Special Events

London event industry stays strong in wake of July 7 bombings

The shock of the July 7 train and bus bombings in London is predicted to have only a minor impact on the special event business there, experts tell Special Events Magazine.

THURSDAY, FRIDAY EVENTS SCRAPPED

Surrey-based event company Fortesqueue’s (www.fqevents.com) saw two events cancel on the day of the attacks--one for 2,000 guests and the other for 400. “We do, however, hope the events will take place in the near future,” managing director Scott Balfour tells Special Events.

He says the key factor on the day of the attacks was “the safety of my team." On that day, Balfour himself was “stranded” in London--having traveled both by train and double-decker bus--unable to contact anyone on his team after the mobile telephone network was overloaded with calls. “Being a close-knit team, they were obviously concerned about everyone too, but fortunately we were all safe,” he reports. “Once we had accounted for everyone, we had to ensure that the team followed the [official] advice not to leave their locations until it was safe to do so. When the situation calmed down, we talked to our clients about the events and our next move.”

London-based Create Food (www.createfood.co.uk) saw four events cancel--two on the day of the bombings and two the day after, affecting a total of more than 3,200 guests, according to managing director Richard Groves. These events have not yet been rescheduled, but at press time, no further events had been canceled.

“Practically, we had to work very quickly to react to the cancellation of the Thursday events,” Groves tells Special Events. “Guests were expected at 6:30 p.m., and the decision to cancel was taken at 1 p.m. One hundred fifty staff were contacted to stop them traveling to the venue, equipment orders were canceled, ice and food deliveries were turned back, and the management team closed and secured the venue.” He adds, “The clients have been refunded any costs that were saved by our suppliers--all of whom have been very cooperative and generous in waiving their cancellation policies.”

He expects no serious repercussions from the attacks. “Everyone in the events business here in London is still confident that business will continue to grow,” Groves says. “Events are still happening, business is still being done, and we have dusted ourselves down and will move on.”

London rental company Thorns Group (www.thorns.co.uk) saw only four jobs cancel out of the 80 it had scheduled during the two days following the bombings, reports managing director Graham Langley-Jones. He adds, “That in itself speaks volumes for the spirit and determination of the U.K. public and the country’s events industry.”

SECURITY TO BE STRICTER STILL

The bombings have underscored the need for extra security at special events in public places. For a July 14 film premiere in London’s Leicester Square, The Special Event Co. (www.specialevent.co.uk) drafted in extra security and a second layer of checks on ticket-holders for the evening. “It is now necessary to be extra vigilant when dealing with large crowds in public places,” explains Sally Webb, managing director of the London-based company.

She makes special note of the outpouring of support she has received from the event industry. “The most overwhelming response to the attacks in London has been the support we have received from our friends and colleagues in the special event industry around the world,” she says. “We have received messages from some industry colleagues whom we hardly even know, expressing genuine concern. I cannot begin to explain how important that was in a week so full of emotion. The roller coaster of 24 hours of winning the Olympics bringing such joy [see below], and the crushing horror of the following morning was very hard to take. Our friends in the industry truly demonstrated that we are indeed a global family. My thanks go out to everyone on behalf of the U.K. event industry.”

IMPACT EXPECTED TO BE ‘LIMITED’

In a forecast developed the day after the bombings, the London-based World Travel & Tourism Council (www.wttc.org) released a statement predicting that the impact of the July 7 bombings will be limited.

Jean-Claude Baumgarten, WTTC president, said, “It is expected that the impact of the London bombing, much like that realized by the Madrid and Bali bombings, will continue into 2006 but will have completely dissipated by 2007. Of course, this assumes that U.K. authorities will undertake at least similarly strong measures of reassurance and encouragement to regain and rebuild visitor confidence, and that no further events take place in the meantime.” The council uses a forecasting model based on the aftermath of crises including the 1991 Gulf War, 1998’s Hurricane George, the 2001 World Trade Center attacks, the 2002 Bali bombing and the 2003 outbreak of SARS in Hong Kong.

The council ranks the U.K.’s travel and tourism industry as the fifth largest in the world, and predicts that it will generate £184.9 billion ($353.4 billion) this year.

“People should not stop traveling and coming to events in the U.K. and Europe,” Balfour says. “It is now likely to be safer than ever to travel. This is time to show your mettle and stand and refuse to be beaten by terrorism.”

OLYMPICS EUPHORIA THE DAY BEFORE

Ironically, London was the scene of jubilation the day before, when the International Olympic Committee named the city the winner of the bid to host the 2012 Games.

Bristol-based Stage Electrics (www.stage-electrics.co.uk) supplied the staging, lighting, audio, video and power and provided full technical infrastructure for the Trafalgar Square announcement event for London’s successful Olympic bid. The announcement was beamed live from the IOC meeting in Singapore to Trafalgar Square, where the event was hosted by radio DJs Margherita Taylor and Katy Hill.

Because the IOC could have given the nod to any of the five contender cities--London, Paris (considered an early favorite by Olympics watchers), New York, Madrid or Moscow--the event’s format was “open-ended” to a certain extent, reports Stage Electrics’ project manager John Radford, with a number of scenarios possible depending on the result.

There were live satellite feeds from Singapore and from the G8 summit at Gleneagles, Scotland, where British Prime Minister Tony Blair congratulated the London 2012 bid team and all those who had worked tirelessly to turn London’s bid around in the face of stiff competition.

Lighting consisted of Martin MAC600s and MAC300 moving lights, James Thomas "Birdie" battens, floor-mounted PAR 64s, and Gem ZR22 smoke machines with DMX fans. The latter were used to create an atmospheric layer of mist and texturing around the stage and to enhance the visual dynamics to compensate for a gray day.

Stage Electrics coordinated the supply of all live video elements including two 36-panel Barco S-Lite LED screens each measuring 5.4 by 4 meters (17.75 by 13 feet), flown on each side of the structure.

The Stage Electrics crew arrived on site 48 hours ahead of the announcement, and worked around the clock to help transform the totally empty space into the high-profile reception area.

Above the 165-square-meter (1,1775-square-foot) stage, Stage Electrics designed and built a customized trussing ground support structure. “[Client] GDF Diversivents came to us with an aesthetic they wanted to achieve,” explains Radford, “And then left it to us to deliver the solution. It was a case of getting the right pieces of metalwork in the right places at the right time!”

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