Matt Rakowski
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The future of the UK events industry rests in the hands of our government

Posted On Tuesday, 17 March 2020

To say we’re living through uncertain times is probably the biggest understatement I’ve ever made. It seems like a long time ago now that we were battening down the hatches and protecting ourselves from the storms at the beginning of February. Yet from Ciara to Corona, the world is an altered place and looks to change over the next few months in ways that we could never have foreseen. The global economy is facing an unprecedented threat and we are navigating an uncertain path—where people cannot plan for next week, let alone later in the year or beyond.

Everybody’s priority right now should be the health and wellbeing of themselves and their loved ones. But, the Covid-19 pandemic threatens to pose a greater risk to people’s financial future as it does to their health. Many industries are now lobbying the government for support. However, the events industry has been weathering the cannonade of cancellations for over a month. The aviation and hospitality industries may need help too, but we’re well ahead of the curve and shouldn’t accept taking a back seat during this process.

When I launched a petition last week, calling for the government to provide economic support to the events industry, I paid careful attention to the wording—specifying events, rather than just conferences, concerts, theatre or any other division of the wider events industry. In doing so, the petition appealed to a broad section of people, with one major thing in common—they’re all losing work because of the current crisis. Not some jobs, or a bit of work, but pretty much 100% of their revenue stream for the foreseeable future.

Yesterday, as the number of signatories on the petition passed over the magical 100,000 mark, I wrote to various members of government and the shadow cabinet with my suggestions on how the financial burden on the people of the UK can be mitigated. I called upon the government to support businesses during this critical time. My intention is that if government can support companies struggling to meet their financial commitments, this will filter down to employees and nobody needs to worry about their job security during a period in time when we’re already frightened about so many other things. Many people have asked me how freelancers and self-employed contractors should be helped. Not being self-employed, I don’t feel I am the best person to represent their needs. However, my suggestion to government is that as sole traders, freelancers should be treated as their own business and eligible for help through that route. Clearly, there also needs to be a plan in place to take care of the inevitable causalities, if and when people do lose their jobs due to a stagnant events market.

The petition is now at 130,000—which is a testament as to how united our industry is right now. The response has been incredible, and I’d like to express my heartfelt thanks to everybody who has signed and shared the petition.

The number of supporters gives us a tangible mandate to push government in every way we see fit to put measures in place to support our industry and the wider economy in its darkest hour for generations. I would urge everybody with an interest in the events industry to write to your local MP, and as many government ministers as you can think of. If you have connections to the national media or other people influential in the events industry, please ask them to share our petition and support the cause.

We need to do everything we can. The time for action is right now. We can’t wait a few more weeks or however long it takes the government to realise what’s at stake. Left to fend for itself, the events industry faces a very bleak future with the current situation posing an existential threat to thousands of businesses. With government support, we can tighten our belts and get through this, continuing to represent UK PLC on the global stage when the Covid-19 storm passes.

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