On 5 August the South African events community will embark on #LightSAred - a campaign to raise awareness of the extent the current Covid-19 restrictions are affecting the livelihood of those who live and breathe public gatherings.
I fully support the idea of an industry-wide movement but, to be honest, I was astounded when we started discussing the campaign internally - in our attempt to spread the word, the realisation of the number of people affected was nothing if not gut-wrenching.
Having to list and 'delete' the details of so many partners because they've had no choice but to liquidate, close doors and sell assets brought to the fore a range of emotions and expletives not to be repeated on a public platform like this.
There seems to be a perception that events, festivals, concerts, sports etc. are 'non-essential'. That, despite the need for us as humans to engage in social activities, the Covid-19 related risks are too high for the industry to be re-opened.
At first glance, that statement seems obvious enough to be accepted without further consideration, but consider it we must. This 'non-essential' industry is one with very far-reaching consequences.
As an example, I'd like to review the numbers of the last triathlon we hosted in Cape Town. On average, for every athlete who crossed the starting line, there were eight people earning an income from that delivery. These range from highly skilled and experienced race doctors to students earning work experience credits, from self-employed food truck vendors to hydration point teams recruited and transported from local communities. Then one must consider the security guards, the route marshals, the bus drivers and physiotherapists… the list goes on.
By nature, events provide a platform for multi-disciplinary collaboration between government, communities and the private sector. For example, if we quantify the larger socio-economic impact of the triathlon through local and international tourism, venue rentals to community schools and parks, and the contribution to city businesses like restaurants – we conservatively estimate the indirect impact to be R25m. And this event is small when reviewed alongside international series projects like Formula E and the Volvo Ocean Race.
In this context, if a single event can contribute to the livelihood of so many then perhaps we need to reconsider the reference to 'non-essential'? Pre-Covid the City of Cape Town alone facilitated the hosting of approximately one large event per week. Undoubtedly, this makes the number of people impacted significant enough for decent review and consideration to be given to current policies.
Impact is in the eye of the beholder - and in the eyes of those unable to keep their business doors open, earn a living or get a casual employment opportunity - the impact of current policies are devastating.
The time has come for us to harness and leverage the collaborative nature of the industry and find a way to get the stage lights on and the ticket stubs checked once again.
I realise there are many cogs to this wheel, and many parties working and lobbying furiously in the background to get us all back to doing what we love. But when you - an event loving participant - see a building lit up in red, or a social media post with #LightSAred - I ask that you voice your support. Not only for those formally employed but more for those informally impacted.
And, in the long term;
- If you need to market a city or destination - host an event
- If you need to market your brand, find a B2B networking platform or incentivise or reward employees - host an event
- If your community is looking for a platform to show its pride - host an event
- If youth development and creating opportunities for entrepreneurs is your passion - host an event
You might not know it, but you’ll be making a considerable difference in the lives of many.