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As the outdoor events industry prepares to make a return this summer, Access explores the supply chain challenges that lay ahead and how production services operators are preparing to tackle them.

There has been a string of high-profile event cancellations this year but despite the uncertainty around the timing of Stage 4 of the conditional reopening roadmap, a lack of Government insurance support and the results of the Events Research Programme (ERP) not expected until mid-June, many intrepid events operators are rising to the challenge.

Nick Morgan, CEO of event production agency We Are The Fair is set to work on at least 138 shows this year, including El Dorado Festival (cap. 9,000) in Herefordshire and London’s GALA Festival (9,000).

Meanwhile Engine No. 4, a Manchester-based events production company, was behind two of 2020’s most high-profile socially distanced events spaces – The Virgin Money Unity Arena and Escape to Freight Island. This year, the company’s projects include Manchester International Festival, Kendal Calling (25,000), Lost Village (5,000), Parklife (80,000) and a New Order concert preceding the Live Nation-owned festival in Manchester’s Heaton Park.

The NoNonsense Group is also busy, with confirmed UK events including Standon Calling (15,000), Hampton Court Music Festival (3,000), Beautiful Days (17,500) and Concert at The Kings (5,000). While in Scotland, Edinburgh-based festival and live event production specialists Rogue City Productions is working on an array of events from illuminated walk A Christmas Fairy Trail to Manchester Pride, Tramlines (30,000) and the 10,000-capacity Terminal V festival. Rogue City has also launched its own festival, Out East (6,000), which is due to debut on Scotland’s East Lothian coast in August.

“It would be very naive for anyone to expect that we’re just going to go from this huge raft of restrictions to having nothing in place.” – Engine No. 4 director Jon Drape

Uncertainty aside, there are myriad challenges that have arisen in the aftermath of the pandemic’s impact, not least event infrastructure and kit being bought and used outside the industry on everything from Covid mitigation facilities, such as testing sites, to the construction of the HS2 rail network.

With more than two decades experience working at a senior level in the events industry behind him, Morgan’s current responsibilities include being Association of Independent Festivals vice chair and a council member of the National Outdoor Events Association. He says that up until recently he was very concerned about an anticipated lack of inventory during the summer due to there being less kit available and more shows during a condensed summer season.

He says, “I was really concerned about the lack of inventory but obviously with festivals such as Boomtown cancelling it releases a load more inventory back into the supply pool.”

Morgan says that large construction projects including HS2 are hoovering up kit including trackway, but the scale of the We Are The Fair operation means that it is in a much stronger position than a lone event.

“If you’ve got your own show there is less leverage with suppliers, whereas we are involved in more than 100 shows so there is great incentive for suppliers to support us.”

Rogue City Productions is due to debut the Out East Festival on 6-8 August. Scottish events guidance states that from early June outdoor events will be able to accommodate 1,000 people, and by the end of the month 2,000, but what the situation will be in August is the big unknown.

The company’s MD Shane Grieve says, “We are working with Scottish Government to push for more guidance. It’s obviously difficult for us as a new festival because we’re still building the customer base and the brand. We are going to have to make the call about the festival in mid-June.”

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