All Systems Stop!
As we’re coming to hear with alarming frequency, we are living through interesting times. For all none essential workers, particularly those in the private sector and small businesses, this can mean a pretty catastrophic collapse in working norms. I remember one friend who owns mutiple cafes confessing to breaking down in tears as he couldn’t figure out how to keep going and the resulting mess his staff would find themselves in. The events industry, like many other small businesses, has been severely impacted by the outbreak of the pandemic and the measures in place to deal with it.
When things were building up pre-lockdown there was much discussion about how to continue organising events. Can they be done with staggered starts? How to deal with refunds when most costs are paid out? How far would you move an event in to the future to make sure it goes ahead? As time went by we were casting furtive glances at other countries going into full lockdown and realised that the same would be following in this country. Little did we know that being stuck at home with your kids would drive us so close to madness!
For Cold Brew Events we had two events in April which couldn’t go ahead. Luckily for us the majority or people involved were happy to move to a new date. It was more important for people to stay safe and look towards the long term. Trail Outlaws were on the cusp of delivering the incredibly popular Dark Skies weekend up at Kielder only a matter of days before the official ban on public events came into place.
The stopping of events being hosted has also led to a dry-up in people entering events as confidence they will take place evaporated. The result is a complete halt on any kind of cash flow through event businesses. For Cold Brew this is compounded by the fact that we aren’t eligible for any of the financial schemes beyond getting a loan. Cold Brew are small fry compared to the likes of Paul McGreal who puts on the massive Keswick Mountain Festival with all it’s talks, walks, socials, food stalls, music and much more. He tells it straight:
“Pretty much overnight it all stopped – entries disappeared and our income collapsed. The months of planning for 2020 became wasted. The money spent on preparations and marketing (well over £100K) was lost. Right now, it all still remains highly uncertain whether we will work at all in 2020. Will organisers and suppliers make it through to 2021?. Not all of us, that’s for sure.”
Those companies that get through to the other side of this pandemic, whenever that may be, may have to operate in a whole new world. The whole supply chain will be effected with companies such as timing systems, merchandise supplies, insurance companies, marquee hire, toilets, facilities and on and on. All these people will have the same struggles.
Who I really feel for is the small businesses that were benefiting directly from events taking place. Take the cafe at Ingram for example, in early 2017 it nearly went out of business in the winter but the Winter Wipeout came along and transformed fortunes for then owner Sheila. The same place continues under new ownership and benefits from not only the sadistic Winter Wipeout but also the Montane Cheviot Goat. Let’s all hope this cafe comes through other side and operates as normal.
Cold Brew organiser Drew Swinburne wishes he had a crystal ball for the future:
“None of us saw this coming but we’re all in it now and wondering when the end will get here. From a national economic view there has to be some kind of balance with public physical health and mental health. If a section of society is left to have no income and no prospect of changing that then we’re in for problems. I really hope to be out mixing with people and benefiting small businesses.”
We all wait furtively for baby steps to be made so we can all get out into the outdoors and start stretching our bodies and minds once again. For event organisers it can’t come soon enough.