IPM Review


Back to the Future: Education
Chair: Bryan Grant, Britannia Row Productions

Guest speakers: Roger Barrett (Star Events Group); Rachel Haughey (Youth Production Network); & David Hughes (Backstage Academy).

With Live Nation’s John Probyn acting as the IPM guest host, he kicked off proceedings by proclaiming the production world as “the best part of the industry” and as the place he’d worked his way up – or down – from, depending on how you look at things.

Session chairman Grant said that when it came to education, Britannia Row had taken matters into its own hands when preparing for the future by setting up its own training school last year. Backing up the importance of onsite training, Hughes explained that Backstage Academy offered students foundation degree courses, but took them away from university to place them into a working venue. “That way they get hands-on training in a venue, rather than theory in a college,” said Hughes.

Grant commented, “Kids come out of colleges with a sound engineering qualification, not having been taught anything about the live side of the business. Then you have to tell them the sad truth that they might have to load a truck or push boxes, when they thought they’d just be there to mix the Rolling Stones.”

However, Haughey pointed to the approach of YPN (Youth Production Network) as a possible solution to such situations. “Every live event needs young people and there are some incredible young people out there,” she said, citing some of the people YPN has worked with in the likes of Burkina Faso, Mali and other part of West Africa. “You can find talent in every corner of the world and I’m totally blown away by the massive events that the young people we deal with are organising.”

Barrett noted that, “Putting up a stage requires a small amount of people who know what they are doing… Anybody can buy a stage roof, so it’s very easy to get into the temporary structures business without any knowledge at all.” He said that his company supports a number of university courses, but admitted that it struggled to find crew. “The people that go to university for three years don’t tend to be the people who want to get their hands dirty.”

IPM delegates from the likes of Stageco, Gearhouse and Upstaging spoke about their training programmes and the problems of high levels of turnover among crews, while there were also questions about who was mentoring crew chiefs when it came to the likes of new technology. And delegate Freddie Nyathela, from the South African Road Association, concluded that if the industry leaders do not change their attitude to training, the business would not be able to grow and ultimately would not be sustainable.

Lost In Guidance
Chair: Andy Lenthall, Production Services Association

Guest speakers: Jon ‘JC’ Corbishley (The Event Safety Shop); Jim Digby (Event Safety Alliance); Eddy Grant (University of Derby Buxton); Sarah Green (LG Arena and NIA) & Keith Wood (AEG Live).

Tackling the thorny issue of guidance and regulations – which can often contradict each other, according to the source – this panel by and large agreed that the increase in safety related guidance was helpful, but some sort of agreement could be reached on a consistent approach internationally.

Digby reported on the work of the Event Safety Alliance, which recently published its Event Safety Guide, and explained that this would be “a living document” online that could be continually updated with best practice procedures. Compiled by a combination of American experts with input from their international counterparts, and based on the longstanding Purple Guide, the guide is already being adopted by Canadian production people and the hope is that it will eventually provide best practice guidance internationally for touring productions. Indeed, Corbishley said that a similar initiative is underway in Australia, whereby the UK’s Purple Guide is being adapted to suit the Australian markets.

Wood said, “Guidance is not something to be scared of, but the problem is that there are inconsistencies and that can be frustrating. For instance, in the UK you can do something in Leeds, but you’re not allowed to do that same thing in Birmingham or Milan or wherever.”

Green said that the NAA’s guidance for its arenas was committed to an annual review, but this would more likely be done every six months. This approach was backed by Grant, who said the guidance his institution had helped compile, “has to change and evolve – our technology changes, so the guidance in our document must change too. The last guidance we had was written in 1999 and the world has changed a lot since then.”

In the United States, Digby said that some major vendors were backing a plan to provide a ratings scale for industry sectors. That proposal has received support from the insurance sector which could incentivise premiums accordingly based on the ratings of the vendors used by production managers.

Delegates heard that some of the world’s biggest staging companies had initiated meetings to establish codes of best practice for their sector and this was applauded by Live Nation’s John Probyn, who noted that construction design management (CDM) regulations could kill the business if enforced by governments, making such proactive initiatives crucial for the future of the industry.

Wood questioned whether it would be possible to have one guide covering every international territory, but Digby concluded that the Event Safety Guide was obliged to take the safest course. “If a better code of safety develops in Japan, for instance, we will adopt that,” he said.

Is Anybody Listening?
Chair: Okan Tombulca, eps holding gmbh

Guest speakers: Jake Berry (Jake Berry Production); Rob Langford (Solo Agency); Matthew Lazarus-Hall (Chugg Entertainment) & Wob Roberts (The Invisible Solution).                               

