Crystal Ball

We ask event industry experts for their predictions for industry in 2021.

Laser light show
Photo: Getty Images

Gill Tee
Gill Tee

Co-founder/festival director, Black Deer Festival, and MD, entertee events
www.entertee.events / www.entertee.com

How do you see events in 2021 panning out?
It is currently the million dollar question, and one that is being asked right across the festival and event industry. I can only speak from what I believe is still possible this year, and that is by mid-May, we will see outdoor events happening. There will be a lot of legislation and rules around how we behave, but I think we will be enjoying outdoor activity again by the end of spring. The big question is around whether or not, with whatever restrictions are having to be put in place, it is viable for a promoter to take the risk?

What will attendees be looking for – beyond safe, secure operations?
Our festival goers will be looking for fun and letting themselves enjoy great company and great music again. Everybody is aware of how they need to be more cautious, however, I do think that once they are in an outside environment they will relish the feeling of freedom again, whatever restrictions are in place. We are adaptable as humans and the joy of all being together having fun will be enough to ensure the majority stick to the rules.

If you were able to create a new event for 2021, what would it be?
It would definitely be outdoors and would be around 500 capacity. I believe there is a great appetite for staying outside in the UK during the summer months and I would certainly want to use my creative skills to create a more intimate environment where likeminded people can gather together and give them an experience that offers excellence at every touch point.

Do you think it’s possible to make money this year?
As festival operators we ask ourselves that question every year, pandemic or not. It is a high risk business. If you get the formula right, people will come. It does not happen overnight and takes time to get the balance of enough ticket buyers spending enough money once they are inside the gates. It can take a few years to get to the point where you can make money. I think that if your festival is at that point this year, and gates can open, there is no reason why you would not.

Is there still appetite for hybrid events?
I personally find events online do not grab my attention enough. When we are allowed to go to gigs again, and experience music and culture up close, then the appetite for digital experiences I think will wane. I do, however, think there will still be an audience of people who actually have now been switched on to this way of consuming music, and who would not ordinarily go to a gig, and have no desire to do so, to continue enjoying streamed events.

What should the government be doing to support the sector more?
I think the government has been sadly lacking in any real knowledge of our industry. It has been a real eye opener that we have had no real representation in government for a multi-billion pound revenue generator in the UK. We are hoping this will change. It needs to. The industry is huge, and it employs hundreds of thousands of people throughout the whole supply chain. This needs to be respected and supported going forward, as well as funding now.

There does seem to be some desire to understand more through the hard work and lobbying by certain industry bodies. They have done a remarkable job in getting the attention we so need.

 


Paul Ashurst
Paul Ashurst

Events director, Bournemouth 7s
www.bournemouth7s.com

How do you see events in 2021 panning out?
Like many independent festivals that are completely privately owned/funded, the pandemic has been extremely tough on our team and entire business. In fact, as we look positively into 2021, being completely transparent, it’s not clear if our business could survive a consecutive cancellation. Despite this looming fear, there is an awful lot to remain positive about as the development in mass testing and swift vaccination are major tools that will no doubt help society and outdoor events get back to normal.

I personally remain optimistic that festivals like Bournemouth 7s will have the opportunity to go ahead this year; it will hopefully just be a case of when and to what scale. From an organiser’s point of view this leads to questions surrounding the possibilities of generating income and the hope of making some sort of profit being an increasing priority.

Do you think it’s possible to make money this year?
It is reassuring to understand that demand for tickets is anticipated to be high within the live event sector, which is exactly what the industry needs to be able to bounce-back quickly. However, to what scale additional safety measures and capacity restrictions will affect profitability is yet to be seen, particularly for festivals which notoriously work on small profit margins in order to survive.

Is there still appetite for hybrid events?
I personally can’t wait to attend an event in person. Virtual/hybrid events definitely have their place in the market and have been a breath of fresh of air for me since the pandemic. Both will continue to grow in popularity and I’ve been amazed at how engaging, entertaining and creative some of those I’ve attended have been. Although for me, it’s just not the same as attending an event in person, especially after so long inside and in front of some sort of screen. Let’s get everyone outdoors enjoying the fresh air and interacting as humans do best, when safe to do so.

What should the government be doing to support the sector more?
I do believe the government needs to provide specific support for outdoor events and festivals, preferably in grants and not loans.

