Striving to give something back to the touring community after such a trying time, Production Park embarked on Crew Social 2021 at their London-based studio, The Mill. In partnership with We Need Crew, Music Support, Stagehand and Backup, with additional support from Subfrantic, the event was a chance for touring folk to meet up with friends and colleagues to enjoy a BBQ, a few roadie-inspired drinks, courtesy of Signature Brew and Lucky Saint, and play video games on a 10m by 6m flown LED screen.
“The idea behind Crew Social predates the pandemic,” Production Park Studio Manager, Ant Forbes began. “Production Park isn’t just a business; we want to be an active and positive force in the industry, and the best way to do that is to support the people that make these shows happen and are often overlooked.”
Following the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, this goal, Forbes believes, is more pertinent than ever. “Speaking to a lot of close friends and colleagues, it was obvious that the past 18 months has been a huge financial and mental struggle to get match fit with very little closure, with gigs returning faster than ever and only limited numbers of crew to facilitate these gigs,” Forbes explained. “Following the pandemic, there is now a concerted effort to coordinate this industry and provide a solid foundation and increased job security and we want to play a part in those efforts.”
Forbes believes there needs to be more opportunities for touring crew to convene and network away from the work environment. “Crew often work 16-hour days, full throttle. There’s never a chance to step back and discuss the nature of what we’re doing and how to make it a safer situation. The time you find, if any, is backstage after a show when you’re either wired or beaten up from the day, so constructive conversation is at a premium. Following the pandemic, we’ve witnessed everyone scrambling back to where they were, instead of taking a step back, taking a breath and not jumping straight back in at the deep end. With Crew Social, we want to create a space for the industry to meet up with old friends and make new friends and discuss the proactive approaches to returning to work.”
View this post on Instagram
Following double jab vaccination evidence via the NHS app or proof of a negative test, a healthy mix of the usual candidates and new faces arrived at The Mill for Crew Social 2021. “We built a 10m by 6m flown LED wall,” Forbes said, recalling quite the feat of engineering involved to get the screen in safely, given The Mill’s 12-tonne max capacity roof. “I also borrowed my kids’ Nintendo Switch console and my brother-in-law’s PS4 to create the ultimate gaming setup that most tour buses could only dream of.”
The main studio featured breakout groups with various industry initiatives and charities, a BBQ outside, and flight cases full of Signature Brew’s roadie-inspired beers and non-alcoholic options, courtesy of Lucky Saint.
Equating the sector to a house of cards, “which can easily fall down if it’s not supported well”, Forbes believes that Crew Social was the perfect tonic to a trying 18 months for the sector after a trying year-and-a-half.
“We hope events like these solidify the foundation of the sector and help raise awareness of mental health issues and the potential addictions that are part and parcel of touring, given the high stress levels because crew are worried about what’s around the corner,” he commented.
Speaking as the dust settled on the successful event, Production Park Marketing Director, Jack Scarr said: “Crew Social was an opportunity to create a space which not only caters for industry professionals to network but equally supports the next generation coming through, making sure they’re aware of the industry charities, initiatives and bodies at their disposal.”
This article originally appeared in issue #266 of TPi, which you can read here.