'7,500 live events jobs at risk' due to coronavirus pandemic

Setting up for Belsonic 2019 at Belfast's Ormeau Park. Around 58 per cent of live music businesses staff have been furloughed. Picture by Hugh Russell
Michael McHugh, PA

As many as 7,500 jobs are at risk in tthe north's live events industry, according to campaigners.

The pandemic has brought the sector to the verge of "imminent collapse", industry groups said.

Touring, festival and theatrical events industries face "inevitable demise" due to measures aimed at slowing the spread of coronavirus.

The WeMakeEventsNI campaign is building towards a global day of awareness on Wednesday 30 September 30.

Bangor-born Snow Patrol frontman Gary Lightbody said: "There are so many vital roles in this ecosystem - the tech crews, roadies, transport companies, riggers, promoters and many more that cannot be forgotten.

"With no start date for their livelihoods, these jobs are all under threat.

"This is a community that comes together, not only to create live events and soundtracks for the general public to enjoy enormously, but in this - a very real time of need for the industry we all love."

The WeMakeEventsNI team is made up of sound engineers, lighting designers, tour caterers, truck drivers, tour managers, riggers, backline techs, video directors and festival promoters.

A statement from the campaign said: "The Northern Irish live events industry is calling on the UK government to support its workers and halt the imminent collapse of the industry.

"The UK live events industry is world renowned for its hard-working ethic and the ability to deliver creative and highly technical shows.

"The unique skill set and talent that lies within this sector is a huge asset to the local economy. In Northern Ireland, 7,500 jobs are at risk."

Pre-pandemic in Northern Ireland, music tourists would spend around £90 million per year, with annual concert and festival audience numbers reaching almost 300,000.

Around 58 per cent of live music businesses staff have been furloughed.

The campaign said 45 per cent of affected companies were expecting to make further redundancies after the end of the British government furlough period unless it is extended.

It added: "Meanwhile some of the freelance staff that make up a huge portion of this workforce have received zero governmental aid.

"As strict social distancing remains in place and limited numbers are able to meet for recreational activities, mass gatherings for financially viable concerts and festivals are on hold.

"With no sign of a work start date, supply companies are inactive and production staff are being laid off.

"Much of the industry here will not survive into 2021."

Sean Pagel, Liam Gallagher's tour rigger, said they were fighting hard for an industry that brings so many people so much joy.

"We are asking people to support the campaign and help us to secure government assistance for the events industry workforce," he said.

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

Carrickfergus-born music agent Steve Strange said: "The live industry is currently on its knees, and 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."

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