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As part of Access’ White Paper, produced with We Are The Fair and the NTIA, author James Woodhuysen examines how history affects the present events economy…

Conglomerates offer consumers convenience and big-name acts. They have cash, lawyers and a number of local authorities on their side. Because they can mount festivals relatively easily, they seem to vindicate the 17th-century French proverb – that Providence is always on the side of the big battalions. And yet…

The famous 18th century French advocate of free speech, Voltaire, had a good riposte. In a remark committed to a private notebook, he wrote: ‘God is not for the heavy battalions, but for those who fire best’. And in events, it is often independent SMEs that fire best.

“Brits like to put on a show. The next 12 years are a time for the UK to become more ambitious about events.”

If the British resist anything in life, it is regimentation. That is why they have grown strongly committed to smallish, intimate events that boast a genuine provenance and contain the promise of not being the same old Business As Usual. In return, and to survive, the best kinds of events SMEs can never afford to be formulaic.

Flexible enthusiasts and survivors, UK events SMEs will be a big part of consumer entertainment in 2030. Whatever their human weaknesses, they deserve credit not just for the jobs they provide, but for the innovations they pioneer.


Yes, it’s true that a world economic crash, and especially one accompanied by a liquidity drought, might see some of the UK’s cash-constrained events independents wiped out. That, though, is a reason for every independent to become better at what it does. And it’s a reason for every far-sighted local authority, Business Improvement District and mayoral office to value and encourage events SMEs, and to do its best not to hold them back.

Brits like to put on a show. The next 12 years are a time for the UK to become more ambitious about events, not less – for that is what the public will demand. In particular, the night is still an enormous untapped opportunity for events.

As a Museum of London exhibition of after-dark photography confirmed in 2018, the night is a cultural arena in its own right. In and after October 2019, a Barbican exhibition and set of performances will reinforce this, by highlighting how the world’s avant-garde artists have long gained creative inspiration from cabarets and clubs.

The night has its own dynamics, and its own surprises. That is why the Greater London Authority issues extensive guidance on the night-time economy, and conducts in-depth research on the subject; it is also why the Mayor of London has appointed a Night Time Commission, so as to help London become more of a 24-hour city.

In Britain the NTE also commands the attention of the London Assembly, the Welsh government, the Office for National Statistics and public policy analysts. In 2018, Aberdeen hosted Scotland’s first conference on the NTE. Yet bringing better leadership and organisation to the NTE is also a worldwide trend. New York City has an Office for Nightlife, and other US cities run something similar, too. Scandinavia has an annual night mayor summit. Amsterdam has an elected night mayor, councillors in Prague appointed a night mayor early in 2019, and Dublin may follow suit.

This is all welcome. But in the UK the need now is to ensure that official recommendations about the NTE are acted upon. That way, the NTE can truly, by 2030, become a round-the-clock economy.


Cirque Du Soleil: Biggest theatrical producer in the world. Founded in Quebec in 1984, by two former street performers

Secret Cinema: Mix of film screenings with the performance of theatre, art, music and dance. Founded 2007

Rooftop Film Club: Offers movies from spectacular views in London, LA, New York and San Diego. It was founded in 1997 in New York by film-maker Mark Elijah Rosenberg

Punchdrunk: Site-specific theatre. Took $40m in the US with its drama Sleep No More, complete with roaming audience. Founded in 2000 by artistic director Felix Barrett, the event gives audiences the freedom to choose what to watch and where to go.

Gunther Von Hagen’s Body Worlds: This phenomenally successful exhibition, which runs worldwide, began in 1995. It has attracted more than 47 million visitors in more than 130 cities across Europe, America, Africa and Asia

De La Guarda: Argentinian circus meets performing arts. Founded in 1994, it is a mixture of dance, acrobatics and theatre, accompanied by music of various styles – rock, techno, Latin. The audience stands in a darkened room and the performance mainly takes place above it.

The Political Economy of Informal Events, 2030 was commissioned and published by Mash Media. Foreword by: Julian Agostini, (MD, Mash Media), Alan D Miller, (chairman, The Night Time Industries Association) Nick Morgan (CEO, We Are The Fair). It was written and edited by James Woudhuysen, visiting professor, forecasting & innovation, London South Bank University. (Advisory team: Tom Hall and Paul Colston).

The print version of report is available for £7.99, but it can be viewed for free online now.