3 months out from the festival, where are you on the scale from apprehensive to excited?
I’m definitely more positive than negative about delivering the event this year! Provided the government and the research programme takes an appropriate approach to managing risk, then we will be okay. At some point, COVID has to become something that sits in the matrix of risk that we are facing rather than being the sole focus. But we’re ready – and our suppliers, our contractors, and our customers are ready!
Glad to hear it! So will this be the best Bournemouth 7s yet?
Absolutely, and the biggest! We’re almost sold-out, the excitement is really there. Anyone hosting a show this year will really benefit from that appetite.
Does hosting an entirely outdoor event help?
It does, and it’s an entirely enclosed arena so we have a lot of control. One really interesting thing in terms of COVID and the outdoors is that some COVID regulations fly in the face of other elements of safety management. For the Big Top for example, for COVID they want all of the sides taken off to increase air flow. That’s great until we have high winds and need all of the sides on to protect the structure! Trying to find that balance, and put COVID into the planning and risk matrix, is really important. You can’t be so focused on being COVID-secure that you forget about other vital aspects of safety.
This year, will you need to work even more closely with public authorities?
I think that kind of multi-agency working has always been really significant, but the big change has been the addition of public health into that process. All of the SAGs (Safety Advisory Groups) I am involved in now have public health representatives or channels to feed back to public health. But everyone is incredibly pragmatic about COVID. We’re just waiting for the published guidance, and then we know that as event professionals we will be able to deliver on that in the same pragmatic, appropriate and positive way that we have always done. We have history of dealing with really serious changes to the industry, such as terrorism, so it is important to manage this whole matrix of risks in the right way.
COVID is always in the news, so it’s too easy to follow every small update and spend too much energy considering the implications.
Agreed, and we have to factor in the positive and negative feelings in our audience. We have an impact on the local community, and if they perceive our 20,000 visitors as a risk then that will create new issues. The wider public perception is important.
Are you expecting to have a lot of the COVID testing, tracking and tracing burden fall on you?
Absolutely. As an event organiser the burden should land on us, because we’re the ones creating the environment - it’s part of what needs to happen. In terms of testing, it would be impractical and cost-prohibitive to test everyone on site – so we will need some support to achieve the testing. But the government is asking everyone to test twice a week anyway at the moment. We will maintain an element of ability to test on site and we can deal with any other potential COVID issues too. We do have a duty of care to our audience and our staff and we take that very seriously.
Will there be any changes in your incident management this year?
I think it will be similar to usual. The piece around the ‘euphoric bounce-back’ – people’s excitement, possible drunkenness and associated issues – is a risk factor we are particularly cognisant of. But I don’t see a huge amount of change in how we physically deal with incidents. The fundamentals of risk management and incident management are so ingrained in our industry. The communications piece will be vital, explaining our risk mitigations and safety steps to our audience in a clear way.
Finally, if you could give one piece of advice to people working in event control this summer, what would it be?
I'll give two! One - do what you have always done. Apply the same practices as you always have in this new COVID world. Two - engage with public health in your planning processes from the outset. And remember, we're a world-leading industry in delivering events so let's trust in that!
Thank you, Craig! Some very interesting points in there, and plenty to think about and learn for other event organisers reading this. Good luck for August!