Impact International: UK/Euro Honors
Adding The Element Of Care: Suzi Green On Playing A Tiny Part In Something Huge
Suzi Green just had her first full week back in business with Wolf Alice performing at Latitude – the first big UK live music event to happen in 18 months. Consequently, her mindset in the middle of 2021 is “better than this time in 2020, but still somewhat apprehensive.”
But rehearsals for the performance felt “like a dance with COVID,” Green says. “We were testing daily and being very careful and thankfully we made it through to our performance, but I’m well aware some bands and crews were less lucky. Without underwritten insurance we’re all acutely aware of the financial impact of things being canceled last minute.”
The nerves of everybody working in this business have been stretched by the lockdowns, and crews have dealt with a completely new situation: lots of time off the road. About a year into the pandemic, Green launched The Back Lounge, a weekly Zoom meeting for professionals from all facets of live events and touring – to just talk about the unprecedented situation they have been all finding themselves in. The strange feeling of sleeping in the same bed every night, the challenges – but mostly the beauty – of being able to spend so much time with family, friends, pets or plants and doubts about returning to the old way of doing things.
“To date, we’ve had around 1,200 participants in some way or other. This past year-plus has created such a strong and supportive community that we are very much agreed there’s enough momentum to keep the group going,” says Green, convinced there will be lots of things to address.
“I think next year it will be one extreme to the other with overwork and burnout on the horizon if we’re not careful,” she explains. “There are so many tours going out and already there’s a shortage of crew, venues, and supply. With that in mind and the ebb and flow of the next few months, there’s a place for peer groups like ours. The Back Lounge is open to anyone who’s looking to connect with like-minded souls who want to tour in a more mentally sustainable way and take a little more care of themselves than they once would have done. There’s so much strength to be had knowing there are other folks out there with similar views who are also trying to do things better and who are both looking to support themselves and their colleagues. It’s most definitely reciprocal.”
Green co-chairs the Mental Welfare & Personal Wellbeing Group of the Tour Production Group (TPG) and knows what she’s talking about, having worked many busy and complicated tours in her 25-year career as a tour manager – until 2006, when she suffered from burnout and chronic fatigue. She took a 10-year break from the business and journeyed into a completely different field, completing yoga teacher training, qualifying as a naturopathic nutritional therapist and establishing a clinical practice specializing in stress management and burnout. The TPG discussion groups she runs are all about becoming better leaders and creating more functioning teams.
“Upcoming, we have a discussion with representatives from the Music Managers Forum as to how can we align the expectations of managers, artists and crew going forward,” she says. “Earlier this year we launched our Mental Health Charter, downloadable from our website, which is a one-page document with easy wins to make the touring environment kinder and more inclusive.”
Other recent achievements include a collaboration with Music Support, successfully commissioning a workshop to bring awareness to addiction and recovery on tour. TPG coordinated donations that will now run the workshop for free to all participants for the next two years.
With all this talk about sustainability, it’s easy to forget that the mental health of each individual working in this business should be part of that equation. Many promoters and agents only figured this out in the eventless summer of 2020, when they took a vacation they had forgotten they needed. It would be a missed opportunity if all the slogans of “building back better” didn’t include ways of making touring less stressful. Green’s work is essential to that as it merges the exciting and fulfilling aspects of touring with the awareness for the personal well-being of the individuals making it all happen. So, aside from looking forward to finally going on tour again with Placebo, which had to be rescheduled three times, she hopes to add a master’s degree to her recently completed foundation in psychotherapy and counselling at Regents University.
“There is so much potential now to make things better, and the pandemic has helped highlight that,” she says.“Undoubtedly there will be an enormous amount of tours heading out and whilst in the short term as already mentioned, it will be a tough workload for crew and the reality of shortages, I hope long term it means the competition to hire good crew, pay them properly and look after them, will mean a positive outcome. Coming back to the road more recently and finding people are increasingly interested in touring better and that maybe I’m having a tiny part to play in that is something I hope to expand on.”