Coronavirus business round-up: Latest news across the North West

Tomorrow, August 11, Manchester will hold the only event outside London as part of the #WeMakeEvents to raise awareness and shine a light on the imminent collapse of the UK touring, festival and events industry due to the coronavirus.

It aims to draw attention to the numbers of people and their livelihoods affected by the Government closure of the events industry.

Organisers say this world-class industry is on the edge of losing a wealth of talent, expertise and a culture like no other across the world, with 114,000 of jobs at risk.

A major concern is only 50% of these companies have capital to get them through the next four months – so come the end of the year these businesses will not be in a position to open.

Greater Manchester Production & Events Industry companies and freelancers have come together to hold an event to support the campaign and show this is an issue across the UK.

The Manchester music community is also pledging its support, with groups including New Order, Doves, Mani and Blossoms helping raise awareness for the initiative and the march.

Blossoms said: “Our industry is in need of urgent action. Due to the COVID-19 crisis the whole music and live events sector has been devastated. So many skilled people are at risk of being lost to the whole industry if government support doesn’t come soon.

“Millions of talented people, including many people close to us, need help now. Please join together to support the campaign and call for the Government to act now.”

#WeMakeEvents Julie Cotton, production co-ordinator for artists such as Massive Attack, Nile Rodgers and Chic, and Bury band Elbow, said: “We are making our voices heard for the UK live music, touring, festival and events industry.

“We are currently facing the potential decimation of the UK live music and events industry – the UK’s culture and entertainment sector is the envy of the world.

“We need continued government support in order for us to survive. The industry, by nature, is unseen. Thousands of people were working every day to give the general public cultural experiences and moments they will never forget. This is no more.

“On Tuesday the ‘behind the scenes’ backbone of the industry in Manchester are coming together, making themselves visible to ensure that until concerts, festivals and events are safe to resume they have the support they need from the Government.”

The Manchester Music and Events industry march will start at mid-day tomorrow, starting from Manchester Academy and heading for St Peter’s Square.

It will include a flight case push across the designated route that will pass iconic venues that are currently shuttered.

Protestors will be from all areas of industry from sound engineers to security, truck drivers to tour managers, cleaners to crew, box office to finance staff, and anyone else that plays a part in a concert, event or festival.

The march will be compliant with COVID-19 safety regulations, including strict social distancing and hygiene procedures.

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The Trueman Change team

New research, which has been conducted by Blackburn-based change management experts Trueman Change, has revealed seven ways that sectors successfully transformed their whole business operations overnight back in March this year.

The results were collated based on a series of panel discussions involving 44 different business leaders from eight separate sectors, including local government, higher education, NHS organisations, community businesses, leisure services, private sector organisations, consultancy services and charitable bodies.

A common theme running throughout all panel discussions was ‘communication’. However, the focus was not so much on updating customers, staff and stakeholders, but rather on listening to their concerns and responding in a personalised manner.

Business psychologist, Penny Strutton, said that it ultimately “comes down to communication to make things happen … so that people feel they can have a voice and are heard.”

In these panel discussions the leaders from the public and voluntary sectors were also keen to emphasise the power of working together, and how an ignited sense of passion and purpose in their mission to help those at-risk propelled them to adapt quickly and seamlessly.

Former NHS CEO, Edna Robinson, said that “people had a single issue which they were all working to, and a sense of common purpose”, without this – she inferred – the change might not have been so immediate.

Other business leaders agreed, and went on to say that a ‘throwing out the book of hierarchy’ helped in their change management journey.

Without time on their side, the companies could not implement processes of governance – instead, individuals across all levels and departments worked together in an agile way to make change happen.

Trueman Change concluded that the landscape of creating meaningful change has also adapted.

Detailed and lengthy planning processes could be replaced with quick decision-making, complex and large scale programmes could be replaced with shorter timeframes and more immediate results, and a culture of authority could be replaced with one of empowerment and trust.

Managing director, Lucy Trueman, said: “The lessons that were learnt from these conversations have been invaluable. It’s often accepted as normal for change programmes to take months – if not, years – to deliver results, but these organisations have proved that under certain conditions it is possible to drive change at pace.

“The challenge for change leaders, now, is to keep the momentum going – crisis or no crisis.”

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Clare Hayward

Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) is launching a £1.15m grant programme to help small businesses meet some of the extra costs created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Cheshire & Warrington Recovery & Restructure Grant can offer grants of up to 80% to a maximum of £5,000 – or up to 60% on items purchased from May 1–July 23 – to support eligible Cheshire and Warrington businesses adjust to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The grants are open to trading small and medium enterprises, social enterprises, charities or sole trader based in the Cheshire or Warrington LEP area. To be eligible, businesses need to have been trading for at least 12 months.

The project is being managed by Blue Orchid Enterprise Solutions of behalf of the Cheshire & Warrington LEP.

Around 50% of the funding is being directed towards the region’s hard hit visitor economy, targeting tourism, hospitality and retail businesses with support. The balance will be paid to SMEs in the wider economy.

There are two strands to the programme – capital items and consultancy costs.

The grant can, for instance, pay towards capital items businesses may need to recover or restructure their business to trade through the COVID-19 outbreak

Examples of the support that can be provided include:

  • IT equipment, eg tablet and contact payment systems, ICT equipment to support homeworking
  • Fixed PPE equipment eg plastics screens and sanitiser dispensers
  • Building alterations eg creation of one-way systems, building of outdoor seating, serving hatches etc.

Consultancy grants will help business to bring in external expertise to support their entry into new markets, engaging new customers or improving efficiency, for example through re-branding or promotional campaigns, market research or improving their online presence.

The grant cannot pay for day-to-day running costs, servicing debt or towards cash flow. Other Government programmes are available to help with these issues.

Clare Hayward, chair of Cheshire and Warrington LEP, said: “We know all too well through the work our Business Growth Hub team is doing, supporting local businesses, just how tough it is out there.

“These are market conditions that no-one has experienced before. We will continue to work tirelessly to help companies of every size get along the road to recovery.

“This round of small business grants has a big focus on the visitor economy and follows on from the £15.5m of support we have secured from the Government’s Getting Building Fund for key projects in Cheshire East, Chester West and Warrington.”

Some 50% of the cash for the Restructure & Recovery Grant comes from the Growing Places Fund which the LEP board has approved the use of in the form of grants to small businesses to be invested in ways that will support businesses to reopen, operate and grow in a COVID-safe way.

The balance has been made available through the Growth Hub network for existing European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) Growth Hub projects or a nominated ERDF project.

To apply visit the Blue Orchid website https://blueorchid.co.uk/cheshire-warrington-recovery-restructure-grant/

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