PSA and Gallowglass Detail Crew Shortages

PSA Chairman, Dave Keighley highlights the sector-specific shortages slowing down the UK live events industry’s return to full strength.

As the UK-based live events sector slowly begins to return to normality – with music festivals, exhibitions and conferences welcoming in-person audiences for the first time in 18 months – and the festival world trying to make the most out of what is left of the late UK summer and early autumn, shortages for trackway, toilets and fencing as well as the lack of suitably trained crew is an issue now which may carry on into 2022.

It has been documented that plenty of talented members of the live events sector, who were considered as experts in their field, and have worked tirelessly to carve out a respectable career, have jumped ship in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and now work in what us in the sector refer to as the ‘real world’. How are we going to train industry newcomers and how quickly can this be done? This is a question brought up in most PSA meetings and one we foresee as a major short-term problem, with a view to focus on apprenticeship pathways for staff in the long term. The companies that reduced their number of employees during the pandemic now have a very difficult task of trying to hire back original staff and seek new people. This is a very tricky balancing act with a busy Autumn on the horizon, despite many in the sector believing that the industry will not return to full strength until 2022.

So, the question remains: how many members of staff do you hire when we don’t know what the next three to six months will bring? Factor in shortages of video technicians, riggers, and trained local crew, for example. The cost of hiring trained and qualified technicians is going to rise in the short term due to supply and demand. These factors, again, pose problems for shows that have been costed and quoted, were then postponed and are now ready to go out but in a whole new environment.

As one of the biggest crewing companies in the sector, Gallowglass has traditionally been able to offer crew the highest level of work. “The situation since lockdown measures have eased has been like nothing we have ever seen. Offering young people a way in to a future in the events business, we are used to having a constant flow of new recruits,” Gallowglass Group Director of HR, Chris Parry-Jones said. “Those days are over and worryingly there is little appetite to work or take on new challenges. We, like many, are offering great training and a way into an exciting new career. Not being able to help our clients, especially those that have been loyal supporters over the years, is frustrating and disturbing.”

At least shows are happening and from the record numbers of people taking out the Crew Cover Insurance, we can get a good idea of how many people are back working. Let’s all hope business continues to grow and more tours, shows, exhibitions and conferences flourish.

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