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Manchester’s music and events industry march through the city as part of the #WeMakeEvents campaign for government support.

Manchester’s show of solidarity for the events and music industry on Tuesday was not only a rally for government support, but an insight into the sheer importance of the arts and just how many people are affected by it. When your favourite band walks out on stage, there’s a whole host of often uncelebrated personnel behind the scenes who make it all possible. The music and events industry is a labour of love that runs on the sheer passion of many brilliant people. This is their lifeblood as well as their careers.

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It’s absolutely roasting at 12pm on Tuesday in the city known for its musical pioneering over history, and the nucleus of this is gathered around the back of Manchester Academy, preparing to set out on a march down Oxford Road towards St Peter’s Square, organised by the #WeMakeEvents campaign team with all COVID safety measures in place. Backed by musicians (New Order, Paul Heaton, The Stone Roses) and governors alike (Labour’s Lucy Powell and City Mayor Andy Burnham), the city’s collective forces rallied to support #WeMakeEvents pleas, which were posted to their website:

“We are calling for meaningful support from the Government until the industry is allowed to operate in a way that is not limited by social distancing policies including:

1. Grants – not loans – made available to businesses in the events supply chain

2. Furlough scheme extended until the industry is back to work

3. Extension of the self-employment scheme, tailored towards the industry”

The hundreds gathered consist of event crews brandishing their companies names, artists representing their music, promoters, managers and countless other professionals who you don’t immediately think about when you’re 6 pints deep watching Kylie at Glastonbury (guilty). There are signs with messages such as “first industry to stop, last to return” and “without us, there are no gigs”. Many are pushing flight cases as part of their display which was broadcast all over the nation.

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We pass multiple musical landmarks on the way, including the renowned family run music store Johnny Roadhouse who have their own show of support on display, and on the left down Whitworth Street is two of Manchester’s gemmed venues; The Ritz and Gorilla, the latter of which having been thankfully saved from permanent closure alongside The Deaf Institute.
The £1.57 billion government injection into the industry was a promising lifeline at first, but there is still visibly much more to be done for those that are yet to see its benefits. As the march reaches St Peter’s Square, flares are let off and lighting crews rig up a display that blankets the Manchester Library building in red light long into the night, emphasising the plea from the industry – we are on red alert.

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After the march, I spoke to Luke, the drummer of Manchester’s Dirty Laces who had to pull out of their tour in March.

“For the band it was really tough to be only a couple of dates into our first UK tour and have to pull the whole thing. We were also booked to play some really big stages at festivals including the Calling Out tent at Kendal Calling. So, when you look at it that way, having no events has potentially hampered our development a little bit. On the flip side, during lockdown we signed our first record deal with Golden Robot Records which was great, and have been able to use our time to write a load of new songs so it’s been a two-edged sword really. Luckily a lot of the band have day jobs right now and nobody has been laid off which has meant that we are financially stable, but for those who rely on the live industry as their sole income it’s been really hard. I’ve spoken with many people in this position and it’s devastating. For me, the march was about representing those people. They make it possible for artists like me to try and forge a career. If you want the world’s best music and the world’s greatest music festivals and events then we need to do more, because right now the reality is that we face losing it as we know it and that is a truly tragic prospect.”

With Luke is Matt O’Reilly from events company Pro-Excel who for almost 20 years have specialised in producing opening and closing ceremonies, pre-match and half-time shows for some of the biggest sporting events in the world, including the British and USA F1 Grand Prix’s:

“Approximately 2 million people rely on live events in the UK as a career, and the live events industry right across the board contributes £70-100 billion to the British economy every year. With this in mind it’s very important that the government now starts to look at ‘industry specific’ support, rather than simply throwing a blanket across the country and hoping everybody is OK. That said, we must also learn to look after ourselves, stand up for what we believe in and fight for what we think we deserve. Campaigns like today with #WeMakeEvents give us the opportunity to do just this. It is where we can all make a difference and provides a wonderful platform for success. To quote the campaigners; ‘Don’t let us lose the talent that is the envy of the world’ – never a truer word spoken and yet this is what we risk if the live events industry is no more.”

Matt also offered a great opportunity for the events he works on: If you are a dance school, secondary school, academy, performing arts college and would like to perform with Pro-Excel at the British F1 Grand Prix in 2021 please go to: www.pro-excel.co.uk

I then spoke to James Thomas, who is an artist manager and event organiser for Pentatonic Events. They specialise in putting together shows for promising grass roots artists, and industry events such as Nobody Talks Anymore, the first of which was a huge success just before lockdown.

“It’s been a tough time for everyone in the industry, here at The Pentatonic we have had to cancel all our gigs for the rest of the year! Our bands have only just got back to practicing and are currently planning on recording new music. We have been trying to come up with new ideas to create content at the minute.
It was nice to see how many people turned up to support such a great cause, it felt like the music industry came closer together to support each other, something I have personally been trying to work on over the past 12 months through organising shows and industry talks, and will continue to work on. Hopefully the march will be a success and we will get the right support from the government that is needed.”

Meeting and seeing the hundreds of individuals who do brilliant things, but whose careers are in serious jeopardy, was a call for inspiration as well as action. Despite the seriousness of the message, the campaigners remained positive in their voices and peaceful in their protests, which I believe to be the most effective method of inspiring change.

Creatives within the industry are used to adapting to their situations in order to survive, it’s just the nature of their work with many of the job roles being on a freelance basis. But with what is one of the most widespread risks to ever target the industry, it is vital for as many people who are able to support it to do so. Whether that is through going online and learning as much as you can about these issues, or through supporting campaigns such as this. You can help by writing to your MP, or by supporting an independent artist by buying their album instead of streaming it. There is a more in depth article on how to help here.

It will all make a difference, no matter how big or small. The more awareness raised will result in the more support gained, meaning that more of our industry will be kept afloat until we are able to fully thrive once again.

Matty Dagger

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