Coronavirus: Scottish Government must help vital event management industry – Professor Joe Goldblatt Europe’s golfers celebrate winning the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles, one of a host of events held in Scotland in 2014

The craftspeople, artists and technicians involved in event management need help amid the ongoing Covid crisis, writes Professor Joe Goldblatt
Europe’s golfers celebrate winning the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles, one of a host of events held in Scotland in 2014 (Picture: Ian Rutherford)Europe’s golfers celebrate winning the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles, one of a host of events held in Scotland in 2014 (Picture: Ian Rutherford)
Europe’s golfers celebrate winning the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles, one of a host of events held in Scotland in 2014 (Picture: Ian Rutherford)

They deliver and arrange the flowers for your daughter’s and son’s wedding celebrations. They create the beautiful catering services and menu to delight and nourish your guests. They provide the microphones and speakers for the medical conferences that train doctors and nurses who may save your life. They insure your safety, hygiene, and security by providing proper stewarding for the events that you attend.

These people are members of an industry that may be mostly invisible to you, until you celebrate a milestone in your life and they become critical partners.

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However, I know them very well as 30 years ago I was the founding president of the world’s first international association of event management professionals, the International Live Events Association. And now, these talented craftspeople, artists and technicians are facing the destruction of their careers and this means the end of the dream makers who provide the foundations for our future gatherings.

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When the global pandemic first appeared, the events industry was the first to close and most government leaders predict that due to the challenge of physical distancing to prevent transmission of this disease, they will be among the last to reopen.

However, as this industry literally waits in the wings for the call to return to the perfect stage – Scotland – to amplify, light, decorate, and secure future events, they are now threatened with extinction.

Scotland is fortunate in that we have one of the world’s few national level events agencies.

Event Scotland have been monitoring the situation experienced by suppliers to the events industry very closely and they fear that a distruption in this critical supply chain may permanently harm our industry in the future.

We must never forget that Scotland has demonstrated its unique capacity to produce world-class events, as demonstrated in 2014 by the simultaneous delivery of the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, the Ryder Cup, and more than 1,000 events associated with the second Scottish Homecoming celebration.

These events cannot be designed or delivered without an experienced, trained, skilled, qualified and well-equipped workforce. This workforce is now facing gradual extinction due to the lack of support from government.

The term ‘event’ is derived from the Latin ‘e venire’ that literally means outcome. Ironically, the outcome that the event industry workers are facing is now unpredictable and indeed bleak due to the lack of government support for these individual professionals.

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Although the UK Government and the Scottish Government has provided support for cultural organisations, the lack of support for individual event technicians, artists, carpenters, electricians, sound engineers, pyrotechnicians, stewards and others may result in the cultural institutions that have been given a life-line soon finding that when they seek the essential resources they require to stage their event they will open their doors to find a dark and empty room.

Therefore, I implore the UK Government and Scottish Government to further extend their funding to provide grant support for these event management professionals who deliver the dreams every day in our society.

Without their talent and experience, political leaders may soon find that their microphones fall silent, the platforms upon which they were to stand have disappeared and their critical stage lighting has failed to materialise. Every day, event management professionals in small and major ways enhance human life. When I was studying for my doctoral degree I was asked by my supervisor to visit a local care home and interview senior citizens about their lifetime of experiences when attending live events.

The majority of the patients were very unwell, however, I noticed that one woman was nodding in agreement with me and then she suddenly raised her hand to speak.

When I called upon her she stated that the festivals, conventions and celebrations I had described were not just events, they were, according to her, “the milestones of our lives”.

When I probed to find out more about her thinking, she described her husband escorting his daughter down the aisle at her wedding, although he was in a wheelchair because he was suffering from terminal cancer. She believed that he summoned the strength to attend this event because he wished to make this special memory. She then repeated her earlier definition that events, especially to those near the end of their lives, are the experiences that we remember, cherish and that, critically, make our lives worth living.

A global pandemic has been described by scientific experts as an extremely rare occurrence. Simultaneously, this is our rare opportunity to provide the critical support required for the members of the event management industry so that they may design and deliver our dreams that will indeed continue to make our lives worth living.

Professor Joe Goldblatt is emeritus professor of planned events at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh, Scotland. He is the author, co-author and editor of 38 books in the field of events management including the first textbook in this field that has been continually in publication for 30 years. He was the founding president of the International Live Events Association, which has over 5,000 members planning and producing events all over the world.

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