the industry existed, and there was a need to represent the freelancers – many of whom work across different markets and therefore didn’t feel represented. Whilst the events such as #lightitupred and the flight case march in Manchester were very important to raise the profile, there has been a huge amount of work behind the scenes lobbying the government, getting recognition from people like the CBI and keeping the subject in the news. There is still a lot of work to do though.
I think hybrid and virtual events are here to stay and they will get better, easier to operate and possibly even cheaper, as I think it will be a few years before we are all travelling in the same way we were pre-pandemic. However, human contact & shared experiences are vital physical needs and people will want to go to live events, conferences, concerts and shows in the future. So, there will always be a place for the live events industry.