As part of Plasa’s first UK-wide #WeMakeEvents campaign, Manchester’s live events and production community held a silent and socially distanced flightcase march across the city which culminated in a dramatic red flare exhibit. Upwards of 1,000 took part, collectively asking the UK Government to extend its furlough scheme to provide grants to help save an estimated 114,000 jobs.

Taking place on 11 August, the protest was the world’s first time-sensitive event, with its crew implementing the Tour Production Group (TPG) Covid-19 Working Guidance that will become the norm for live production professionals to work and interact safely. The guidance outlines how crews can better align through consistency and consultation to assist risk management relating to Covid-19 transmission.

On the ground in Manchester were Production Manager Nick Robinson, Crew Chief and Flight Case Manager Ben Dawson, and Event Trucking Services’ Alex Webster as Transport Coordinator. Members of the core team were joined on the day by Tom Sheals-Barrett as Comms and Co-Production Manager.

#WeMakeEvents‘We brought in Go For Show mobile production offices which were used by the production, media and creative management teams as on-site communication and planning hubs, Robinson says. ‘dbnAudile and Tube supplied flightcases with STS Touring Productions on standby for backup. Tube also sent a support vehicle in the event of any flight case breakages and for every 40 cases, supervisors with comms were on hand.’

With community spirit high, the production team created a well-planned strategy and smoothly executed delivery between the local companies with Covid-19 safety always at the forefront. ‘We used the guidance to determine how many cases could safely be put into each truck and then unloaded while undertaking the correct social distancing measures,’ says Production Manager Nick Gosling, who works with Nile Rodgers & Chic is part of TPG’s committee and helped manage the event from his home in New Jersey. ‘In addition, the team also adhered to flightcase cleaning protocols and implemented the correct PPE while on site at Manchester Academy.’

Pre pandemic, the venue was filled by nightly gig-goers but on the day marked the march starting point. ‘Cleaning the flightcases involved “loading in” to Manchester Academy a day early to complete the hygiene tasks and flat packing of the the trucks so that each vehicle could be unloaded by a single crew member at a time.’

‘It was key that we kept contact with the cases to a minimum while making the situation workable,’ Dawson says. ‘To achieve this, drivers tipped the truck and I worked the ramp to ensure that social distancing was consistent during offloading. From here, they were safely moved and then collected by a crewmember. Facemasks and gloves were used throughout this process to try and prevent cross contamination where possible. ’

#WeMakeEventsInside the venue, cases were sprayed with disinfectant and organised in numerical order to streamline registration for contact track and tracing, then fed to the collection point in the same order. There were also contingency plans against any case accidentally being handled by more than one person.

‘The organisation we managed to achieve in just ten days is testament to our professionalism, expertise and experience,’ says Logistics pro, Alex Webster. ‘It ran flawlessly because we all have a fantastic working relationship – it’s no secret that some extremely talented people in the industry are based in and around the Northwest.’

‘What we’re used to doing day-in, day-out at work is uniting for a common goal, and that felt even more poignant following these months of separation,’ adds Tom Sheals-Barrett. ‘It was life-affirming to see everyone again. Morale was really high on the day and I personally think it’s been the most honest statement made by our industry to date.’

In total, 150 flightcases were pushed 1.2 miles, with MLS providing barriers and pop-up tents, and Tour Supply supplying consumables along the route. The march had a ‘no mask, no march’ policy and lasted 90 minutes before the SFX flare finale.

‘While this was a protest and not a live event as such, we take pride in organising teams and implementing protocols to a very high standard,’ says Gosling. ‘Working under the Tour Production Group’s suggested conditions was no different.’

Rock and disco music innovator and co-founder of Chic, Nile Rogers, was watching the protests from the US: ‘It was wonderful to witness such a display of solidarity from right across the UK live events community, and all the more captivating for me knowing that my own production manager was helping to enlist the new Tour Production Group Covid-19 Working Guidance,’ he says. ‘When we are able to return to work, I’ll feel assured that my own crew will be working to the best safety standards.’

‘It was interesting to see our own implementation of the guidance in action, to experience how it could affect working practices and the impact that could have in a “real” environment,’ Dawson concludes. ‘Assuming the same allowances can be made for time and trucking space, and the availability of appropriate disinfectants, PPE and policing of standards, this guidance could be workable in a show environment.’

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