Tombulca referred to last year’s IPM when the issue of crew fatigue figured large in the discussions and John Probyn said that the frightening statistics he had heard had prompted Live Nation to change its policies to alleviate fatigue among production crews.

Roberts said that one of the biggest problems that production managers face is the decision process among artists and artist management. “We pick up the phone to promoters to tell them that we’re coming in with a show. But the issue is in how you get all the information from A to B when you are waiting on C to make a decision. It amazes me that we get shows out there on time and safely.”

Berry backed this observation up by noting that budgets are often prepared before anyone knows what they are dealing with in terms of the production. Lazarus-Hall noted, “We often have to deal with a European or US rider because nobody writes an Australia-specific rider. That can involve a lot of guesswork and we have to build it with every contingency in mind.”

Talking from a festival point of view, Langford said that the bigger global acts now tend to turn up thinking that they are playing their own headline show rather than a festival. “There can be a real clash of heads over that,” he said. But delegate Jim Digby, who works for Linkin Park, said they always have a B-plan agreed with the artists so that they can adapt their show to festival stages.

Safety consultant Tim Roberts stated, “There’s compromise and accommodation, but you can’t overload the stage, trusses or audience capacity, so you have to say no to the artist sometimes.”

In what seemed a surprise to most delegates, Lazarus-Hall said that in Australia, a promoter is liable for driving schedules and trucking boss Chris Redburn revealed that the same is true in Europe. With both Roberts and Berry unaware that artists might ultimately be liable, should something go wrong, Berry said, “If that is put down on paper, then maybe things will change.”

However, suggesting that finance still takes precedent over safety, Tombulca said, “It doesn’t matter what the guidelines are; when it comes to money, if there is no law then the agent or promoter won’t do it. But if something becomes law, that’s the only language people understand.”

Asked what the most ridiculous situations the guest panellists had encountered, Berry related his experience of one big-name artist’s show in Milan where stage hands were made to operate with safety harnesses because the stage had a two metre drop, while there were “96 health and safety officers” on site during load out – outnumbering the entire crew.

Future-Proof Your Business
Chair: Carl A H Martin, cahm.uk

Guest speakers: Aissata Hartmann (AEG) &Adrian Mills (Watermills).

Admitting he was not a huge fan of the so-called ‘green’ movement,  chairman Carl A H Martin, who believes we should call it ‘sensible and responsible’ nonetheless admitted his admiration for AEG’s work in the German market, as he invited Hartmann to give a presentation of the various measures that the company had taken both at O2 World Hamburg and Berlin.

Stating that AEG always looked to what it could do for the environment, Hartmann nonetheless admitted that the initiatives undertaken in its German arenas were primarily driven by economics, as they were cost saving to the business. She revealed that the company has a specific Green Team that monitors energy efficiency and works out ways to consume less electricity – the results of which are shared with AEG venues around the world.

Highlighting some of those measures, Hartmann revealed that the Hamburg arena uses 100% hydroelectric power, while it collects rainwater from its roof for the likes of restroom use. “In Berlin we developed a block heating system on the venue roof which supplies 90% of our electricity and heating,” she said. Asked just how much money this saved, Hartmann was unable to answer in the panel session, but at ILMC two days later she revealed the savings amounted to €150,000 per annum.

Mills explained that Watermills specialises in water supply to major events and carries out extensive research and development to look for cost savings and the technology to drive such programmes. Citing examples, Mills reported, “Infra red sensors and RFID sensors so that taps do not run so long… diffusers on taps that use less water… and the energy that can be saved in warming water through different methods.” Tantalisingly, he added, “There is another big leap in science around the corner that we are focussing on.”

Summing up many organisations’ concerns, Live Nation’s John Probyn commented, “The problem is that technology is developing so fast that it is difficult to know what to invest in!”

Martin observed that one LED manufacturer is currently offering to re-lamp UK and European arenas free of charge in exchange for a share of the cost savings the buildings benefit from as a result. However, PRG Lighting’s Jon Cadbury said that although LED was coming on leaps and bounds, there was still wariness with venues because of the lighting requirements needed for the likes of HD television broadcasting.

Citing other strides forward in environmental awareness, PSA’s Andy Lenthall spoke about a Todd Rundgren production which eliminated any trucks by using a trailer behind the tour bus. Britannia Row’s Bryan Grant observed that the days of flying entire PA systems around the world were diminishing – “Now we just send the clever bits and the people who can set things up: we are getting greener, not through altruism, but rather because it saves money.”

All photographs by Sytske Kamstra.