NI live events industry calls for support to ward off collapse

Generic undated image of music fans at a gig in Northern Ireland.
There are fears for the future of the live events industry in NI and beyond with mass gatherings currently impossible due to Covid-19. Credit: Presseye

Local artists, including Snow Patrol frontman Gary Lightbody, are backing a campaign by the live events industry in Northern Ireland calling for support to prevent its collapse.

Mass gatherings are on hold due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, halting music gigs, festivals, theatre performances, cultural celebrations and more – putting thousands of jobs at risk.

According to the #WeMakeEventsNI team, 7,500 jobs are in jeopardy in Northern Ireland.

The team, made up of a host of people working in the industry, from sound engineers and lighting designers, to tour managers and riggers, are raising awareness about the extent of the impact.

They say that, pre-pandemic, music tourists in Northern Ireland would spend around £90m per year – a vital boost to the local economy.

But, amid the crisis now facing the live events industry, many people have been unable to work since March and are facing uncertainty about when events may return.

The #WeMakeEventsNI team say 58% of live music businesses’ staff have been furloughed, with 87% of those affected needing an extension.

They also say 45% of affected companies are expecting to make further redundancies after the end of the government furlough period, unless it is extended, while some freelance staff have received zero governmental aid.

According to #WeMakeEventsNI, much of the industry in Northern Ireland will not survive into 2021.

PSI’s Sean Pagel, who is a director at the Belfast and Dublin based technical rental company and also Liam Gallagher’s tour rigger, said: “We are fighting hard for an industry that, in normal circumstances, brings so many people so much joy.

“We’re asking people to support the campaign and help us to secure government assistance for the events industry workforce.

“Without it, the companies and people who make every kind of event you can imagine will be gone.”

Carrickfergus-born Steve Strange is one of the most respected music agents in the industry, with his credits including Eminem, Coldplay, Snow Patrol and Kodaline, among many others.

He said: “Without government support, the sector will see mass losses and a drain of talent - both artists who are unable to perform live and skilled workers who will move to other sectors in order to survive.”

Sharon Tea is Logistics Manager of bussing and trucking company Crossland – Northern Ireland’s only supply business of its kind, renting production trucks and tour buses to stars like Hollywood actor and Tenacious D frontman Jack Black.

“On 17 March, the last of our fleet rolled up. Our 2020 ended there,” she said.

“We should be driving to the far-flung corners of Europe, moving bands and equipment to local venues – but, after 14 years of building our business, it’s been shattered through no fault of our own.

“The show can’t go on.”

The #WeMakeEventsNI campaign is building towards a global day of action on Wednesday 30 September, which will see the Northern Ireland events industry join a worldwide call for support.