TPSA May Ref Roadie Row

South Africa-based Technical Production Services Association is hoping to set up an open forum to calm the bitter row between a roadies’ organisation and some of South Africa’s major live entertainment producers.

TPSA chairman Robbie Blake, who’s also chief exec of leading event company Showgroup, is hoping to organise a “clear the air” meeting at the beginning of next year.

On one side will be Freddie Nyathela, head of the South African Roadies Association, who says major companies such as promoter Big Concerts and production houses including Gearhouse, Mushroom Productions, Running Crew, and Sho-Show-Loza are racist in choosing not to give work to his members.

His claims have been denied by Gearhouse and Big Concerts, which has warned the SARA chief that his comments are defamatory. Both companies say that on a typical show day the majority of their full-time and part-time staff are people of colour.

Nyathela says they’re still white-owned companies and marginalize his nonprofit organisation, which is dedicated to teaching black people production skills.

He says its main way of getting any on-the-job training is through schemes it’s set up with European festivals including Denmark’s Roskilde, Hove Festival in Norway and Das Fest in Germany.

Many in the South African live music business say Nyathela’s trying to politicise the situation and that he is creating a wider gulf with his inflammatory comments.

Mushroom Productions chief Graham Cunningham, whose Johannesburg company employs four black people among a staff of 12, says he’d rather refuse a job than work with Nyathela.

Despite the bitterness on both sides, Blake tells Pollstar he still believes it may be possible to find some “common ground.”