A member of Crewsaders crew working on an event site

Event crew specialists discuss current trends in the sector

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Event crew specialists discuss current trends, pay rates, and how they are working hard to attract new talent into the sector…

A s the events calendar returns to normal and festival season is now in full swing, demand for crew and crewing services is at a peak. StandOut has just returned to the office after visiting event sites in Liverpool and Windsor where demand for skilled and experienced crew was at a high. It’s demonstrative of the market, which crew providers describe as buoyant, fragmented, busy, and positive.

This year, event professionals can expect to see a rise in crew rates. Crew companies see the increase as necessary in a bid to remain competitive, particularly if the event industry wishes to attract and retain talent and stand a chance of competing against companies like Amazon. Becky Meers, head of operations UK and Europe at Showforce, explained that in the last three years alone, there have been three rises to the minimum wage and Living Wage, whilst Calum McConnachie, operations director at Crewsaders, said that rates have risen in line with inflation.

He commented: “Following the pandemic, we have found that crew were less motivated to do a two-hour call in the middle of the night (between 23:59 and 07:00) so we have increased the costs slightly on these specific calls to make them more attractive.”

Such moves are necessary to ensure the most talented and skilled crew remain within the sector and are not tempted by higher pay rates and more attractive working conditions elsewhere.

During the pandemic, the events industry lost many experienced staff and as a result, crew providers are doing two things; they are looking at the different ways that they can attract people to join the sector, or they are widening their portfolio and increasing the services they offer.

For instance, Crewsaders has launched a dedicated carpentry division and Showforce has launched The Production Team, a recruitment-based business that can provide industry freelancers on an ad-hoc basis or fulfil longer-term contracts and permanent roles, if required. Your Group primarily offers marquee crew but has expanded its services to include skilled stage build crews and event scaffolder teams, and Five Star soon has details of “exciting” services and products to be announced within its security and projects divisions.

 

Five Star Crew members working on site. Photo by Jake Davis
© Photo by Jake Davis

NEW BLOOD

Gallowglass is visiting Young Offender Institutions and prisons, such as HMP Isis, to identify young men being released from prison that have the potential to be trained and work as crew.

Paul Grecian, chairman of Gallowglass, explained: “In 2019, we were well aware that the average age of most techies was 50. There was no young blood entering the industry. We started to set up alliances to start to drive an initiative where we could train people and they would use Gallowglass as a stepping stone.

“This initiative got smashed by COVID. We have sat on it for two years, refined it during lockdown, and have now returned to that drive.”

Grecian continued: “Also, we are now working with local authorities, such as Glasgow City Council, and are targeting disadvantaged young people to join the business.”

CONTRACT WINS

Gallowglass will supply crew to Reading Festival this summer, Spartan Crew has secured a contract with Victorious Festival, and Bridge Creative, which supports organisers that wish to provide employment opportunities for adults with learning disabilities and autism, is working with Festival Republic, supplying production teams at Download and Leeds Festival with runners and build and break crew.

Showforce recently provided the Coronation Concert with 400 crew over 19 days. Meers continued: “The 2023 season started with a bang. For the Coronation Concert, we had 400 of our experienced crew on site, supporting with production elements and key suppliers.

The support included everything from stage management crew for show calls during the live broadcast and specialist plant operators to international crew chiefs.

“For Eurovision, we’ve been on site since March 28 and our last day is scheduled as May 20. As it stands, we will have fulfilled a mammoth 2,345 crew shifts when the event ends, and the de-rig is completed.”

Showforce crew working on site at the Coronation concert

SKILL PROGRESSION

Five Star Group is investing in the internal development of its staff, with a particular focus on health and safety and wellbeing.

Keith Montgomery, director of Five Star, explained: “There seems to have been an increase in requests for skilled crew, in particular a need for forklift operators. We are lucky that we have an in-house training provider in our ITSSAR accredited Five Star Training, supporting the skill progression in our team. We believe in investing in our crew and giving them the skills they need to progress and succeed.”

Bridge Creative is investing in its crew too. Ben Tinkler, director of Bridge Creative, explained: “We have some staff who have a learning disability who are training at the moment in live sound engineering, lighting, and stage management so we’re hopefully going to be able to offer staffing in those areas later in the year. They’ve just completed Tallescope training so they’re able to work at height in theatres and similar venues too.”

Crew members from Bridge Creative erecting barriers

TWEAKS AND WELFARE

According to Paz Brennan, commercial director at Spartan Crew, crew welfare is a big topic and is high on the crew specialist’s list of requirements. In fact, it asks for welfare provisions ahead of each job. Oliver Pitman, CEO of Your Group, concurred. Crew welfare is a top priority, especially as crew work is physically demanding. He would like to see more breakout areas on site for crew so that they have somewhere to shelter during the build. It is small measures such as this that make a huge difference to the crew that are working hard to deliver events safely and efficiently.

Tinkler continued: “Due to the support needs of some of our team, we ask organisers to make reasonable adjustments for the staff we provide where necessary. All of the organisers we’ve worked with have been more than happy to accommodate us. For example, it might mean working an eight-hour shift instead of a 12-hour shift.”

He added: “Festival Republic has been great, really wanting to understand where within each event, people would feel most comfortable working, providing a point of contact in case of emergencies, making sure the team got their breaks and giving a thorough induction on-site. This was a big help to make sure the guys felt safe whilst at work.”

Tinkler would love the events industry to be open-minded about employing staff who have a learning disability or autism. He concluded: “Talk to them. Most of the time it’s just little things that can so easily be put in place to enable people to work at your events. I’ll happily offer advice to anyone thinking about how they can create opportunities for people at their events if it helps more people into work.”