No income until 2021 ‘a fact that will not change’ says Identity MD

Eastbourne-based creative events agency Identity, recently illuminated its 2,700sqm Identity HQ in red lights.

This was part of an industry initiative to warn the Government that without additional financial help, it can expect the entire events ecosystem to collapse before spring 2021.

We caught up with Identity’s managing director, Michael Gietzen to get his thoughts on how the government can support the events industry.

What did you make of Rishi Sunak’s summer statement last week?

The utilisation of the CJRS (job retention scheme), as for many other businesses in the UK, has provided a lot of support for Identity during these unprecedented times.

The extension was extremely beneficial for our critical sector. The summer budget announcement has provided little specific support for the live events sector and more needs to be done to ensure financial support reaches the grassroots urgently.

However, all and any steps to help the economy are welcomed and we recognise the support that the Government has given to businesses so far. Nevertheless, we would welcome specific guidance and help for the events industry. Currently, we are grouped with arts and culture.  So perhaps one key thing we could ask from the government is clear guidelines for mass participation events – this would allow our industry to prepare.

My main concern is will government look at us as a sector in our own right? Our understanding at present is that this sector is not really considered a sector in its own right.

What does the government need to do to help the events industry?

A current report into prospects for the events supply chain shows that 60 per cent of companies in the sector have three months or less liquidity and that companies would survive for a further one or two months if they were to receive business rates discounts afforded to the rest of the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors. This sector will not start to see income generation until 2021. That is a fact that will not change following the lockdown.

The events sector need the Government to immediately review financial support for our industry.
Initiatives for the Government to consider for the immediate and longer-term include:

  • Immediately make it clear to local authorities that, as part of the supply chain, the retail, hospitality and leisure grant is open to this industry. Remove the £51,000 limit depending on regional variances.
  • Reduce the financial burden of running a business by offering other forms of recovery grants on the cost of commercial rent, lease payments, insurance and business rates, tax breaks and request the banks give longer mortgage holidays to businesses in our sector. The Government needs to understand offering loans is not enough as there is no certainty.
  • Allow extension of the furlough scheme, which has been an essential lifeline for us and all employers in our sector to retain highly skilled staff, and which should remain for companies in sectors where the recovery is in the longer term, such as the events, performing arts, entertainment technology, TV & film sectors.
  • Or provide grants to fund internal projects to get staff back to work – a strong focus could be on sustainability and the environment, marketing, bidding/tendering for contracts, training, consultancy, giving back to the local community, upskilling staff in charities or local authorities in areas such as marketing and events.
  • Extend the term of support for self-employed subcontractors. Our sector’s workforce is made up of 72 per cent self-employed freelancers and without the right support, we are in danger of losing our workforce to other sectors, widening an already apparent skills gap.

How has Identity been affected by the pandemic?

Identity is affected in the same way as almost everyone else in the events industry. The tap was switched off back in March. We have some of our workforce furloughed and the remainder have been working round the clock to deliver alternative event solutions for clients.

These are production-heavy projects calling on all our digital resources and some serious creativity.

Obviously live events will not return in the short term, but luckily, we have been able to adapt and pivot quickly to push more resources into our virtual event delivery teams.