Most importantly, the whole sector needs a road map plan of how we can return for 2021 and beyond. I fully appreciate there are so many components to prioritise, and a lot of “ifs” and “maybes”, nevertheless liaising with professional event organisations to collaboratively produce some sort of road map is surely possible? It is an aspiration that is collectively shared by most within the industry and also by customers who are enthusiastic to attend a beloved outdoor event or festival.

Drum kit at festival
Photo: Getty Images

Sarah Bird
Sarah Bird

Co-founder, Just So Festival, and director, Wild Rumpus
www.justsofestival.org.uk / www.wildrumpus.org.uk

How do you see events in 2021 panning out?
Wild Rumpus remains quietly confident and hopeful about 2021. We certainly think things are possible! We have learnt how to adapt and mitigate the risk involved in outdoor arts events. One thing is clear, there is a huge appetite and thirst for creative and cultural experiences right now. Smaller, outdoors events are likely to fare better.

What will attendees be looking for – beyond safe, secure operations?
There is a huge collective appetite for shared experiences with like-minded folk, sitting around campfires, dancing under the stars, conversation and debate, relaxation outdoors in inspiring locations…all the stuff you can’t do on Zoom.

If you were able to create a new event for 2021, what would it be?
I guess the most Covid-resilient would be some sort of timed trail-based event that meant you could guide audiences more easily. But I think what would appeal the most is something that explores ideas around wellbeing, nature connection and relaxation.

Do you think it’s possible to make money this year?
We’re not for profit so making money is never on the agenda but covering costs is and I still think that’s absolutely possible. It’s hard to predict consumer behaviour and confidence and we don’t know what will happen with travel bans or variants of the virus but it could well be that audiences are looking for UK-based events and experiences because there’s less international travel.

Is there still an appetite for hybrid events?
I’m totally Zoomed out and I think most people are. But digital experiences can enhance and extend the live experience and offer it to people who wouldn’t be able to attend due to access or geography. I think hybrid will be a huge ongoing growth area.

What should the government be doing to support the sector more?
A government backed Covid insurance scheme would certainly help, as would visa-free European travel for artists.

 


Duncan Strain
Duncan Strain

Director, Silent Noize Events / Silent Seminars
www.silentnoizeevents.com / www.silentseminars.com

How do you see events in 2021 panning out?
We’re starting to have really positive conversations with planners looking to run live events from early summer onwards which is great. It’s been a breath of fresh air to talk about real events and to provide quotes rather than talking about when, if and how an event might happen. Of course, a lot will depend on how everything goes as we transition out of lockdown but, with bigger festivals and mass gatherings likely to be put on hold for another year, we anticipate a big gap in the market for smaller events, private festivals, parties and weddings. So many people have missed out on celebrations and occasions over the past 12 months and the thirst for getting together is really strong right now.

What will attendees be looking for beyond safe, secure operations?
The key thing will be instilling confidence in audiences. Even with the vaccine rollout and declining infection rates, there will still be many people worried about hygiene and infection control at events. It will be down to the organisers to ensure they are doing everything they can to give that confidence, but I also believe that ensuring attendees are given choices to manage their own personal exposure to risk will be crucial.

One example of this will be the BYOH (bring your own headset) model we’ve introduced this year. We have developed a mobile app allowing audiences to access live audio content using their own earbuds, reducing potential contamination from unnecessary touching and allowing for social distancing on the show floor. It’s also proving very popular at open air venues as it allows for more natural social distancing and can enhance the listening experience for all attendees. Technology that makes life easier for organisers and better for attendees will be as popular as ever!

Is there still an appetite for hybrid events?
There will definitely be a big appetite for hybrid events in 2021 and for years to come. We now know they can work and act as a real driver towards a greener and more sustainable industry.

Many event organisers were forced to move live events online last year and having experienced lots of them I can certainly see some of the benefits digital offers. Less travel, larger audiences, increased data for better business development activity are all trends we were going to see anyway. The pandemic has simply sped up these processes.

There simply is no way digital can successfully replicate the in-person experience of a face-to-face event. Humans are social beings and the need to interact with our friends and colleagues will never go away. Although they may look very different for a while, in person events are set to make a huge comeback in 2021. Event organisers are having to seek new ways to ensure they are Covid compliant, but in my opinion being more hygienic and aware of people’s personal space is certainly no bad thing.

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