NOEA CEO Susan Tanner casts an eye over Ariana Grande’s One Love concert, and the power of live music to build communities.


The theme of this month’s Access All Areas is live music, and at NOEA we’re always keen to get involved in the theme and give our own take on it.

This is especially easy with something as emotive as music. I doubt there isn’t a member of NOEA who isn’t a massive fan of great music, and especially music that is consumed live!

However, at NOEA we’re incredibly proud of our own work in helping our members bring live music festivals and events to the world, and the crucial role we play. For a long time, we’ve used the slogan ‘we help events happen’; in short, it’s usually among NOEA members that you find the staging companies, lighting, production, seating, infrastructure, and even the food and drink served on the stands.

I wanted to bring this to life in a particularly emotive way, just to underline some of the amazing work done by NOEA members, but also the way in which they approach their profession. The One Love concert, put on by singer Ariana Grande and a number of other global superstars in the wake of the tragic bombings in Manchester in 2017, was at the same time a deeply tragic, and incredibly inspirational event.

Despite the horror of the attacks that led to the event, this was an example of how live music could play its part to bring a community back together. This was a concert organised in incredibly short notice, and to see super stars come in to Manchester from around the world to make a difference that day was inspiring.

However, behind the scenes was no different, and we have myriad of examples of NOEA members equally doing their very best to make this, very special event, happen as well. From the seating installed by our Futures Supporters GL events UK, to health and safety advice, AV, lighting, and every other cog in the event production wheel, this was a monumental effort by people who really care.

We have examples of people giving up their time and equipment for free, of working all day and all night, to make sure the event happened, was safe and secure. This was all done in the wake of a major security review following the bombings, so the need for diligence and professionalism was paramount.

It says so much about the people of the events industry that this was done, not only quickly, and with heart, but with such professionalism. To organise an event takes a huge amount of work, and when timelines are squeezed, the pressure is put on the teams involved, and they need to draw on their expertise to make sure everything works as it should. Again, the end product behind the scenes was as impressive as that on stage; when we’re good, we really are quite outstanding.

It seems strange to bring up such a tragic event to show the qualities of our own industry. But it’s really times like this where we are tested, that we can really show our class. Last year at the NOEA Awards, the City of Manchester became the second recipient of the NOEA ‘i’ award, one that they were hugely proud to get.

However, while it recognised the resilience and strength of the city, and the community in coming together, it also recognised NOEA member’s own role in making that event happen. Live music is an amazing experience, and millions enjoy it around the world because of NOEA members, it makes us proud to be who we are.