The live events industry has successfully always relied on a combination of in-house and freelance staff, but what happens to an industry when the people with whom trusted relationships have been built up over many years just aren’t there to turn to anymore?
The pandemic has put unprecedented strain on many organisations and some, sadly, have not survived this prolonged period of inactivity.
It is the same for specific sectors of independent traders (freelancers) who have found themselves in the unimaginable position of looking directly into the unsupported abyss where furlough, grants or other available benefits schemes did not apply to them.
The harsh reality of this blameless situation has caused a lot of highly skilled professionals into having to find another source of income just to survive.
The live events industry is one of the few ‘lifestyle occupations’ that gives those who work within it a real buzz; the euphoric feeling of a successfully delivered event. However, the questions is, will that be enough to entice those people who have had to migrate to other sectors back once the pandemic is over?
It is completely understandable that many will opt for a better work-life balance and a decent pay check, rather than hang-on to the industry they love, given the emotional turmoil that has arisen in the course of the past year.
I asked these questions to a good friend of mine, Lucy Ramsbottom (freelance event manager), who I have had the pleasure to work with over many years within the live events industry and who now finds herself working in an alternative employment due to the pandemic:
When you made the decision you had to seek alternative employment, how did you feel?
I felt desperate. The furlough scheme didn’t work successfully for me as I am a single director of a Ltd company and the calculated financial outcome was not going to be enough to support a family of four. There was no option but to look for alternative employment.
What do you miss, if anything, about your previous role in the event industry?
I miss the people. I miss the diversity. I miss the travel. I miss the complexity. I miss it all! My role in the events industry was so fulfilling – each event was different, threw up its challenges which you then did your best to overcome. The teamwork and respect we have for one another in the events industry I have come to realise was absolutely the best – I find it difficult in my current employment as these previously experienced values are not the same.
Would you consider a return to the events industry, once you deem it to be secure?
Yes! I will be there with bells on. I feel lost currently and cannot wait to be back in the industry I love.
Million dollar question, when do you think that will be?
Realistically I don’t think it will be until 2022, in between times there may some small trickles.
Lucy’s responses are typical of those people who I asked the questions to and find themselves in the same situation. The fear is that as the green shoots of recovery begin to extend towards the light at the end of a very dark tunnel, our industry may have to face the fact that the freelancers we would previously have automatically turned to are no longer there to help. It is incumbent upon us all to ensure we do not sleepwalk into this scenario and a really easy way of preventing this is by simply staying in touch and reminding our colleagues we miss them and still value the expertise they have to offer.
A compassionate approach is needed now from businesses to support freelancers keen to return, yet burdened by the necessity of earning a living. Recognising that the skills and talent still exist albeit in different occupations, is the first step to re-building the network of freelancers that the events industry previously relied upon.
We look forward to the time when we can welcome our colleagues back into our industry which will hold new opportunities as a result of the disruption we have all lived through.