National Outdoor Events Association CEO Susan Tanner reflects on the challenges Covid-19 has presented Local Authorities and NOEA’s role in encouraging them and event operators to work together better.
We believe that great events run on successful partnerships and that these relationships need to be nurtured, valued and understood; it’s a big part of our role at NOEA to make this happen. None more so than in the partnerships between Local Authorities and event organisers.
These are often very circular in their make-up; many Local Authorities are big believers in the power of events to stimulate local economies and bring joy to local communities. Because of that, event organisers often work in and for Local Authorities. But often they need to work with them to ensure their own event passes the checks and balances needed to go ahead.
This is most applicable in the classic SAG meeting but extends beyond that, into how the host destination wants to welcome, work with, and benefit from the entrepreneurial spirit of the event organiser. For the vast majority of NOEA members, these relationships are easily and highly collaborative; they pass the checks and balances because they are responsible businesses and share the same values as the Local Authority; after all, everyone wants successful, regulated and safe events. Equally, Local Authorities have experienced people within their organisations, who understand events and work collaboratively with organisers.
When Covid-19 hit however, a lot of these long-lasting structures began to erode. Local Authorities, who were there to assess risk, were also being required to take the lead from national government during the crisis. This led to the general slowing down of the process and the responsibility taken away from those best placed to have it.
This was frustrating, for both the Local Authority and the event organiser; it added further risk to the event and therefore less chances of it taking place. Over the last few months, NOEA has been working hard to help Local Authorities get the power back into their own hands, and regulation was passed earlier last month (July) so that they can once again begin to make these decisions, free of influence. At the same time, NOEA continues to work with the event organising community to have conversations that again look to de-risk events and support Local Authorities – whose remits continue to grow and often need all the support they can get.
Members of NOEA will be aware of a number of conversations we’ve had within our events on how organisers and Local Authorities can work together better, given the restrictions they are under, and with the shared aspiration of creating events. These have been well received and really productive.
These are scary times for government representatives; live events present a public risk that – although yet to be proven – put them under a huge amount of pressure. However, they do understand events and are in the best position to make pragmatic decisions. This new guidance finally gives them back the freedom to make these decisions, in partnership with responsible event professionals.