We Make Events Cymru marks one year of events closure

Nia Llewellyn Jones, Freelance Arts and Live Entertainment Publicist

MAR, 16, 2021

On 16 March 2020, the UK government called for “drastic action” to halt the spread of Coronavirus. Boris Johnson advised public buildings, including theatres, to close and mass gatherings to stop. This week, 12 months on, campaign group We Make Events Cymru, reflects on the impact of Covid 19 and how the lockdown restrictions has had a devastating effect on their industry.

We Make Events Cymru marks one year of events closure

• Campaign group, We Make Events Cymru, reflects the impact of Covid 19 on the events sector

• The biggest survey for the events industry in Wales launched

• Calls for Welsh Government to allow test events to get help the events sector reopen

On 16 March 2020, the UK government called for “drastic action” to halt the spread of Coronavirus. Boris Johnson advised public buildings, including theatres, to close and mass gatherings to stop. This week, 12 months on, campaign group We Make Events Cymru, reflects on the impact of Covid 19 and how the lockdown restrictions has had a devastating effect on their industry.

The impact of the announcement back in March last year meant that the UK event sector came to an outright standstill, resulting in events being cancelled, theatre and music shows could not be staged and thousands of Welsh event professionals could not work.

“avoid all non-essential travel, including visiting theatres, cinemas and public venues” “avoid mass gatherings” Boris Johnson 16 March 2020

We Make Events Cymru, (which forms part a the national movement, We Make Events), has spent the last 12 months lobbying the Welsh Government to highlight the need for continued sector support in order for the events organisers, individuals and supply chain to survive Covid 19 restrictions. After a year of campaigning, We Make Events Cymru continues to push for opportunities to re-open the sector in light of the Welsh Government Coronavirus Control Plan (December 2020) which keeps Wales in very stringent regulations, which do not allow gatherings of more than 100 people in Tier 1.

As a result of many conversations with the Welsh Government, We Make Events Cymru has created a survey to gather the much needed data to evidence the number of people involved in the sector and the contribution they make to Wales and its economy. Stephen Burkitt-Harrington, Director of Production 78 one of Wales’ leading Creative Events Companies, said “The Welsh Government has been saying all along that it could not reopen events of any kind without industry specific data. We were surprised to learn that they were not collecting this information though. This is why we have put together the biggest survey of our industry ever undertaken in Wales. Companies big and small, venues, events, and every individual involved in even the smallest way can contribute now. By giving us as little or as much as people are prepared to contribute, we can then provide the government with the much talked about data they say they need to see how valuable our wide ranging industry is to the Welsh economy, and how important it is to get it open again as soon as it is safe to.”

Alongside the survey, the group have also recently launched their own website which gives sector colleagues access to wellbeing and financial advice, access to a database of Welsh event organisers, suppliers and individuals, as well as a forum to chat and exchange ideas – resources that the team believe is vitally important during the pandemic - www.wemakeevents.cymru

We Make Events Cymru is in regular dialogue with Welsh Government to lobby, and is part of the working party preparing for Covid-safe outdoor and indoor test events. These test events are an integral stepping-stone to get the industry in Wales back working again 2021. Sarah Hemsley-Cole, Director of Cardiff based SC Productions and the Lead Coordinator for the campaign said, “Whilst we have to accept large mass gatherings are not possible in 2021 – it is essential that we keep up the pressure on Welsh Government to allow covid safe cultural activities in the Summer of 2021. We are a creative and innovative sector, and by working with Welsh Government to develop appropriate guidance and to generate factual data and evidence from the test events, we can get performers, artists, technicians and the eco system back to work and audiences back to what they love.”

Working alongside partners such as Equity, Creu Cymru, BECTU, Cardiff Music Board, Cult Cymru, Freelancers Make Theatre Work; Freelances Task Force, What About Weddings and The Musicians Union – We Make Events Cymru has helped give the industry and events people a crucial voice during these unprecedented times.

Following on from the recent budget announcement, We Make Events Cymru acknowledge the essential package of support already received from the UK and Welsh governements, and is pleased to hear of the further support expected with the extension of furlough, additional SEISS grants – which now includes newcomers to the industry who started their businesses in the 19/20 tax year, as well as the Cultural Recovery Fund. We Make Events Cymru are now waiting to hear about additional financial aid and get a better understanding of how long this relief money is expected to last business and individuals in Wales. There are still thousands across the courntry who have been exluded from any kind of finanical support – these people need to be recognised and also offered funding. The campaign group is also calling for the events industry to be considered on a par with other industries like hospitality and the Film and TV sector for things such as insurance and financial schemes.

The UK is internationally recognised for delivering impressive cultural events. Within it, Wales plays a significant role with its tremendous highly skilled workforce, many of whom have now had to diversify to work in other jobs.

The impact of the lockdown will be felt within the Welsh events industry for many years to come. Rhys Maule, Managing Director of ProLX Productions in Cwmbran said “The loss of extremely talented, hard working and dedicated professionals is really hard to see. These people are being backed into a corner as a result of no support and can’t see any way out other than to change career and move onto something more secure. Lots of these people feel they may never return as the risk is too great, which is devastating, and the impact on their metal health as a result of this is hard to hear.”

He added “The huge number of people falling through the gaps not receiving funding is something that needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency to ensure the future of our industry.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many events around Wales and the UK to be cancelled or postponed due the government-imposed restrictions on large gatherings. Among the most prominent events to be affected in Wales in 2020 have been the National Eisteddfod, the Royal Welsh Show, Hay Festival, Abergavenny Food Festival, Cardiff Half Marathon, Llangollen International Eisteddod, Green Man and Ironman. Many of these have also been postponed for 2021.

Red Alert - In August 2020 event organisations from across the UK joined forces to bring attention to the critical condition of the live events industry by lighting venues and iconic buildings in red. Wales Millennium Centre, Motorpoint Arena Cardiff, Pontio, Venue Cymru and Aberystywyth Arts Centre were just some of the venues that lent their support to the campaign.

We Make Events Cymru is calling on anyone who contributes to events in Wales and its eco-system to complete the suvey in order to evidence the vauble contribution the sector makes in Wales.

For more information about the survey, visit: https://www.wemakeevents.cymru/