The Event Production Show, the first in-person event for the live events industry for more than 14 months saw senior event professionals welcome the opportunity to meet face-to-face and discuss the challenges for the sector on the road to reopening.

Live Nation executive president of touring, international, Phil Bowdery said, “I remember agreeing to do this event a year ago, thank god it has come – actually putting it on and seeing everything here is great.”

Ascot Racecourse senior events manager Amelie Cartigny was equally enthusiastic: “[My] conference session was about what we’ve learnt in the last 12-18 months and also where we’re going as an industry. It was great to have the opportunity to talk to people again and see people in person.”

Association of Independent Festivals CEO Paul Reed, who chaired the Sustainability Matters – Sowing The Seeds For A New Beginning panel said, “It was the first live conference I’ve spoken at in 15 months. It was a really good discussion with an engaged audience and people asking questions in the same room. It was lovely to see some of my collaborators and peers in person for the first time in a long time. It feels really great to get back to it.”

“It was a really good discussion with an engaged audience and people asking questions in the same room.”

Sustainability was one of many topics tackled at the two day Access All Areas conference at EPS, which included focuses on the supply chain, diversity, creativity, crowd control, the challenges for independent festivals, and spectator safety at sporting events.

During Reed’s session, Chris Johnson, co-founder, operations director and sustainability lead for Shambala Festival, and co-founder and chair of Powerful Thinking and Vision: 2025 environmental initiatives, said that sustainability measures should be “threaded into what we do, like health and safety – we have to take it seriously and budget for it”.

A Greener Festival co-founder and director Claire O’Neill emphasised that it was important to remain positive about the benefits of taking measures to reduce the environmental impact of events. She also warned that taking sustainability measures at events will become obligatory.

“I am hearing from MEPs and EU officials that unless your event is sustainable within the next 10 years, you will not have an event,” said O’Neill.

Speaking on a panel focused on creativity at events, Goodwood Revival general manager Henry Bass said his team is working to make sustainability enjoyable at the event. He emphasised that at the core of the event was re-use; whether that be cars or clothing.

“We are working hard to embrace sustainability and encourage others to do so in a creative way, so this year we will have allotments at the event, will run a Goodwood car boot sale and the Electric Avenue will showcasing around 30 electric cars,” said Bass.

Discussing the huge amount of work that goes into the creative aspects of Boomtown Fair, the festival’s creative producer Mair Morel (pictured) said, “It’s like building a world rather than a festival, we have a team of 40 working on it all year around.”

Following the cancellation of Boomtown, Morel said she is busy working on a 4,000-capacity version of the event at the site on 12-15 August 2021. The reduced-capacity Boom Village will be targeted at the local community.

With Shambala also cancelled this year, Johnson said the summer could see a reduced capacity version of the event called Baby Sham.

On a panel discussing the learnings from having staged Covid-safe events last year, Andrew Evans MD of London Concours said that the bravery of operators to go ahead and stage events under ever-changing guidelines had demonstrated not only the industry’s professionalism to Government but reassured consumers that it was able to stage safe and enjoyable experiences no matter what the circumstances.

Notting Hill Carnival director Mathew Phillip, Formula 1 global research director Matt Roberts, Meshh CEO Caroline McGuckian and crowd safety specialist Emma Parkinson discussed developments in crowd management.

Phillip said that pre-event testing or the use of Covid-passports would not work at the Carnival due to it being a free event on public roads: “We will take all the necessary steps to make the event work safely, and we expect to see a lot of facemasks and hand sanitiser. The Carnival community has been hit hard, the event takes a long time to plan, costumes alone take a year to complete, but there is a real yearning for it.”

“It’s been a long 15 months and it’s obviously done a lot of damage but we’re very resilient and we’ll bounce back, no question.”

He said that while there is no certainty Carnival will be able to go ahead this year, the Metropolitan Police has been very supportive, with it being eager that a managed event take place that weekend rather than having people gather in the area of their own accord.

Speaking on the Supply Chain Pressures panel alongside Engine No. 4 director Jon Drape, We Are The Fair CEO Nick Morgan and Kilimanjaro Live CEO Stuart Galbraith, NoNonsense Group director Liz Madden emphasised the importance of supply chain operators not profiteering from a potential sudden rush in demand when the market opens up.

Madden pledged that her company would not raise its prices if there was a sudden rush in demand but said there are real concerns that suppliers who are primarily peripheral to the events industry may try profiteering.

Asked how likely it is that festivals will be able to go ahead from 21 June, Step 4 of the Government’s reopening roadmap, Galbraith said indications from the Department of Culture Media and Sport so afar suggest that events with a capacity of 4,000 and below are likely to be able to take place without pre-event testing but for larger scale shows it could well be necessary.

Speaking on the Building Back Better – A New Future For Live Events panel with Black Deer festival co-founder Gill Tee and AEG Presents CEO European festivals James King, Live Nation’s Phil Bowdery said he was confident the live events industry will bounce back strongly: “It’s been a long 15 months and it’s obviously done a lot of damage but we’re very resilient and we’ll bounce back, no question. The love of music and people going out – they want to see events and we want to put them on.”