Backstage Academy Launches Back to Work Think Tank 

Backstage Academy launches a think tank to enable £30 billion live events industry to get back to work.

Backstage Innovation Centre calls for industry collaboration and innovation to ensure the sector’s recovery ahead of lockdown easing. 

The new initiative, launched in Yorkshire by Backstage Academy, is calling on the live events industry to build a consortium of stakeholders to assist its recovery.

Following reports in the press that the live events sector will be one of the last to recover, the Backstage Innovation Centre is creating a think tank to investigate innovative and practical approaches to tackling and mitigating the risk of large group gatherings in venues, ahead of the easing of lockdown restrictions.

Although the Centre’s £7m+ research and innovation campus isn’t scheduled to launch until 2021, the Academy has brought forward its first research project to help safeguard the industry, and is calling for the sector’s SMEs to come together to collaborate and innovate.

Rachel Nicholson, Head of Backstage Academy, explained: “The Backstage Innovation Centre exists to explore and solve contemporary issues within the live events sector and our most pressing challenge currently is working out how we can create “COVID secure” venues to enable the industry to get back to work and continue providing audiences with world leading entertainment.

“We’re looking for the sector’s businesses to get in touch and make full use of our R&D facilities, which include prototyping build spaces, market access, as well as project management and consultant services. Ultimately, we want to bring to life and implement these innovations to ensure the protection and long-term recovery of the industry.”

Nicholson added: “Central to the think tank’s challenge will be a proactive approach to address potential risks of contagion for crowds in live venues. Following the easing of lockdown, a venue’s primary risks will be controlling and distancing crowds, in addition to the management of the air, surfaces and contact conditions within the building.

The project’s call for interest will be open until Friday 12 June after which the Centre will convene the first project team meeting and set the project timetable in place, which is anticipated to span three months. 

Any companies interested in taking part in the initiative should visit:

The project is looking for SMEs with the following capabilities:

  • Fluid dynamics
  • M&E design
  • Air handling system manufacturers
  • Control system experts
  • Crowd management & modelling
  • Certification, assessment and analysis

Lee Brooks, CEO Production Park & Member of the Creative Industries Council, explained why creating “COVID-19 secure” venues is a national concern: “Some might underestimate its importance, but the live events industry is estimated to be worth over £30 billion per year to our economy, and will undoubtedly play a key part in returning some normality to our lives once restrictions are lifted.”

Brooks added: “However, at present, the industry faces a fundamental threat to its existence, in the form of COVID-19, with the associated measures expected to impact live activities long after the lockdown restrictions are eased. We need to assure the public that it’s safe to enjoy the unique social experience of live events again and that the sector is confident enough to open up and attract sufficient audience sizes.”

Located on Production Park, Backstage Academy, which offers specialist courses and degrees for the live events sector, announced a partnership with Wakefield Council and secured £3,564,852 of grant funding from the European Regional Development Fund.

The grant has been put towards creating the Backstage Innovation Centre, which will feature specialist equipment designed to support the live events industry, as well as a business support programme focused on assisting small and medium enterprises.