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Welcome to the Mackerel Sky Events Blog


EVENTS, MARKETING & BUSINESS - thoughts from an industry insider

By mackskyhelen, Feb 1 2016 09:30AM

Various public domain events have come under severe criticism in the last 12 months for safety issues due to overcrowding. Most recently, Lumiere in London where Kings Cross Station and surrounding area had to be evacuated due to the hundreds of thousands of people who came to the event. This is the latest in a series of events that is starting to show a worrying trend in public expectations. For most, they are being managed by competent and experienced people; for some, they simply didn’t think it would be a problem.

So there are two issues here; firstly, public expectations are changing and the requirements for quality, safety resources and provision, and ease of access are increasing. Safety is of course paramount but event organisers are challenged by public behavior and ever decreasing resources. For free events, there is no need to register in advance so it is incredibly difficult to know how many are coming and the subsequent pressure on travel networks and parking. People expect to be able to get in to the event site as easily as normal operations, despite the amount of advance information and signage or additional services, and therefore arrive (eventually) where they want to be and they are stressed, frazzled and angry. This then creates a more aggressive and stressed feel within the audience and behavior becomes again more challenging. The difficult thing is that you could of course have more security to manage crowds and behavior but what if fewer people come and then it all seems very heavy handed. With high numbers of attendees to a public domain site (which is rarely designed to accommodate that number), who are all potentially frustrated and stressed, being pushed and jostled around the space, we have a recipe for injury, potential crowd surge and crush.

So, we can put in place heaps of plans to manage crowds and safety but with the kind of response that we are now seeing, this isn’t enough. At what point is a city centre ‘full’? And who decides that? And how could we control it? We had exactly this conversation with the Police for City of Lights and there was a general consensus of ‘nobody knows’. The backlash tends to be directed at the organisers – what fools for creating an event that everyone wants to go to! They should have put in more safety provision, more stewards, more signage, more Police! They must be incompetent! I would argue not necessarily as there is a limit to what we can do in terms of the geography of the location, the funds and resources available, and the approach of the people and authorities involved. There is always context.

Not much hope if there is an injury or worse, a fatality, at an event like this and the event organizer is the one who would be prosecuted, not the crowds, nor the Council. With changing attitudes in the general public, how can we enable the public to take responsibility for themselves? At City of Lights, we did this with advance flyers, audience information on the website, increased resourcing for security, increased volunteer steward cohort, and lots of other small tweaks, but it’s not the same for every event and we had to fight our way through a lot of regulatory barriers to get there.

Public domain events are at an interesting crossroads. We need to adapt to this changing groundswell of public opinion and criticism, and we need to evolve our business models to accommodate the additional requirements. Maybe austerity has caused this public shift, maybe it’s the commercialisation of our society, maybe no-one takes responsibility any more….

Claire Eason Bassett, Managing Director, Mackerel Sky

By mackskyhelen, Dec 21 2015 02:36PM

For reasons that are too complicated to go into, I found myself in the truck and stuck in a very muddy (and very steep sloped) field. We were trying various ways to get out of our stuck state - reversing, trying to find solid ground, trying to gain traction in any way! But we were getting further away from the gate and closer to the steeper sections....and I was getting increasingly worried and stressed.

We found a way out by taking off automatic controls and persevering (phew!) but it made me think about why I got so stressed by the experience. Driving is something that I do to get me from A to B, to fulfil a function, rather than being a passion of mine and I am also entirely reliant on it to live the life I lead. I realised that it was the prevention of normal operations e.g. not being able to get out of the situation and the implications of that, as well as the lack of control that I had over finding a solution, that caused an adrenalin rush (and a little bit of panic).

My work often entails being in what could be stressful situations but I am generally calm and focus on solving the problem and this is one of things that our clients most appreciate. So, what was it about being stuck in the truck that induced such a stress-based response?

This incident made me recognise that I really really don't like being surprised! I am a control freak which is great in someways as it enables me to be calm under difficult circumstances because I have already considered the options, but can also inhibit challenge and innovation.

We all have different relationships to risk and this is also contingent on the situation we are in. Managing risk is therefore more complex than simply putting a risk assessment into place; we have to take account of the human factor and recognise where we are confident and capable to manage it effectively, and equally where we are challenged even with a relatively low perceived level of risk.

