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LIVE BY JAMES HANLEY
The UK live music business is coming to terms with last week’s horrific terrorist attack at Manchester Arena, which left 22 dead and over 100 others injured.
A suicide bomber carried out the attack outside the venue, just as fans were leaving Ariana Grande’s concert on May 22. Artists, industry and public alike came together in a show of unity and sympathy for everyone affected, while Manchester Arena, which condemned the incident as a “senseless tragedy”, had yet to re-open as Music Week went to press. Kiss’ scheduled May 30 show is off, while Take That’s concerts, which were postponed following the attack, will move to the Etihad Stadium. Grande suspended her tour and there were cancellations elsewhere, although many gigs went ahead amidst heightened security.
Security expert Reg Walker of Iridium Consult ancy, which works with a number of UK venues and festivals, said the atrocity was a “wake-up call” for the sector.
“It’s certainly a wake-up call that there’s not only the threat of this happening, but that it can happen,” Walker told Music Week. “It’s essential that all of the training and recommendations from counter-terrorism security advisers are implemented.”
Kilimanjaro Live founder Stuart Galbraith told Music Week that gig-goers are now likely to face airport-style security measures in and around venues and festivals.
“Look back at 9/11 and think about how much life has changed, particularly flying,”
Shock: Ariana Grande he said. “Everybody is used to going through the processes to be allowed on the airplane. I think the same will now become true of every large public gathering; not just concerts [but] sporting events, celebrations, parades, anywhere that you have a collection of people that might be a target. We are going to have to be much more aware.”
But Galbraith warned that even “armed security and all the metal detectors in the world” would not necessarily prevent attacks such as the one in Manchester. And Paul Reed, GM of the Association Of Independent Festivals, whose members organise events with capacities of up to 60,000, said events face a balancing act between increasing vigilance and maintaining perspective.
“Obviously, this was an horrific incident, and audiences attending festivals this season will understandably have concerns,” he said.
“Whether you’re a festival promoter or a concert promoter, your top priority is always the safety and security of your audience, so I’m confident that, if additional measures need to be introduced, they will be.
“What we need to do as an industry is work hard so that such events aren’t perceived as so-called soft targets, and be incredibly vigilant and responsive,” Reed added. “You can’t be complacent and think that, because my event is in the middle of a field somewhere, it’s unlikely to happen. It has to be part of your planning.”
Reed said the atrocity was bound to deter some people from attending concerts. “It is going to have a knock-on effect, I don’t think there’s any point in pretending it isn’t, in terms of parents considering taking their kids to an arena or letting them go alone. How could it not?”
Galbraith said ticket sales fell in the immediate aftermath of the 2015 attack on an Eagles Of Death Metal gig at the Bataclan in Paris in 2015, but soon bounced back.
“I think you’ll see a temporary drop in sales but people will come back,” he added. “British people are very resilient and the best way of defeating terrorism is to say, We will not be scared by it. We will carry on with our lives and you will not win the war of minds. The market will recover.”
Post-9/11, many US acts declined to tour in Europe and Galbraith said he had already “had conversations with a number of acts”. “But Europe is a big place,” he added, “And this is a tiny minority of people that want to carry out these kind of acts. You’re as safe playing a gig in Europe as you are crossing the street in Manhattan.”