The Buck Has to Stop with Event Managers – but let’s stay creative risk-takers

It is always sad to hear of the cancellation of an event.  Even when it’s 
for the most essential of reasons, like weather, or health & safety, or poor ticket sales, it means that someone’s hard work and commitment has been wasted. This week the final day of the Devon County Show was cancelled because of a major traffic accident in the show car park involving at least 5 vehicles and requiring two people to be transported to hospital for treatment.  To be honest, it’s an epic fail on the part of the organisers and it means that the hard work and effort of all those farmers, producers and businesses who were exhibiting has gone to waste through no fault of their own.

I don’t mean to pile on the guilt to the show organisers here and I am sure that they are devastated at the accident and the subsequent closure. However, car parking and site access is always a problem for county shows and large expos so it should be an area which draws a high level of attention from the organisers.  It is also an area where there is a lot of legislation and guidance including health & safety and traffic management

In the UK, we have the most stringent of health & safety legislation and the Health & Safety Executive have just released a revised version of the Purple Book (Events H&S guidance).  So there is no excuse for mistakes like those that led to the cancellation of the Devon County Show. The whole incident raises the challenge of corporate responsibility (even for voluntary and non-profit organisations) where the organisation is responsible for the actions of its staff and representatives.  It is therefore the organisation that is at fault for not fulfilling its legal obligations in mis-managing the car park.

This responsibility is one of the things that is particularly challenging for events.  Our market is continuously pushing us to develop new and exciting event ideas that create new experiences and engage us heart and soul and our government require us to work within specific boundaries.  The challenge is that we (event managers) become scared of doing new things and taking risks in order to avoid the scale of responsibility required of us.
This is not to say that we should relax the rules but rather that we need to maintain the balance to take considered risks, preserving safety but maximising our creative problem solving. This balance is not easy to find and maintain, often even more difficult when working with committees, but if we run scared of all risk, we will end up with no creative sector, boring event experiences and limited innovation. Ultimately, no business. So
finding the balance is not on the wishlist – it’s on the essential list.

Claire Eason Bassett, Managing Director, Mackerel Sky


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