A Whole New Security Reality

The first Event Safety & Security Summit took place at the Intercontinental Hotel at The O2, Oct. 10. Some 200 delegates from more than 20 European countries were present to talk about the implications of terrorism for live events.  

Chris Kemp
– Chris Kemp

Pollstar spoke to one of them, Chris Kemp of Yourope’s Event Safety Group.

According to Kemp, “one of the overarching things that came out of the day was that we have a lot of minds from organizations in those rooms that are actually working on their own rather than in groups with other people. A lot of people are going off into different directions trying to solve something, when working in partnership would be a much easier way to do that.”

While the modus operandi of terrorist attacks may differ, they all had the same fundamental goal, which was to destroy people’s culture and everyday life.

“If we worked together as one, solutions would be quicker, more effective, more efficient. And it would show the terrorists that we’re not a load of desperate, un-unified areas, but we’re actually working as a business to stop them trying to destabilize us as a series of nation bound together by a common purpose,” Kemp said,

Kemp thinks that the health and safety record of events and festivals in Europe was “pretty good overall,” but that the professionals working in the business were still too focused on what went on within their own borders.

“The sharing of good practice isn’t widespread enough to enable people to learn from other people’s mistakes.” Terrorism differed from other health and safety issues due to “the lack of identifiers before it happens, because of the lack of intelligence that’s coming through from those areas. These are shock tactics, which immediately create crisis, which means you have no time. You have to react immediately and you’re on your back foot.”

He pointed out that the people working on festivals are recognized as experts in their respective fields, be it security, police or the festival organizers. They should therefore be taking guidance from one another. Kemp thinks the interoperability of different domains was “absolutely essential, because that interoperability means that those people work together for a common purpose. They have control rooms where everybody representing those different areas is sat. So if anything does happen, everybody is sharing in and everybody can help with the solution.”

Kemp said most speakers, promoters and venue managers attending E3S displayed a remarkable willingness to work together. “In the past, when we’ve had other issues, this hasn’t been the case,” he said. “But more and more people are recognizing that we’re a family, and that we actually have to work together to make things happen. That came across really strongly. I think the actual danger people are in has kind of sobered people up a little bit.”

He thinks people will invariably get used to terrorist attacks (“as horrible as they are”), to more police presence on site and all the counter-terrorism measures. Punters now expect to be searched thoroughly, and their expectations had to be matched. “It makes them feel safe, it makes them feel at home, and it makes them more responsive in case something happens,” Kemp said.

Greg Parmley, head organizer of the E3S, agreed that there’s been a “sea change in public mentality” when it comes to security. Speaking at Venues Day 2017 in London, Oct. 17, he pointed out that a year ago most people would have been annoyed at being slowed down by metal detectors, nowadays they expected a good search. “We’re living in a whole new reality when it comes to security, not just for venues.”

Meeting people’s demands to security also ensured they would continue to go to events, according to Kemp. “The moment you don’t meet their expectations that’s when you start to lose your audience. And once that happens it could cause a cascade which will be devastating for the music industry.”

It remained a challenge to determine the responsibilities and accountabilities of everyone involved in the organization of an event, the responsibilities for areas inside and outside the venue. “Do we have to stop all vehicles coming in, do they all have to be searched? The thing about that is: if you don’t trust your companies, who can you trust? Maybe somebody has managed to get something into one of the vans. How far do you go before it takes 15 hours to get into an event.

“Or 20 hours to get out in case something happens?”