The live event trade body the Professional Lighting and Sound Association (PLASA) hosted a number of events up and down the country calling on the Government to help the event industry through the COVID-19 crisis under the banner THROW US A LINE! Seven hundred and fifteen buildings and venues across the UK were lit up red, tying in with the red alert message as the events industry continues to suffer. The main event was in London with the banks of the Thames and many buildings cast in a red glow.
I went to The Forum in Tunbridge Wells, my local venue to lend my support by just being there. At 8 p.m. the event started as the skies began to darken with a video on a big screen with a wide range of industry workers, figureheads and performers all relating their experiences, and concerns for the future for themselves and the industry, particularly all the support staff.
At 8.40 audio consultant Roland Hemming who was the local event organiser gave an impassioned speech, outlining the figures, financial and human of an industry on brink of collapse. It was first to shut and will be the last to return. Even the DCMS has said the current crisis is…..’the biggest threat to cultural infrastructure, institutions and workforce for a generation”.
At the end of Roland’s speech the screen was cut to a live feed from the boat on the Thames at the London event.
There were some speeches from leading industry figures and behind the scenes manufacturers and suppliers before we were treated to a live performance by Frank Turner who’s opening comments again reinforced the numbers of people who are unseen who make the events we love happen. He performed an impassioned I Still Believe with the apt lyric ‘who’d have thought something as simple as rock n’ roll could save us all’. As if to emphasise the importance of crews his guitar strap came unhitched and pulled the jack cord out of his guitar. Level 42’s Mark King was on hand and saved the performance as Frank carried on to finish the song.
Appropriately in a captain’s hat Mark himself then took centre stage for an unaccustomed solo spot on bass and vocals to a backing track, with again a small technical fail delaying the start by a few seconds. His unmistakable punchy slappy bass was to the fore on Running In The Family. Some of the crowd on the lawn at Tunbridge Wells were up and dancing by the end of the song. The moment was continued with Lessons In Love before the live link was dropped and the video’s of various speakers continued.
It was great to see the support for the venue and the wider industry with many people dressed in red. Live events will inevitably suffer but as long as people demonstrate they care there’s a hope the damage can be minimized, and next year we’ll all be back gigging and festivalling. Without public support the harm could be irreparable, so when you see the next local event in support of our cultural and event industries please show your support, go along and cheer.
Words & Photography by Simon Partington at Light It In Red/Throw Us A Line at The Forum, Tunbridge Wells on 11th August 2020