Showforce: Crewing with a conscience

Showforce’s Ian Spendlove and Gemma Charity share the company’s approach to crew welfare.

Showforce shares its company- wide approach to crew welfare.

Since Showforce was launched back in 1991, the company has become a familiar name within the live events scene, providing crewing services to some of the biggest events in the world. Over the years, the company has expanded from its London HQ to also have bases in Liverpool as well as Middle East outposts in Dubai, Riyadh and Doha. Throughout this expansion, the company has remained determined to ensure it upholds crew welfare – no matter where in the world an event is happening. 

“Showforce is the only truly global event crew company having established bases throughout the UK, Europe, UAE, Qatar and KSA,” began Showforce’s Founder and Chairman, Ian Spendlove. “From these territories, we can service pretty much any event, regardless of where it is situated in the world, utilising our own operational offices and global network of crew. We’ve worked all over the globe, from New York and Melbourne to Taiwan and Cannes.” 

Group Managing Director, Gemma Charity added: “Our back-office systems and team deploy a tried-and-tested formula that allows us to head to a country with minimal event resources and marry our experienced international crew with hard-working local people to leave a legacy of skills and employment.” 

Creating a standard code of practice has not come without its challenges, but it’s something that Showforce continues to prioritise. “We spend a lot of time supporting our clients with GCC compliance and that includes visas, worker welfare and advice about the new tax and VAT laws,” stated Charity. 

“We also adapt to other countries’ working methods, which has opened up a whole new set of challenges in Europe post Brexit,” added Spendlove. “We’re already looking ahead to the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris. The French labour laws are so far away from what our industry is used to, with much shorter working hours. We’re finding ways to work with them. In fact, we currently have a crew from Showforce and technicians from The Production Team working on four tours in Germany.”

It may seem like common sense that companies such as Showforce would do everything possible to roll out a company-wide crew welfare policy, but according to Spendlove, “sadly, there are many instances where people are not treating crew correctly.”

He elaborated: “Across the Middle East, there’s a tendency for suppliers to quote for providing their own crew, which they mark up. They don’t always go to a reputable crewing provider, and I know there are instances where gang masters are used instead. They’re then taking a 50% cut and making people wait months for their money – that’s if they’re lucky enough to receive it at all. That’s just not how we operate as a business; we have our own local crew across UAE, Qatar and KSA, who are all paid fairly and regularly on a monthly basis.”

More shockingly, Spendlove even alleged that there had been instances where he’d been contacted by Western companies asking for “special rates” for “crews from the developing world”. He continued: “Can you imagine if we were paying our crew in the UK by nationality or faith? It’s a disgusting practice and needs to be eradicated from our industry.” 

He concluded this thought by making the point that inflation is a global problem, and no country is unaffected by rising fuel and food costs. “Everyone has the right to earn a fair wage for a fair day’s work. I’m incredibly proud of every single nationality represented in my business – we are one Showforce.”

Charity concluded by underlining Showforce’s worker welfare ethos. “We at Showforce will continue to set high standards in terms of worker welfare, rates of pay and the treatment of our crew regardless of where in the world they are based. “Ultimately, it’s our clients who benefit. Happy, healthy, well-trained and experienced crew are invaluable within our industry and that continues to set us apart.”

This article originally appeared in issue #275 of TPi, which you can read here.

Words: Stew Hume

Photos: Showforce