Adlib’s Andy Dockerty takes the hot seat

How did it feel to be recognised by your industry peers at this year’s TPi Awards?

“It has been an incredible honour to have been recognised by the amazing folks from within our industry. I genuinely had no idea I was going to win and as soon as the VT started and I heard a scouse accent I went into immediate panic mode. The first thought was can I run away, the second was no you can’t run away but you are going to have to say something and my third thought was, ‘bloody hell, it’s a blessing I have only drunk one bottle of wine so far, I am normally well over two bottles in at this point.’

“For anyone who knows me they know that if I had known I was going to win anything I wouldn’t have gone to the awards, I feel incredibly awkward accepting awards especially in an industry where there are so many more worthy winners. I am genuinely humbled and honoured that I would have been even considered for such an award, especially as I personally can think of many other worthy winners who have contributed considerably more than I have. On another note, on returning to Adlib on Tuesday, I had to present at least 10 P45’ to the brilliant but deceitful Adlib team who managed to keep it from me.

“In my impromptu speech I did mention a bit about the #WeMakeEvents Campaign team and they have been amazing and have helped me considerably over the two years of utter nonsense we have all been through. So, Peter, Nicky, James, Koy, Gavin, Keith, Duncan, Matt, Bryan, Chris, Shane and many others I thank you all so much. If there was not an amazing team alongside me at Adlib, I would not have had the time to dedicate to the #WeMakeEvents Campaign efforts, so John, Dave, Phil, Dave and everyone else in the brilliant Adlib family I thank you all so much for your support. Finally, why people voted for me over others I really do not know but thank you so much as I say I am truly honoured and humbled… Thank you.”

How did you find the overall TPi Awards 2022 experience? 

The TPi Awards is one of those nights that as soon as it is announced it is in the diary. It is great to see friends, suppliers and industry colleagues you haven’t seen for ages. It is also a tremendous opportunity to catch up with other business directors and managers and have a proper good moan about the state of our industry, which is actually good as you realise it’s not just you and everyone is in the same ‘boat’. This year was especially good as it has been so long since we have all had the opportunity to have such a gathering. The really good news is of course that many techs weren’t there as they were actually gigging which is disappointing that they were not there on the night but good that they are earning again. I also think it worthy of mentioning the TPi production team for once again producing an excellent show in front of what must be the most critical of audiences, well done folks your efforts and seamless presentation and show was truly appreciated, thank you.”

The VT highlighted your work raising awareness of the plight of the events industry in 2020/21. Looking back, how do you feel about those years?  

“My initial thoughts are still around the lack of appreciation and recognition of our sector. Basically, we have all been trained and paid to be invisible and obviously we have done this very well. I think as a sector we struggled to be seen and I think over the past two years we have learnt some of the reasons why. I believe the government only saw our sector as art or performance and therefore not viable or contributing to the economy. They certainly did not see a £70bn sector that was the fastest growing sector in the UK in 2018 to 2019 and obviously to receive financial help for the sector we had to prove its value to the government.

“A key thing discovered was around S.I.C codes and S.O.C Codes, basically a code you surrender describing your business when you present your annual tax returns to the government. Construction has say two codes which means they sign off to the same code and gives government proof of the size of the sector, which is huge (no coincidence that building sites were opened in about four weeks after the full lockdown). Our sector has hundreds of codes we can sign off to and when government looked at these codes our sector did not appear to be visible or viable (apparently) as we were spread over so many codes. Consequently, the sector has done a lot of work to gain recognition and appreciation of its substantial financial input.

“I also believe no other sector came together like ours did throughout the whole journey. I have established friendships over the past two years with distributors, manufacturers that I had never spoken to before and with companies we normally compete with. We all pulled together in a way that we should be collectively proud of.

“In conclusion, the past two years has proven to me that we are a people industry and the people within it whether on stage or off it are passionate, dedicated with the utmost professionalism. We have proven to be viable and I am certainly proud to be a part of our incredible industry. The camaraderie shown over the past two years is a testament to who we are and what we do.”

What lessons should be learned as we return to some semblance of normality?

“Absolutely there are lessons to be taken. Firstly, we need to continue to prove our financial worth to the government. If we do this and we can get everyone to sign off to the same code, we can prove our financial stature then hopefully if anything like this ever happens again our sector will be recognised and supported and we won’t have to feel like second class citizens with a ‘begging bowl’ out. As we return towards normality, we have to appreciate that a lot of experienced, skilled technicians have left the sector. Bringing in the next generation the right way with the right skill sets is more important now than it has ever been. We need to get youngster’s through to being ‘gig ready’ considerably faster than pre-COVID-19 and with a greater degree of honesty about the sector they are coming into.

“I think the past two years have also taught us to be proud of what we do. Providing lifelong memories for people is incredible and the skills involved in delivering shows is hugely underrated, however we have also learned that on top of all the goodness we provide for people’s entertainment and mental health we also need to ensure our worth to the economy is understood by government and financial establishments.”

How is Adlib preparing for a packed season of festivals, arena and stadium shows? 

“I feel whether you are Adlib or anyone else we have all gone from one set of unprecedented circumstances to the next. From next to no income to plenty of work but with shortages of experienced crew and ever-increasing failings in delivery of equipment. Production companies are somewhat sympathetic to the position of the distributors and manufacturers as we understand all the broken promises they are having from their suppliers. That does not necessarily translate to the ‘end user’ whose expectations have not changed, meaning the pressure to deliver is still as it has always been but with huge constraints.

“The challenge of the festival season is going to be interesting this year. I believe we are probably at least nine months to a year away from the supply chain being almost normal. At Adlib, we have approximately £5m worth of equipment on back-order that should have been with us months ago, as mentioned above this causes huge problems. I also think we are 18 months to two years away from the tech/crewing side of the industry recovering consequently staffing is an issue. I believe there will be a few unavoidable consequences over the next few months. 

“However, we at Adlib are relishing this fresh challenge. We have spent long periods of lock down redeveloping our infra-structure and systems and although we are fine tuning everything as we evolve, we are in a reasonable space. Aside from this we have put an emphasis on bringing youngsters through faster than ever before and have set-up a ‘mini gig’ in the warehouse to be able to provide gigging experiences for some of the new technicians. This is definitely working and I, along with the other directors and mentors get a great amount of pleasure from watching these youngsters reach their dreams. So while we relish it, I still can’t wait for it to be over and be able to gain a more manageable level of control as we progress into September and the touring season.

“I would like to take this opportunity to wish all production company suppliers all the best of luck for the next few months with their gigs. I also would like to wish everyone in the industry good luck with their financial recovery as we all head out of this with huge debt.”

A condensed version of this article originally appeared in issue #270 of TPi, which you can read here.