A DJ plays to a large crowd at an indoor music festival with lights in the background

Event workers fear music festivals won’t go ahead next year without government help

By Kyle Farrell
August 1 2020, 15.00

Behind-the-scenes events workers fear major concerts and festivals may not go ahead next year without government aid. 

Supply chains that provide music festivals with technicians and equipment may go bust causing events to be cancelled and leaving 600,000 freelancers out of work according to the Professional Lighting and Sound Association trade body (PLASA).

Nearly every music festival or concert in the UK has been cancelled due to COVID-19, leaving industry workers with half of their usual income and 70% of event suppliers with only a few months’ cash reserves. 

Managing director of PLASA Peter Heath said: “The government’s £1.57bn bailout to keep the arts alive is encouraging but it doesn’t consider supply chains needed to make each live event happen.

“Many workers such as technical specialists are looking elsewhere and gravitating towards high-tech industries.”

Mr Heath calls for the government to provide grants for supply companies that contribute to the £100bn events industry. 

It is estimated that 500 jobs are created for every show held in the UK ranging from caterers, drivers, set builders, and lighting crews.  

The CEO of sound mixer company Audiotonix, James Gordon, said: “As the first industry to stop working back in early March, we will also be the last to get our businesses working again.

James Gordon fears over the future of the events industry

“Without an ongoing sector specific furlough scheme — which other European countries have introduced — and other financial measures that will help our freelance workers, we cannot secure the long-term future of the UK’s leading events industry.”

It’s not only companies who are fearful, their employees and freelancers are also uncertain about their own futures.

Phil Wright, a sound designer of 25 years, would be working on this summer’s biggest classical productions however many venues have been shut down.

Phil Wright works on classical productions but has worked on Ministry of Sound events

He said: “Work started to cancel in the last week of February and we had no time to put plans in place. 

“The whole year literally cancelled in the space of a week.

“I have lost the whole summer 2020 season which represents about 70% of my regular turnover. 

“I have November shows but dates are being pushed back constantly and I expect most things to shift into 2021; I may well go 12 months with no income whatsoever.”

Freyja Lawson is a live mixing engineer who worked at the 2012 Olympics and toured with music artist Mura Masa.

Freyja urges people to follow the government guidelines

Having had no work since March 13, Miss Lawson said: “On March 10 we were due to play a show in Poland when the Polish government started shutting down shows.

“Two days later we were on a plane home with the rest of the EU shows cancelled.”

Miss Lawson — who usually goes on at least two European tours and one world tour each year — said she has lost 80% of her income and doesn’t know if normal levels will return. 

She added: “To the public; Listen to what the health professionals are telling you. Wear a mask, wash your hands, and be sensible. 

“If you want to go back to Glasto next year, you need to be responsible and safe this year.”

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