For me, my approach to risk was summed up in a recent team day where we were playing a little game of two truths and a lie. I said that I had Kylie's phone number, that my husband proposed on New Year's Eve, and that I did a bungee jump when we were in New Zealand. My colleagues responded that the last one had to be the lie because I manage risk every day and I would never put myself in that position.

Claire Eason Bassett, Managing Director, Mackerel Sky Events

By mackskyhelen, Nov 16 2015 10:10PM

I woke this morning to news of the atrocity in Paris. My heart breaks for those involved and the families and friends of those who died. It makes us question the kind of world we live in and how anyone could see good in it.

I particularly feel for the stage and safety managers at Stade de France and Bataclan venues. No one can plan for this but we all have emergency plans and systems set up to try and minimise the impact. To have this happen on your watch must be utterly horrific both personally and professionally. I really hope that they and the restaurant managers are given time to recover and process their own responses to it all.

What saddens me most is that events and social activity was the target. We work really hard to create fantastic shows, games, event experiences and in the main, people enjoy them and have a great time. Terrorists see them as an opportunity to promote their world view with maximum impact. We mustn't let them stop us from being part of our community; please keep coming to events and shows and football games!

And all strength to our fellow event managers of whatever form. We will not be beaten.

We are praying for Paris.

Claire Eason Bassett, Managing Director, Mackerel Sky

By mackskyhelen, Oct 26 2015 10:00AM

I was so very sorry to hear of the closure of Arts for Health Cornwall due to lack of funding. Jayne Howard and her team have done fantastic work and pioneered the value of creativity in creating healthy communities and supporting effective recovery. Now we lose this tiny but impactful organisation because some funders are unable to recognise the value of implicit or intangible impacts.

It is perhaps a consequence of austerity and the extensive local and national government cuts and unfortunately, they are not the only cultural organisation who have and are struggling. One of the issues that we all face in the cultural sector is articulating the value of what we do and how we do it in a way that demonstrates the impact in a language that is broadly understood and appreciated by stakeholders. Like all industries, there is a jargon in the cultural sector and in the genres within it and this can be a completely different language to that of our funders, supporters, audiences and volunteers.

If we as a sector are going to survive the cuts and austerity measures that are really only just being felt, we have to smarten up and learn the languages of our stakeholders so we can robustly and effectively examine our impact and communicate it to the wider world. This will in turn enable us to build more sustainable businesses and organisations who are seen and understood to be a core part of our communities and our national economic resilience.

For whatever reason, Arts for Health are a victim of the cuts and unfortunately it is not the Council who will feel the pain of their loss but those who are in hospital, managing ongoing conditions, community service users and our wider population. Our communities, our culture, is poorer as a consequence.

Claire Eason Bassett, Managing Director, Mackerel Sky

By mackskyhelen, Oct 21 2015 08:00AM

We are delighted to be running a training session about making money from public domain events as part of Newquay Business Week next week.

Our session is aimed at supporting retailers and businesses to engage with and capitalise on events that are taking place on their doorstep because, for many of the events that we have developed and delivered with business improvement districts (BIDs), there is a massive missed opportunity to expand the reach and impact of the project by engaging partners and businesses.

What we mean is that we can organise and run a processional event or festival in a town centre but the retailers and businesses based in the area often struggle to see or be able to engage with the opportunities to promote themselves and increase their sales.

If we have retailers involved, then we can increase the value of the experience for our attendees and create greater economic and social impact for the project. From the retailer/business perspective, events offer an opportunity to get in front of the target market to generate direct sales and promote their brand. Events create an emotional experience which can generate a loyal following and by being involved, businesses can align themselves with successful projects and extend the reach of their brands.

Most importantly, events are part of creating customer relationships and can substantially increase the lifetime value of a customer for public domain activity this is not just for the individual businesses and organisations involved but also for the destination. We will get most impact from event activity (and maximum return on investment) if we all work together to create brilliant event experiences that engage our target markets but we recognise that this takes work. So that’s what we’ll cover in the session on Friday 23rd!

Claire Eason Bassett, Managing Director, Mackerel Sky

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