NEC boss makes further plea for immediate support for live events sector as ‘total collapse imminent’

NEC Group's Paul Thandi won's Ambassador award in 2017

The chief executive of NEC Group has again added his voice to the call for immediate support to help keep the live events sector from the risk of “total collapse”.

Paul Thandi has joined the likes of Emily Eavis, Glastonbury co-organiser, Lucy Noble, artistic and commercial director of the Royal Albert Hall and Phil Bowdery, chairman of the Concert Promoters Association in a letter to the Times Newspaper urging for Government intervention.

It follows his plea in July for an extension of the furlough scheme and for the government to support those industries that cannot turn their revenues back on within days or weeks of reopening

The letter said: “The UK is a world leader in staging events and exports this skill across the world. However, the total collapse of this sector is imminent.

“The £1.57bn culture recovery fund does not reach most supply companies. A £100bn indutsry will not operate without support for 600,000 freelancers and staff.”

The letter called for government-backed insurance for live events and said that a three year extension to the 5% cultural VAT rate in tickets, which has been recommended by the culture select committee, must be implemented “at once”.

“Without immediate support, the supply chain will not exist to stage events. The consequence of this will be a slower bounce back for all; one arena show generates about £3m in economic value to the local economy.

“We urge the government to acknowledge the size and value of the live events industry and the immediate support needed for these skilled freelancers, employees and businesses.

The NEC Group is Europe’s busiest venue business and has a huge impact on the region’s visitor economy and profile.

It played a key role in Birmingham’s successful bid to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games and is working with Birmingham City Council on an ambitious, generational masterplan for the NEC campus, linked to the arrival of HS2 at the planned Birmingham Interchange station.

The call for help comes soon after news that 50 jobs are being cut at SSE Audio.

The Redditch-based company has been forced to make one-quarter of its workforce redundant – cutting jobs at all levels across the group – as it prepares to be without event income until at least March.

SSE Audio is the UK’s largest pro-audio hire, sales and installations group. It delivered a £5m installation project at Tottenham Hotspur’s new stadium, provides sound production at Glastonbury, the Reading and Leeds festivals and many others, and was preparing for 2020 tours with global stars including Rammstein and the Killers.

The group, which won the Medium Business award at the 2017 Business Masters, has almost doubled its turnover in the last three years, and achieved revenues of £39m in 2019 with expectations of further growth. It forecast it should have been pointing its speakers to nearly 10m people in just four months this summer.

But in mid-March, just as the industry was coming out of its post-Christmas slumber and ramping up for the summer festival season, its revenues plummeted to almost zero in a matter of days.

With expensive equipment filling warehouse space instead of stage sets, the only income is from the sale of second-hand equipment, which is bringing in less than 5% of the company’s usual revenues.

Its Canadian owners Solotech, which bought SSE Audio in 2018, is facing problems of a similar magnitude as it deals with the loss of tours by Paul McCartney and the Rolling Stones, among a packed, but now cancelled, calendar.

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