Music professionals who are hours away from completing a 1,500km charity cycle ride to support the crippled events industry say they’re “blown away” by the response to their campaign.
Steve Reynolds, operations director for Loud Sound Limited, is one of five people participating in the Newcastle-London journey that concludes in Hyde Park tomorrow (October 18). He said the initiative has been “amazing” and “exhausting”, with his crew due to check-off 50 UK venues/sites in a fundraising bid for events workers in need.
“We’ve been blown away by visiting these cities and towns, meeting lots of people and hearing personal stories about how the coronavirus pandemic has affected them,” Reynolds told NME. “And we’re amazed at the response – we’ve raised just over £22,000 as of today.”
‘The Survival Tour‘, which kicked off in Newcastle on October 3, has seen Reynolds, his colleagues, and employees at other live events company Proper Productions, stop off at dozens of venues and festival sites to symbolise what would have been the start of touring season.
Reynolds continued: “The live events industry is an £84billion industry. It employs 600,000 people. What I saw on the journey is how these venues employ people in these cities, and how they provide culture and arts to the people who live there. They’re part of the fabric of their society. It’s not just about people having a nice time. People have real experiences [at these venues].
“You know, in some places, like in Northallerton, the community run theatre, The Forum, is the only venue that the local community get to experience. And it has got a real chance of closing down.”
Reynolds added that the industry desperately needs the government to provide a roadmap for the re-opening of venues and festivals.
“Nobody in this industry is saying, ‘We just need more support so we can sit around and do nothing.’ Our message is that we need a clear date – a no-earlier-than date – from the government so that businesses and people can plan and say, ‘Right, we’re not going to open until, say, March 1 of next year.’
“Then people can go and do other work, but we know that they can come back and their skills and their expertise will be back in the industry. It will help rebound it quickly once we go back in. If we lose that expertise out of the industry, it will only slow the bounce back next year.”
Loud Sound, Reynolds added, organised ‘The Survival Tour’ because “we wanted to do something more to support people in technical production industry who are in dire straits… where support is not getting to”.
Reynolds said he was inspired to set up the charity bike ride after attending the #WeMakeEvents campaign’s day of action on August 11, which showed “a real show of solidarity” for workers affected by the crisis. “I spoke to a lot of people who are really affected – either financially or by mental health issues – and I thought, ‘Ah, this is a massive problem. What else can we do?'” I thought the day of action was great one-day event but that it was just going to get lost in the news within a couple of days.”
The Survival Tour was then born to not only fundraise for those most in need but to “promote the positives of the events industry and to make people aware of how important it is”.
“I wanted to highlight all the positives of our industry – all the wonderful things people do,” Reynolds explained. “Take The Nightingale hospital [in London]…that’s been built by some sectors of the industry, so these are positive things we’re doing even in the face of the pandemic.”
Reynolds added: “Everyone in this industry wants to work – we want a clear plan of how we can get back to that. [We want] a proper track and trace system that can be used to help create secure and safe events, and targeted funding for those who really need it still.
“There also needs to be a confidence that events can run safely. And we need more notice. The exhibition industry that was ready to go on October 1 was stopped with just a week’s notice. That’s whats really hindering things at the moment.”
He added: “Another thing is much of this industry helps with youth employment. 80 per cent of the people who join this industry do so under the age of 20.”
‘The Survival Tour’ is due to finish at 5pm tomorrow (October 18) in London’s Hyde Park. Donate to the campaign here.
In other news, Manchester’s legendary Night And Day venue and Oxfordshire’s Truck Festival are among the 558 recipients of a share of £76million in the next wave of the government’s Culture Recovery Fund.