Last month saw both Alex Turner from Arctic Monkeys raffling off his guitar to support The Leadmill and the #WeMakeEvents campaign make headlines across the UK.
The events industry is no doubt one of the hardest hit by the pandemic with a long road to recovery ahead, so unLTD’s Dan Laver and Sasha Mossman spoke to the wider events community in Sheffield to find out their hopes for the future
The Expo People
Address: Works 57, Chippinghouse Road, Sheffield S8 0ZF
Paul Tomes, Director at The Expo People, said:
“We install stands and displays at events mainly across the UK but also across Europe – given that the events that we operate at are essentially ‘mass gatherings’ our business has taken a huge hit since mid-February when organisers started to pull events that were scheduled.
“We’ve gone from looking like having our best year on record to turnover reducing to almost zero overnight – which obviously has ramifications. Like many industries, we’re suffering at the moment and have adapted to, with the help of our fantastic clients.
“While the difficulties faced by the events industry have received plenty of publicity thanks to well-known artists and public figures, the sector stretches a lot further than music venues and theatres, with the pain being felt right through our own industry and the businesses that rely on events like conferences, expos and shows. We know the value of business events and the amount of money that they generate for individual businesses and in turn the economy – they often underpin a company’s sales strategy – as an example, a manufacturing client of ours takes 80% of their annual orders at an annual three day exhibition.
“The real challenge for the industry is getting the first exhibition to run – as undoubtedly it will be a huge success – never has there been such a demand and human desire to do face-to-face business in a safe way after the amount of time that people have spent in lockdown this year. As an industry, we feel that we are ahead of the curve so to speak in terms of managing the spread of traffic and collecting attendee contact details for track and trace purposes (this was already normal at exhibitions) so it’s just a case of organisers and exhibitors having the confidence to go ahead with an event – something which was intended to be addressed by #projectconfidence.
“Although official government guidance is expected to allow events to take place post October 1st, subject to the successful test-event operation, it looks unlikely that any of the main organisers will run an event before at least mid-November as it is deemed as too much of a gamble. As an industry, we feel that there needs to be an industry wide compromise to get the exhibition industry moving again, whether that be flexible contracts or government subsidies. There are well over one million jobs on the line across the supply chain which includes not just the organisers but Stand agencies like ourselves and other key supply chain operators. Some of the big players in particular with large overheads are really struggling – for us, our 2021 order book has never looked stronger but there still remains the anxiety of a potential second wave and what impact that would have on the ability to hold mass gatherings in 2021.”
Wildfire Experience Agency
Address: Wildfire House, Bradbury St, Sheffield S8 9QQ
Nathan Angus, MD of Wildfire Experience Agency said:
“Wildfire Experience Agency creates and delivers exceptional activities, themes, props and events, specialising in delivering team building and corporate events with added quality and professionalism, with a wide variety of events and activities from Crystal Maze collection to motorised sports.
“Prior to COVID-19 Wildfire was running around seven events a day across the country that usually had between 100 to 2,000 people taking part. With May, June and July being our busiest months and was on track to be a record, COVID-19 has had a huge impact on the business.
“As a family company that has been built to always be positive, to strive for better and to exceed expectations, we knew we had to adapt and pivot Wildfire to the new normal of online meetings and events. We knew that the industry will be changing for the foreseeable future so we pooled our ideas together and came up with a range of events we can run through Zoom or other video platforms.
“While workplaces were fragmented and with many working from home, we believe that team building plays a massive part in helping wellbeing and mental health. Everyone needs some interaction, fun and positivity at a time when having limited contact.
“Pivoting our business in a short space of time came with challenges – learning new technology, building green screen studios, creating engaging events and ensuring everything pulled together. Learning a lot from these, we have created a strong product range of remote and online events.
“With remote escape rooms, online quizzes with our fabulous hosts, teambuilding activities or our online musical bingo, we can still give teams that event feeling to pull everyone together whilst keeping safe. Our online events have gone down a hit with us expanding our reach from not only the UK but across the globe to the USA, China and further afield. These events have been enjoyed by businesses keeping their teams engaged, and for families and friends who have got together online.
“Our team have adapted brilliantly to the new normal by taking precautions, social distancing and following safety measures whilst running the online events. Planning for socially distanced events in the upcoming months is exciting for Wildfire as the team can’t wait to get out and run exciting events as nothing compares to face-to-face events. With plenty of events that can be adapted to ensure everyone is safe, this is a major step forward for Wildfire and getting back to providing exceptional events.”
Art in the Gardens
Address: Sheffield Botanical Gardens, Clarkehouse Road, Broomhall, Sheffield S10 2LN
Peter Clark, managing partner at Graysons, said:
“We were delighted to hear the news that Sheffield City Council had decided to stage Art in the Gardens this year following a time of great uncertainty.
“This year’s event will be one of the most important in the show’s history as it signals some sort of normality returning to the local arts world.
“Last year was our first as premier sponsors and it’s an honour for Graysons Solicitors to return in 2020.
“We have a keen interest in the art and the cultural life of our great city. “We’re also the new sponsors of Sheffield Young Artists 2021 and regularly work with local artist Alan Pennington.
“Many of his designs are displayed at our offices and you will also see his artwork when you visit our stall at Art In the Gardens.
“Lockdown had a dramatic effect on life at Graysons as it did everywhere. But I’m glad to say our lawyers and client advisors adapted well to working remotely and we have continued to deliver high standards of client care and service during lockdown and the ongoing restrictions.
“The arts sector has arguably been one of the last to get back on its feet after lockdown and we are pleased to do our bit to help by backing Art in the Gardens again.”
Dirty Stop Outs
When the region’s bars and clubs shut in March there was no one better placed to boost the morale of the leisure-starved region than Sheffield-based Dirty Stop Outs. Owner, Neil Anderson, said:
“As soon as lockdown hit, I realised I was in a unique position to provide a welcome distraction from the troubled times. We took the decision to plunder our archives and provide reams of free content celebrating long gone nightspots.
“Newspapers were provided with scores of chapters from our best-selling books; our Facebook posts and blogs regularly attracted tens of thousands of views.
“We even changed our name, temporarily, to the Dirty Stop-Ins.
“We kept boosting morale right up to the re-opening of the pubs – and we decided to continue as a show of support to live music venues and nightclubs which still remain shut.
“Over five months since the start of lockdown and the digital presence of Dirty Stop Outs has grown that much, we’ve now taken the decision to move eighty per cent of the business online and limit the amount of products we sell through high street retailers like HMV and Waterstones.
“We’ve just unveiled a new e-commerce platform at
www.dirtystopouts.com, which is set to be the hub of the future operation.
“The reaction has been fantastic, and it has made me realise Dirty Stop Outs is in a position to be a strong e-commerce brand and that’s the direction we’re now going in.
“That’s not to say Dirty Stop Outs hasn’t been adversely affected by the lockdown. We’ve lost thousands of pounds due to cancelled and postponed retro events. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that they can go ahead in the first half of 2021.”