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Susan Tanner, CEO, NOEA welcomes diverse associations, but also a united voice

It seems that a perennial subject that this industry likes to return to is the amount of trade associations that represent it. It’s a worthy debate, but one in which I always give the same argument; ‘if they show value to the industry and to their members’ have as many as they like.

However, where it does get confusing is the different ‘voices’ of the industry, and the often-disparate commentary we have out there in the real world. This is just one of the many reasons why campaigns are so important for our industry. Not only do they present and address hard and important issues within the world of events, but they bring everyone behind them into a central narrative that says something about the industry’s ethics and values, as well as its issues.

For some time, NOEA has been a driving force behind the call to ‘Ban Sky Lanterns’ at outdoor events, something I am both professionally and personally passionate about, both as the organisation’s CEO, but also as a farm owner myself. On a very basic level this is about the damage these gimmicks cause to the rural community; they scare livestock, cause fire, are completely without control and they are lethal to both the rural and urban communities they travel across.

Fine, on that basis alone it remains negligent for an event organiser to use them. However, on a wider issue, this is about the values of an industry. Are we an industry that is happy to endorse the act of setting off multiple fireballs into the air without any control whatsoever? Are we happy to be an industry that is seen by the outside world as pretty, but with little responsibility or idea of consequence? What are our ethics and best practices? What does this say about us and our approach to health and safety of spectators, our rules around drugs and drink; are we in short, a responsible bunch of people that deserves recognition from business or government?

But there is one more layer to the importance of this, and many other, campaigns. When we get behind them collectively, and speak out, it shows us to be exactly the opposite of the above. Thankfully this is a campaign that has gained industry wide support, and shows a side of the industry that provides the platform of safety, reassurance and responsibility that major sporting and cultural events can be built upon, from the Olympic and Commonwealth Games, to major global festivals.

We’re also showing those outside of the industry that we care about the environments that we work with. That we are considerate to the communities that we affect every time that we have an event. That we put the safety of those communities first and foremost in our event design, and that the culture of the organisers involved is one of care, consideration and responsibility.

So, support the ban on Sky Lanterns, and many of the other worthy campaigns that are out there, not just because its right for us as an industry, but because it shows those outside of our world, that the people within it are worth listening to.