Britannia Row director pens open letter to Boris Johnson demanding support for live events

Britannia Row Productions Director, Bryan Grant, has written an open letter to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, calling on him to provide urgent support for the live events industry, which has been devasted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The open letter highlights the precarious state of the live events sector, which has seen thousands of jobs affected all over the world. Since the beginning of lockdown in March, all concerts, festivals, theatre shows and mass gatherings have been cancelled, with no return date in sight. As a result freelance workers, such as touring crew and technicians, face another year without income, while hundreds of venues and businesses may not recover from the effects of lockdown.

Grant’s open letter reads as follows:

Dear Boris,

I’m a Director of Britannia Row Productions, an audio supply company.

During the past 40 years, we have been privileged to have provided equipment and technicians to many major concert artistes including Pink Floyd, Peter Gabriel, The Cure, Depeche Mode, Robbie Williams, Simply Red, Mumford and Sons and Harry Styles.

And, live events such as Her Majesty’s Golden and Diamond Jubilees, Live 8, the Barcelona and London Olympics, the Rugby World Cup and FA cup finals.

We currently employ around 70 staff and 100 freelance people, with most of our staff currently on furlough.

As well as providing the most state-of-the-art equipment, we supply audio engineers and technicians, and over the years, both our company and many of our people have gained an international reputation for excellence in our field.

I, like most of my colleagues who provide these services, prefer to be in the background and have never sought or received assistance from Government in the past, but the current crisis in our industry has compelled me to step forward and make a direct and public plea for you to help the hundreds of thousands of people who work in our industry.

Boris, when you and your colleagues go to a concert, you expect a visual and audio experience to enhance the performance of your favourite performer, but perhaps don’t give much thought as to how all of these amazing visuals and stirring sounds are achieved. Quite rightly; you simply enjoy the moment.

Well, the reality is that behind the scenes, hundreds of people will have made that show possible. The artistes, their managers and production crew have worked for months, with lighting video and audio designers to produce shows that will thrill their fans and ensure concert spend is boosting the economy.

Promoters have been appointed to provide the venues to accommodate these performances. Service companies have been chosen to provide the production expertise, the equipment, technicians, stagehands, security, catering etc, etc. to make these events happen safely and seamlessly, every night, and on time.

The skills involved don’t just happen; they take years of training and experience to acquire. British technicians are famed throughout the world. These skills will be lost if people leave our industry in desperation as they seek other work in order to feed themselves and their families.

I often hear you and your colleagues talk of the ‘hard-working’ people in the UK. Well, the people in my industry do work hard and are essential to a sector which contributes literally billions to our economy.

Please, don’t let them down, support them until we can find a way to bring back our live concerts and events. We don’t live by bread alone, as the old saying goes.

Please don’t lay waste to an industry that brings enormous enjoyment to simply being alive.

Bryan Grant

In the summer of this year, businesses, venues and industry professionals across the board came together to lobby government for financial support in the name of the We Make Events Campaign. On Wednesday, September 29, over 25 countries took part in a day of action to raise awareness of the challenges facing the sector.

The day of action began in New Zealand and Australia, where key landmarks such as the Auckland Sky Tower, The Domain in Sydney and Perth’s Matagarup Bridge were illuminated. The campaign then moved through other countries, including India, the Philippines, Greece, Turkey, Poland, Austria, Norway and South Africa.

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Based in South Africa, Duncan Riley, director of DWR Distribution, South Africa’s leading supplier of lighting, audio and AV equipment for the country’s entertainment industry, commented: “The past seven months have really been trying times for our industry in South Africa. To see the freelancers struggle and having to say good-bye and retrench our own staff, has been the most difficult part. Simply put, we cannot continue as a live events industry as the country now stands”.

In the UK, where the We Make Events campaign was founded, a range of iconic buildings were lit in red, including the London Eye, Royal Opera House, the Royal Albert Hall and ExCel Centre. Jeremy Rees, CEO, ExCeL London, said: “Before COVID-19, the UK events industry was a world-class sector worth £70bn, employing over 700,000 people, across 25,000 businesses. The pandemic has had a devastating impact on our sector. We’re calling on the Government to extend the support available to our industry and provide clarity on when the events sector will be able to reopen. We are totally committed to continuing to work with the Government to explore ways of resuming business in a safe, COVID-secure manner and are determined to build confidence around this”.

The event also received the support of many high-profile artists who used their social media channels to raise awareness. These included, Radiohead, Fatboy Slim, Noel Gallagher, Nadine Shah, Foals and many others.