“Invisible and undervalued” – Adlib MD, Andy Dockerty’s Open Letter to the Industry

Adlib Managing Director, Andy Dockerty has revealed, in an open letter on social media, the dire straits the company and those in the technical production industry are currently facing in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Adlib Managing Director, Andy Dockerty.

In an open letter on social media, Adlib Managing Director, Andy Dockerty has urged the UK Government to step forward to ensure that all employees be furloughed or equivalent until mass gatherings such as arenas are permitted, safe and commercially viable. As well as ensure that all sector freelancers can be supported until mass gatherings are permitted, safe and commercially viable. He also underlined that while the sector has been unable to work for longer than any other sectors, its losses by percentage will be greater than any other sector and require grants accordingly.

In a Facebook post he wrote the following [sic]:

“Monday 27th July was one of the worst days of my life having to serve notice of potential redundancy to 67 of my friends. I still feel physically sick and unsurprisingly I am struggling to sleep. During that lack of sleep I am trying to understand why we are so invisible and undervalued.

Considering the staggering amounts of professionalism that exists in our industry (The technical Production Industry) I have for some reason always felt that from outside our industry we are not truly considered as essential or important. Regrettably right now that is how the government sees us. I feel that I among many others need to attempt to redress that balance. We are still considered to be 1980s “roadies” throwing big black boxes around a stage…. We are not. We are rare. We are highly skilled technical experts and enthusiasts with huge passion for what we do and that has to be recognised.

The DCMS (Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) the government body that represents us at parliamentary level has done a phenomenal job at securing £1.57bn for the sector. Incredibly well done, this is very much required, however, it appears that this £1.57bn is predominately for the theatre and the heritage sector with a small amount to help the numerous small venues around the country. This sector incidentally (with exception to the small venues) generally has some form of annual arts funding. A sector that is at best 50% of our industry. Confusingly the 50% of the industry missed is the part that has no existing arts funding, It is normally completely commercially viable and pays taxes. It takes personal risks borrowing billions for equipment capital purchases, building mortgages and staff. This sector ( Live Entertainment, Festivals, Music/Comedy Tours, Corporate Events, Promoters and UK manufacturers etc) is hardly a section that “falls through the crack”… it is at least half of our sector that is represented through the DCMS.

We were the fastest growing UK sector in 2018 and have been totally discarded by government. Despite all the recent positive statements by the government there are still NO MASS GATHERINGS… we cannot work until mass gatherings are allowed and consequently need to be supported in full until that time. Until we have arena touring with no social distancing it has to be accepted by the government that we cannot work. Therefore, they have to support us, morally and financially. No matter what statements are currently being made please read into the detail, we still cannot work.

There is a picture being painted that our sector is open, the smaller organisations with loans and leases are now under severe pressure to start to repay their borrowings because the ignorance of the lender believes these organisations are working again. We need to send a message out clearly stating we are not working and businesses and individuals need supporting till MASS GATHERINGS are permitted.

Why have we been missed, why don’t we count…. Because we are all invisible… why are we invisible… because you are all brilliant… the only time you ever see us is when something goes wrong and to be fair to all of us that is rare and if it you rule out equipment failure it would be even less.

Everyone in the production industry should be incredibly proud of who you are and what we have collectively achieved for many years. I am trully proud of every member of the Adlib team and all the freelancers who we have the pleasure to work with. Although we may compete with other organisations for work, at times like this I am also proud and appreciative of all our competitors within this industry, (I started writing a list here and it became way too many to mention) and the 1000’s of smaller organisations who are critical to our sector. Our professionalism is phenomenal, we are an industry that is not supposed to be seen…. And we haven’t been, so we must be great….. well done to each and everyone of you from job handlers, to warehouse prep technicians to techs on the road. I for one appreciate you all. You have to be in our industry to appreciate the love, passion and additional hours required to make us “invisible” when it truly matters.

It is a very brittle supply chain from promoters who have had no assistance, to the venues which have a tiny amount ( which is great) and to the production companies. Anyone of those 3 critical bits missing means no show…. If you do have the band and the venue and you are not in one of the few venues with house production it is going to be a very dark and quiet show.

The capital grants are not only essential to keep the businesses afloat but to support manufacturers and encourage capital purchases to ensure none of the world leading UK manufacturers fail.

When we eventually get back it will be hectic, I believe we will have been out longer than any other sector but our recovery maybe quicker which incidentally is another reason we should be supported. Hopefully, we will all see each other on the other side of this, hopefully we will have all been supported and still exist. Otherwise there could be an industry with loads of work and no supply companies or technicians to deliver it.

On another note, the government announced many opportunities for 16 to 24 year olds moving forward…. Now this is interesting, how many courses have been invented over that last 10 years around our industry for the educational sector to easily sell. These courses are based upon what we do. Sound Engineering, system design, theatre studies, lighting design, DJ courses, recording qualifications and many, many more. ( the validity of these courses is another conversation for another day) I am sure the that there is an expectation by the chancellor for many of these 16-24 year olds to be encouraged into the creative courses and apprenticeships that are an easy sell to youngsters who do not know what they want to do. Will any companies still be around to provide jobs, will any companies still be around to provide work experience opportunities…. If not what’s the point of educating all these people in this part of the creative sector….. and if we are not here what other courses are they going to do.

I wish we had answers. I wish we knew when we could work and I wish I knew how we could be listened too. We are collectively worth billions to the economy paying a fortune in taxes every year. Through no fault of our own we cannot work. I can assure you many people are working incredibly hard to try to support us, especially everyone at PLASA and the PSA. We all need to come together to achieve 3 things.. Please help them (PLASA and PSA) to help us…. We need 3 clear things

For the government to accept that “they” have stated we can’t have mass gatherings and therefore we cannot legally work. Consequently, until such time as mass gatherings are permitted, safe and commercially viable in arenas (best guess April / May 2021) we cannot be considered as working and need supporting accordingly which is;

1. All employees to be furloughed (or equivalent) until mass gatherings ( ie. arenas) are permitted, safe and commercially viable
2. All sector free-lancers to be supported until mass gatherings (ie, arenas) are permitted, safe and commercially viable
3. As this sector will have been unable to work for longer than any other sector its losses by percentage will be greater than any other sector and require grants accordingly.

There are national events being organised for August 11th with the hope of as many people as possible from our sector being involved and helping to publicise our plight and message. This will be organised and hopefully present a professional front aimed at getting media coverage, public support and government attention. Please keep an eye out for PLASA or PSA announcements along with “#wemakeevents” hashtag for details to register to attend. Please help them to help us to be visible.

If you can attend a local event, please make sure you have registered in advance and please, please ensure you abide by social distancing rules. It would be somewhat ironic if there was a local spike caused by all of us gathering together and potentially knocking back our return to work by a further few months.

Good Luck everyone and genuinely hopefully see you on the other side. Please try to stay loyal to our sector, we are going to need everyone and more when we eventually return but we also understand that everyone has needs and many of you may tragically move into other sectors….

Whatever happens, good luck, we have a phenomenal industry and hopefully we will all still be here in another 8 to 9 months time to continue being a phenomenal industry…

You are not alone… we genuinely are in this together.”

Since 1984, Adlib has supported the live events industry, theatres, performance spaces, venues and schools to educate and entertain audiences all over the world. Over 35 years of experience has enabled Adlib to establish itself as one of the most well-known and respected names in the technical services industry. In 2018, Adlib won the Favourite Sound Rental Company accolade at the TPi Awards.