I am watching the latest wave of Covid play out in the UK and tentatively planning events in 2021. The effect of Covid on events in 2020 was catastrophic and no doubt we will continue to feel the pain throughout 2021. 2020 took us by surprise. We were not prepared. This year we are experienced and we know the score. Vaccines are being rolled out and, provided this momentum continues and we can get the all important R-number under control, it is expected that restrictions will begin to ease by March. I am optimistic. Testing is quicker and more widely available and tracking systems are more robust. The number of events I am seeing being planned for later this year shows others are too. I also see a strength of public will. No one wants another year stuck at home.
How events in 2021 will look.
Any event takes a reasonable amount of planning. The size and complexity of the event dictates how much. Whilst we wait to hear when and how far the government intends to lift restrictions we must be strategic in our planning. Until we have securely controlled Covid, and its variants, and vaccinated sufficient numbers, we are unlikely see a return to the free-spirited events of pre-2020.
Whilst I do not have a crystal ball, the likelihood is that events in 2021 will continue to look a lot like they did in 2020 with similar restrictions:
1. Testing/ vaccinations/ temperature checks. With testing becoming more widely available we may see event organisers asking attendees to provide proof of a negative covid test prior to entry or evidence that they have been vaccinated. This will help give confidence that events are safe and not potential covid spreaders. Temperature checks of all staff and guests on arrival will also continue.
2. Track and Trace. As part of the registration process, organisers will need to ensure that they are continuing to record contact details of all participants.
3. Masks. If you are a planning an event indoors then, as we have seen within retail, travel and other hospitality, masks will continue to be obligatory clothing.
4. Social distancing. Venue capacities will continue to be restricted to allow for social distancing. Staggered start and end times and one-way systems will be the norm to assist safe crowd control.
5. Food and drink service. Consideration will still be needed on how you safely serve food and drink. Pre-plated food, pre-poured drinks, tray service and table service will continue to enable reduced contact.
6. Hygiene. Strict hygiene protocols have always been a factor in event planning but we have seen an increased necessity for hygiene amongst event attendees as well as staff. Planning sufficient hand washing stations and providing plenty of hand sanitiser will continue to be essential.
7. Outdoor. Planning outdoor events is always problematic in the UK. The weather is unpredictable at anytime of the year however Covid has increased problems for planning indoor events. Outdoor events now seem more attractive for gatherings as they considerably reduce the potential spread of Covid. This helps instill confidence too.
8. Entertainment. Performances will still be restricted in size in terms of the number of participants. Staging to allow social distancing between performers and the audience will continue to be a consideration and ensuring all performances involving singing take place outside or in a well ventilated space. Dancing shoes will still be regulated to the back of the wardrobe.
9.Virtual. Lots of us have embraced the virtual world, creating ingenious platforms to stage entertaining and engaging events and stream them live into peoples homes. These will continue to be an important player in the events market as some members of the public may still feel wary about venturing out to live events. It also creates opportunities to reach overseas audiences without leaving our shores. Travel may still take time to open up as other countries around the world take longer to roll out vaccines or tackle Covid. The rising environmental consciousness can also be met by continuing to provide virtual event opportunities. I look forward to seeing how technology and ideas evolve to support this new events market.
10. Festivals. The cancellation of Glastonbury came as a blow but not a surprise. It is more than likely that other festivals will follow suit. It will be difficult to stage large-scale festivals whilst maintaining the level of hygiene and social distancing required. Like many other events, festivals rely on an economy of scale. Cutting capacity to meet social distancing requirements whilst still providing participants the same level of experience would simply not be cost effective.
11. Weddings. I expect weddings to continue to be restricted to smaller numbers this year too. It has been heartening to see so many couples embrace their micro weddings. 2020 was so disappointing for all of us yet I feel that 2021 is the year we accept our fate and be grateful for the opportunities we have. Weddings are what you make of them. Small or big; your wedding day will still be a memorable occasion. Let’s keep the parties for when we can dance freely, unadorned by masks, and hug all our loved ones with self-abandonment.
Measure your expectations. Live events will be able to open fully by 2022 if we cooperate now, get vaccinated, keep our distance and remind others to do the same. Use your experience of 2020 to plan a strategy to survive 2021. I would like the UK Government to offer the events industry compensation and insurance against further cancellations and will continue to raise my voice with the rest of you in demanding this funding. However, I ceased long ago to have any expectation of our government doing the right thing. Therefore it is down to us to support one another where we can, combine our collective talents and resources and together find a way through another year of Covid and look forward to a brighter tomorrow.