My first live event in seven months – and it felt good
As I set out into a cold and squally Brighton night, a strange feeling gripped me – excitement. This was my first proper event since the M&IT Awards in February, and those seven long intervening months have changed the world in so many ways.
Zipping my coat up to my chin to protect me from the elements, I noted how unusual it felt to have somewhere to be, a date, a time, a place – September 30, 8pm, Brighton seafront – to be part of the We Make Events worldwide activation.
I had no idea what to expect. I knew that the venues on the front were set to be lighting up in red to send a message to the government about the dire straits the sector is in, but other than that, who would be there? On a night like this, where the rain soaks you to the bone in seconds, who would turn out?
Walking along Western Road I spotted the first signs of activity, a huge laser beam spiralling through the air from somewhere on the front. It was genuinely thrilling, realising I was on my way to an event, a happening – and that other, real live people were going to be there too.
Of course, I should never have doubted the resilience of event professionals. It takes more than a bit of rain to put this sector off. Down on the front all the major venues were cloaked in ominous red, from the i360 and the Brighton Centre right down to the bandstand and the Upside Down House (well worth a visit, by the way). And lining the front, masked up and socially distanced, decked out in red, waving flags and attracting honks from passing cars, were hundreds of event professionals, making their voices heard.
The sense of togetherness was palpable, even as the rain lashed down around us. It was energising, knowing that there are good people out there willing to fight for events, even despite the continuous knockbacks of the last seven months. And above all, it was a reminder of the importance of coming together in person, an urge that has been at the heart of humanity for as long as anyone can remember.
No Zoom call or Teams meeting I’ve yet been in has come close to recreating that feeling. The government might not get it, former ministers might say there’s “no point” in saving us, but we know different. We can meet and come together safely, our industry has lifetimes of experience of facilitating that. And people all over the country want to meet and come together. We just need to be given the chance to let them do that.