It is feared the rail strikes called by Rail, Maritime and Transport workers union (RMT) will have a major impact on the live events industry during one the key weeks of the year.
RMT said it will close the country’s railway network on 21, 23 and 25 June but it is expected that each 24-hour period of strike action will have a knock-on effect and lead to a full week of disruption.
Jon Collins, CEO of Live music industry umbrella organisation LIVE (Live music Industry Venues & Entertainment) and Association of Independent Festivals CEO Paul Reed are among those who have called on Government and the RMT to resolve the issue and avoid considerable impact on an events sector attempting to bounce back after the pandemic.
“While we understand why this action is taking place, we urge RMT and the Government to solve their dispute as a matter of urgency,” said Reed. “Rail disruption at this time will negatively affect thousands of other workers and businesses across the festival industry. While a lot of attention is focused on disruption to large events, there are numerous small and medium sized independent festivals across the country that will be affected. These festivals are already facing unprecedented challenges and many have made great efforts to incentivise audiences to use public transport to get to their events in order to reduce travel emissions.”
Ticketmaster research shows that around 37% of people travel by train to festivals, and among the many events likely to be impacted by the expected walkout by more than 50,000 rail staff are the Glastonbury Festival (pictured). Other key events scheduled include the England cricket third Test match against New Zealand at Headingley, stadium concerts by Red Hot Chili Peppers at London Stadium (cap. 80,000), Ed Sheeran at Wembley Stadium (90,000) and Green Day at John Smith’s Stadium (24,000) as well some of AEG Presents’ series of 65,000-capacity BST Hyde Park shows including the Rolling Stones, Elton John and Eagles.
Among the many arenas shows scheduled on the strike days are Billie Eilish at The O2 arena (20,000), Twenty Ones Pilots at OVO Arena Wembley (12,500) and Barry Manilow at OVO Hydro (14,300) in Glasgow, while other major events that week include Hampton Court Palace festival, Round the Island yacht race at Isle of Wight, Simply Red at Earlam Park in Norwich, Goodwood Festival of Speed and the Beach Boys at Dreamland Margate.
Collins said, “While we recognise the legitimacy of this action, a large proportion of live music fans, artists and staff are completely reliant on the rail network to get them to events safely.
“Like the rail sector, our industry remains incredibly fragile post pandemic and this action threatens several large gigs and festivals, many of which are back up and running for the first time in two years. We urge both Government and the RMT to get back around the table and resolve the dispute before the proposed disruption further damages the rest of the UK economy.”
At LIVE Collins represents the federation’s members including the Association of Independent Festivals, Association of Festival Organisers, Concert Promoters Association, National Arenas Association and Production Services Association.
NTIA CEO Michael Kill said the announcement of UK-wide train strikes had sent a shockwave throughout the industry, over concerns for staff and public safety, and the potential impact on trade: “Limited Rail services across the UK will leave many stranded at night, compromising safety with very few alternative transport services available.”
“The transport infrastructure within the night time economy is vitally important to our recovery post pandemic, particularly as we move into peak summer season for festival and events, and a critical time for tourism, who rely heavily on public transport.”
Transport secretary Grant Shapps said, “We are working with industry to reduce disruption caused by strike action, but unions are jumping the gun by announcing this when talks have only just begun. We once again want to urge the unions to come to talks with the rail industry so we can work together to build a better, more modern, passenger-focussed, railway.”