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“ It is critical that we don ’ t fall behind the curve in understanding the sea change .”

WINTER 21 / 22 | OPINION

Encouraging people back into the events industry

Chris Kemp , CEO of Mind Over Matter Consultancy and Professor of Crowd Management at Edinburgh Napier University , has years of experience in risk management and crowd safety . Here he addresses ways in which the industry could tackle a shortage of security staff .

Every day I speak to people disillusioned with the difficulty of finding staff to work as freelancers , event staff , security personnel and hospitality providers . It is estimated that over a quarter of a million people from these sectors either lost their jobs , moved into other employment sectors or just gave up hope of events ever coming back during Covid .

In many sectors , rounds of redundancy were applied as part of a business-saving process . This , clearly , helped many businesses to survive .
Now there are other problems . How will we replace staff on the ground who have found better paid jobs and are no longer on the grid . Some are now earning £ 16- £ 20 an hour in warehouse or delivery positions , an amount well above their previous wage .
A secondary cause is a brain drain from middle management , where staff have swapped the event space for the more corporate private medical professions . Others sought new challenges abroad , especially in the Middle East , where a huge number of projects continue to run with attractive wages .
This leaves us in a place where we are afraid to be . With the promise of ever more events for next year and every band on the
Chris Kemp

“ It is critical that we don ’ t fall behind the curve in understanding the sea change .”

planet wanting to tour , we are left with a gap in the provision in all the areas where we need trained specialist staff . This has been exacerbated by Brexit and the difficulty in employing people in key specialist areas aggravated by the barriers to trade with other countries . But all is not lost if we do some simple things , although help will be required from the Government .
We have also been presented with another more pressing challenge . Post Covid ( if such a thing exists ) we are seeing a liberalisation of events . Those attending from all cultures are embracing their new freedoms .
There is also an expectancy that venues and promoters enable the full delivery of the event within its cultural context . Often this is not easy for the parent culture to manage , causing a mismatch in expectations . The need for well trained staff , especially in customer care at all levels to support what can often be an uncomfortable context and environment , from indie metal to rap , has become important .
Youth are taking their music seriously and it is critical that we don ’ t fall behind the curve in understanding the sea change . Security , medical , police and venue staff need to work interoperably with all stakeholders to meet the challenges of overexuberant fans within a changing demographic .
On our new MSc in Crowd Design , Management and Risk Analysis the team will be exploring the changing face of the crowd and providing tools for those working in this area .
But what about wages ? Companies are struggling to meet the staff needs and to retain or attract staff to roles which pay less than the sector average .
Firstly , why not bring in a fair wage for working in these areas supported by a government subsidy ? Secondly , create a sector wage for jobs at different levels encouraging companies to be less competitive and to up their service and support game , offering value to those who work for them .
Thirdly , make the volunteer sector a go to place for a wider range of jobs by providing specific training to help with bespoke events through a sectorwide database .
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