Preparing the Next-Generation: Spartan Crew

Spartan Crew Founders, Paz Brennan and Ciaran Boylan.

There are few companies from the world of live events that have not diversified their business models since the emergence of COVID-19. Spartan Crew is a clear example of this entrepreneurial spirit; with its usual work within the live events sector drying up overnight, the company made strides to move into the field of agency work.

After founding Spartan Crew in 2017, established crewing professionals, Paz Brennan and Ciaran Boylan had taken their business from strength to strength, until the “horrendous” effects of COVID-19 kicked in.

“Not only were live events halted, but a lot of a foreign crew went back to their home countries and many of our other local crew went and found other jobs,” stated Brennan.

The two founders saw agency work as an opportunity to bring their knowledge and experience into these other sectors, although Boylan was keen to emphasise the amount of training the upper management had to embark on due to the extra legislation surrounding this type of work. “It’s been a large time and financial investment to understand what is needed to do this type of agency work. So far, it’s been a very fruitful and enjoyable process,” he said, reflecting on the past 18 months.

With this sidestep into agency work and the gradual return of events, the founders explained that they were trying to get as many new faces through their doors as possible and get them trained up to be job ready. Spartan Crew has always had a hands-on mentality when it comes to crew training, building a teaching facility within their warehouse. Anyone who joins is given the company’s Manual Handling Training.

Boylan, who administers much of the training, explained the challenges of bringing people in at this difficult time. “We found in recent months that we have been getting a lot more younger people, whereas in ‘normal’ times, we would expect a wider range of ages with a bit more experience in the industry,” he said, adding that this changing demographic has unfortunately affected the success rate of the company’s in-house training.

“We are finding that we are having to pull a bit wider and deeper in our recruitment to achieve the same level of certified crew members than we did previously,” Brennan said, adding that things are starting to improve. “Part of this success is being far more specific and clearer about what we expect from those coming through our door.”

Along with the Manual Handling Certification, the Spartan team is also set up to provide more bespoke training to clients at its facility. “The space could comfortably accommodate the build of an LED wall, for example, if a client wanted to give crew a chance to have some training on the setup of such a product,” Brennan explained.

As Spartan Crew gets closer to full-capacity shows, fulfilling the demand for crew is a very real concern. “I think that we’ll have enough people at Spartan to fulfil the demand, but only if we continue to dig deeper to find new recruits, which costs money,” he stated. In fact, Brennan explained how Spartan Crew is on an office-wide recruitment drive, bringing in several new office staff to take some workload away from the founders so they can throw more effort into finding new crewing recruits.

Despite diversifying the business, Brennan and Boylan are excited to be involved with in-person events again. “It’s been fantastic to be back on those jobs,” enthused Brennan. “It’s been a chance for our newer staff to start building their experience in this type of work.”

Boylan added: “We’ve also seen a surge in new clients in the sector. A lot of people who were made redundant last year have set up their own production companies – there have been so many new names, I’ll admit, it’s sometimes hard to keep track.”

As we enter this precarious period of uncertainty within the sector, it seems that Spartan Crew has set up for all eventualities, realising that the only way to deal with the inevitable lack of experienced crew is to pass on the skills to the next generation in the most effective way possible.

This article originally appeared in issue #265 of TPi, which you can read here.