By Michael Hirst OBE, Chair of the UKEVENTS Advocacy and Government Relations Working Group
In the world of events, recognition and support are pivotal to fostering a thriving industry which delivers on government priorities in growing the visitor and wider economy. The recent announcement of a £5 million grant by Arts Council England for the grassroots music sector is indeed a positive step, demonstrating the government’s acknowledgment of the significance of music festivals. However, as we celebrate this allocation, it raises an important question: Are all events being treated equally?
The grant, known as the Supporting Grassroots Music (SGM) fund, is undoubtedly a commendable initiative. It underlines the government’s commitment to nurturing the music industry, providing a much-needed boost to musicians, live music venues, and various contributors at the grassroots level. However, a closer look reveals a gap in the focus on business events and outdoor events, hinting at a potential imbalance in the government’s approach to the diverse landscape of events in the UK.
As the Chair of the UKEVENTS Advocacy and Government Relations Working Group, my concern lies not in pitting one sector against another but in advocating for a more holistic perspective. All events, whether they be music festivals, business conferences, or outdoor shows, play a crucial role in the cultural and economic tapestry of our nation. Therefore, it is imperative that they receive equitable consideration and support.
The significance of business events cannot be overstated. They serve as catalysts for economic growth, fostering networking opportunities, knowledge exchange, and partnerships that propel industries forward. Outdoor events, too, contribute to the vibrancy of our communities, providing spaces for recreation, cultural expression, and social connection and can be a key part of the levelling up agenda by bringing prosperity to destinations across the nation. Neglecting these facets of the events sector is akin to viewing a masterpiece through a narrow lens – missing out on the full spectrum of colours that make it truly extraordinary.
One might wonder, where should the solution lie? The answer lies in recognising the Arts Council as a ready-made organisation capable of administering funding across the events ecosystem. The recent injection of funds into the music sector is a testament to the Arts Council’s capacity to facilitate financial support effectively. The creation of a similar, separate organisation for the entire sector aligns with the objectives of UKEVENTS, urging for an arm’s length body to support the entire UK event sector more comprehensively.
The events sector, as a whole, is a dynamic tapestry woven with various threads – each thread representing a different type of event, each essential to the richness of the overall fabric. After all, music, cultural, sporting, leisure and business events all sit within DCMS, therefore a joined-up approach within the department would yield a greater holistic outcome for the UK. The SGM fund’s evolution is a welcome and progressive step, widening its scope to include rehearsal and recording studios, festivals, electronic music venues, and independent promoters. This inclusivity is laudable, signalling an understanding that the music industry encompasses diverse spaces and skills crucial for its growth.
Yet, we must not stop at inclusivity within individual sectors. Instead, let us extend this ethos to encompass the entire events ecosystem, where both business and leisure events equally showcase Britain’s creativity and innovative expertise. By doing so, the government can unlock the full potential of the UK’s event sector, reinforcing its position as a world leader in the industry. The events sector, much like a symphony, achieves its full harmony when all its components are recognised and supported equally. The SGM fund is undoubtedly a cause for celebration. However, it serves as a reminder that our approach to supporting events should be comprehensive and all-encompassing. Let us not merely stop at recognising one segment of the industry but strive to create an environment where every event, regardless of its nature, is given the support it needs to flourish. This is not a call for competition but an invitation to build a more robust, diverse, and inclusive events ecosystem that reflects the true essence of the United Kingdom.