Professor Joe Goldblatt
They deliver and arrange the flowers for your daughter’s and son’s wedding celebration. They provide the delicious and beautifully presented food and drink for your guests. They provide the tables, chairs, china and cutlery, and colourful linens to transform an ordinary space into one that is extraordinary. They provide the microphones and speakers for the medical conferences that train doctors and nurses who may save your life. They insure your safety, hygiene, and security by providing proper stewarding for the events that you attend. These people are members of an industry that may be mostly invisible to you, until you celebrate a milestone in your life when they become critical partners. However, I know them very well as thirty years ago I was the founding president of the world’s first international association of event management professionals, the International Live Events Association. And now, these talented craftspeople, artists and technicians are facing the descruction of their careers and this means the end of the dream makers that provide the foundations for our future gatherings.
When the global pandemic first appeared, the events industry was the first to close and most government leaders predict that due to the challenge of physical distancing to prevent transmission of this disease, they will be among the last to re – open. However, as this industry literally waits in the wings for the call to return to the perfect stage, Scotland, to amplify, light, cater, decorate, and secure future events, they are now threatened with extinction.
Scotland is fortunate in that we have one of the world’s few national level events agencies. Event Scotland have been monitoring the situation experienced by suppliers to the events industry very closely and they fear that a distruption in this critical supply chain may permanently harm our industry in the future. We must never forget that Scotland has demonstrated its unique capacity to produce world class events, as demonstrated in 2014 by the simultaneous delivery of the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, the Ryder Cup, and the over 1000 events associated with the second Scottish Homecoming celebration. These events cannot be designed nor delivered without an experienced, trained, skilled, qualified and well equipped work force. This work force is now facing gradual extinction due to the lack of support from government.
The term event is derived from the Latin word e – venire that literally means outcome. Ironically, the outcome the event industry workers are facing is now unpredictable and indeed bleak due to the lack of government support for these individual professionals. Although the UK Government and the Scottish Government has provided support for cultural organisations, the lack of support for individual event technicians, caterers, artists, carpenters, electricians, sound engineers, pyrotechnicians, stewards and others may result in the cultural institutions that have been given a life line soon finding that when they seek the essential resources they require to stage their event they will open their doors to find an dark and empty room.
Therefore, I implore the UK Government and Scottish Government to further extend their funding to provide grant support for these event management professionals who deliver the dreams every day in our society. Without their talent and experience, political leaders may soon find that their microphones fall silent, the platforms upon which they were to stand have disappeared and their critical stage lighting has failed to materialize.
Every day, event management professionals in small and major ways enhance human life. When I was studying for my doctoral degree I was asked by my supervisor to visit a local care home and interview senior citizens about their life time of experiences when attending live events.
The majority of the patients were very unwell, however, I noticed that one woman was nodding in agreement with me and then she suddenly raised her hand to speak. When I called upon her she stated that the festivals, conventions and celebrations I had described were not just events, they were, according to her “the milestones of our lives.” When I probed to find out more about her thinking, she described her husband escorting his daughter down the aisle at her wedding, although he was in a wheel chair because he was suffering from terminal cancer. She believed that he summoned the strength to attend this event because he wished to make this special memory. She then repeated her earlier definition that events, especially to those near the end of their lives, are the experiences that we remember, cherish and that critically make our lives worth living.
A global pandemic has been described by scientific experts as an extremely rare occurrence. Simultaneously, this is our rare opportunity to provide the critical support required for the members of the event management industry so that they may design and deliver our dreams that will indeed continue to make our lives worth living.
Professor Joe Goldblatt is Emeritus Professor of Planned Events at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh, Scotland. He is the author, co – author and editor of 38 books in the field of events management including the first text book in this field that has been continually in publication for thirty years. He was the founding president of the International Live Events Association that has over 5000 members planning and producing events all over the world.