Matt Rakowski
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Events petition scheduled for debate

Posted On Monday, 22 June 2020

The House of Commons Petition Committee have announced that the petition I started in March, calling for economic support for the events industry, due to the disruption caused by Covid-19, will be discussed on Thursday in the House of Commons.

The events industry being debated in the highest democratic chamber in the UK is an opportunity we cannot let pass without ensuring our voices are heard loud and clear. This isn’t a conversation taking place behind closed doors, but one which will be broadcast live, with the elected representative of every UK citizen entitled to have their say. There has never been a greater cause to lobby our MPs to stand and speak on our behalf.

The manner in which people responded to the petition was overwhelming, with the wider events industry coming together for the greater good. From theatres and live music to conferences, exhibitions, nightclubs, weddings, festivals and trade fairs—rivalry and personal interests went out of the window as over 152,000 event professionals came together to speak with one voice.

The government’s initial response to the event industry’s inability to trade, due to the lockdown conditions was welcome. The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the various loans and grants available to businesses acted as a lifeline for many of us. But that lifeline will be reduced to a mere stay of execution if the government doesn’t make haste and announce when events can happen again, and what the restrictions will be. We’ve moved past the stage of fighting the fire, now we’re rebuilding the house and we need a blueprint to work from.

Whilst it would be great to allow events to start happening in the near future (albeit with social distancing and the relevant Coronavirus precautions); we simply need some sort of plan. If it’s as late as the autumn, winter or even the beginning of next year, so be it—we just need some degree of clarity. An increasing number of countries around the world including Germany, Bulgaria, Hong Kong and Spain have already opened up for B2B trade fairs and events.

The affect this situation is having on UK businesses and individuals is catastrophic. Companies which used to have healthy balance sheets and provide a livelihood for their staff have been reduced to pretty much zero income. Of course, many brands are innovating at a faster rate than ever before and are coming up with truly amazing virtual platforms, streaming studios or other remote/interactive solutions, but the reality is that for our sector to get back on track, we need people in venues.

With the Furlough scheme concluding at the end of October, many businesses are now looking at their options regarding staff levels. You don’t need to be an economist to deduce that if your annual turnover has dropped by over 80%, you simply cannot afford to keep all your staff. Employers will have some tough decisions to make over the coming weeks and months, clarity from the government will help them make better choices. The longer the government chooses to dither and delay, the greater the likelihood that tens of thousands of event professionals will succumb to the economic side-effects of Covid-19 and become one of the redundancy statistics.

Therefore, it is time the government acted decisively. We must come together with the same impetus as we did in March and demand a proper plan be put in place. Please share the petition again and call or email your MP, asking them to speak up at the debate on Thursday. We need to know when our industry can get back to business and what changes we need to make. We’re a resourceful sector, we can adapt and even thrive during the recovery—but we can’t do this if we’re shut away in the dark.

We’ll never encounter such an existential threat to our industry and our jobs as we do now. Let it be that in a few years’ time when we look back on these days, we’re comfortable in our own minds that we did everything we could. Whether or not it works is beyond our control, but let’s make sure we have no regrets on how we tackled the challenges we faced in the burdensome year of 2020.

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