Lou Kiwanuka (pictured), ESSA chair, EIA chair and MD of EventShaper, on how ESSA plans to help its members through the latest Covid-19 lockdown.
With the quietest Christmas on record behind us and a freshly minted new year in our laps, we’ve returned to work to find that the virus has mutated into an ultra-transmissible strain, and the government has instituted a third national lockdown to stop it from spreading.
On the other hand, we now have vaccines available, and they are being rolled out in the UK as part of a massive immunisation program. It is now probably only a matter of time until the pandemic comes to an end. But we clearly still have months of disruption ahead.
The effects of the virus have been devastating for our industry. Amongst ESSA members, the figures are chilling – our most recent survey shows roughly two-thirds of the member workforce has now been made redundant. 86% of the companies we surveyed forecast further redundancies by the end of this year’s first quarter. Our research suggests that more than half of supply chain businesses will face closure in the first six months of this year if they don’t begin to trade near previous levels soon.
These numbers do not take into account ‘the forgotten’ freelance community who have not had corporations or long term contracts to shield them from the successive blows of the pandemic and ensuing lockdowns. In addition to this, they have mostly been excluded from the furlough scheme or any rates based grants. Freelancers embody a colossal amount of expertise and skill across the whole gamut of event industry roles, from floor managers and H&S consultants to designers, technicians and crew. The danger of losing these talented people to other industries is real.
None of this is how we would have wanted to start the new year. But ESSA, in conjunction with the Association of Event Organisers (AEO) and Association of Event Venues (AEV) as the Event Industry Alliance (EIA), will continue to find ways to push hard on proposals for government-backed insurance, and lobbying for specific, financial support to the industry.
Back in October, ESSA held a strategy day to define and focus on ESSA’s goals for the next ten years, how we might achieve them and in particular, to identify the key areas within ESSA that provide the most significant benefits for the largest number of our members – these were: representation, leadership, unity, value delivery, and continuous improvement.
With a considerably smaller secretariat and the pressures of the pandemic pushing down on us, the board was in agreement that it needed to take a more active role in planning and delivering on all these key areas. Board members are now caucusing in smaller groups of three or four to take on these areas individually.
The face of the events industry has changed irrevocably. Despite our hard-won achievements of 2020, like the All-Secure Standard and the All Secure Expo Pilot, the resurgence of the pandemic puts us firmly back in the box until the population has been sufficiently immunised to make mass events possible again.
Until that time comes, we have a job to do, and after making some changes to how the board at ESSA is run, we have the plan to tackle it.
Our focus is clear.
- To represent our members’ interests to the government, the wider industry, and our colleagues, within the organiser and venue communities. This firmly includes ensuring the need for funding and support is demonstrated.
- To lead the way in industry recovery and efficiency, post-Covid and post-Brexit.
- To be stronger together by ensuring our table is big enough for all who wish to sit at it and that our members bring all they can to the table.
- To deliver real and substantial value for our membership in terms of credibility, positioning, and heaps of benefits for members and their employees.
- To do what we do better, through continuous improvements in both physical and mental safety and health, and by creating a more diverse industry that inspires talented people from a broader perspective.
In addition to the ESSA Board’s focus, we also need greater collaboration between our associations than ever. We need more membership participation, both in messaging to government and to the wider world. And we need our members to be more involved in the working groups that are figuring out how we can deliver the events of the future in the most effective way.
On an individual basis, we each have a duty to keep connected with the ocean of newly unemployed talent. We need to do all we can to support and protect the people that make our events come to life so that they may once again want to step onto the event floor when the time comes.
With all the pain that this pandemic brings, ESSA is also committed to ensuring it brings about positive and long-lasting change for our members and the wider industry.