A Year in Lockdown The Ultimate Challenge

How UK Technical Production Company Survived

The UK event industry has officially endured lockdown for a year. As a UK technical production company that is accustomed to travelling the globe, it has undoubtedly been the ultimate challenge!

Cast our minds back to March 2020 and lockdown was intended to last all but six weeks. Perhaps a little longer. Yet, no one in the event industry could have predicted a year! Not then at least.

For us the start of 2020 was fantastic. The diary was packed with trips to New York, Sidney, Beijing, Paris and Cape Town. We were set to be the UK technical production company in charge of a series of conferences and exhibitions for various clients.

Read about the 10 most poignant events that took place in the lead up to lockdown and during that shaped our services as we prepare for events to restart in 2021.

1. The year began with pharmaceutical conferences in Copenhagen and Amsterdam

2020 kick started with a series of conferences in Europe. The Production People were the UK technical production company for all the international conferences.

We supplied the event lighting, AV, rigging and power for each event. In addition, we provided set and stage design and build.

2. At the end of February we were the UK Technical Production Company for an exhibition stand at ExCel

ICE Totally Gaming is an exhibition that welcomes delegates from all around the globe. Our involvement came when we supported Advent Exhibitions for the stand design and build for TCS John Huxley.

TPP was the lead UK technical production company for the event. We supplied the lighting design, equipment and rigging. The three main requirements for the lighting and rigging were:

  • Lighting a 20m x 2m curved banner, suspended above the stand for optimum exposure within the hall
  • Light large panel wall graphics
  • Provide general lighting to the stand
uk technical production company events
The rigging fees at ExCel can be extortionate, especially when suspending a large 20m x 2m banner from the roof. Fortunately, we were able to develop a lighting rig that used as few of ExCel’s points and motors as possible. Consequently, we saved the client substantial venue fees.

Read our full case study: ICE Totally Gaming at ExCel London

3. In March Covid began to hit the event sector.

A Conference in Barcelona would be our last face to face gathering.

By early March we were beginning to experience some of the impact Coronavirus was having on international events.

Our site visits to China had been cancelled earlier in the year due to Covid-19. Now our site visit to Sydney was postponed.

At this stage we could not fully comprehend the impact of the Covid phenomena. Site visits were merely being postponed until the situation improved, which we believed to be weeks or at worst months.

Fortunately, we were able to complete a conference at The Barcelona Renaissance Hotel. Little did we know, this would be our last face-to-face conference for over a year!

Read our full case study: Barcelona Pharmaceutical Conference

4. By the end of March all of our engagements for international site visits in New York, Sydney, China and Europe had been postponed until August.

The the future of the entire UK event industry was now the hands of the British government. A national lockdown meant the sector simply could not operate. It was a dire situation for event businesses, freelancers, suppliers and venues around the world.

live streamed events

5. Determined to continue supporting our client conferences, we created a virtual events studio at our Hampshire HQ

For many years we have included virtual video production within our technical event services. As a result, we were able to downscale the set and stage design to create a virtual event studio at our Hampshire HQ near Andover.

We built a small set that could be lit in a variety of colours, or projected upon. A large screen was centrally positioned within the set and we used our existing stage furniture and a digital lectern to complete the look.

For professional online streaming, we specified a multiple HD camera set-up and upgraded our streaming software to provide an engaging online conference experience. Autocue, prompt cues and powerpoint management formed a range of packages to meet varying requirements.

Our virtual event studio was a hit with clients. The first customer was Daisy First Aid, who offers one-to-one infant first aid training to new parents.

We Make Events
Our warehouse in Hampshire lit in red for PLASA #WeMakeEvents and #LightItRed

6. In July PLASA launched the #WeMakeEvents campaign to shine a light on the sector.

It was around June that the event sector began to show signs of despair. As other areas of hospitality returned, there was still no dedicated government support for the industry that contributes £70 billion to the UK economy and had employed circa 700,000 people before the pandemic, not to mention the freelancers!

The industry body, PLASA formed #WeMakeEvents in July, which saw over 700 buildings across the UK lit in red, including our Hampshire base.

Since then, the campaign gained momentum and a second phase took place on 11th August. It was then that over 4,000 event professionals congregated at socially distant outdoor meetings in multiple locations.

In Manchester technicians pushed flight cases along the streets. Meanwhile, in London, event professionals lined the banks of the River Thames, as a boat equipped with a video wall, lighting and live music sailed the water’s path.

Having seen the outstanding efforts of the UK event industry, various #WeMakeEvents campaigns have taken place globally. Eventually, the world’s events industry united for a global day of action – ‘Stand As One’ – on 30th September.

The campaign has continued throughout lockdown and will do so until the events sector finally reopens.

7. In September a pilot expo took place to prove that events could happen in a Covid-safe manner.

The All Secure Expo was pilot event created by a collective body comprising the Association of Event Organisers (AEO), Association of Event Venues (AEV)Events Supplier and Services Association (ESSA) 

The Covid-safe pilot exhibition took place in September 2020 at the Business Design Centre. It was attended by event professionals, who were determined to safely reinstate the sector as quickly and efficiently as possible.

The expo was a tremendous success, proving that the sector could implement track and trace, testing, hygiene enhancements and social distancing to create a safe environment for delegates.

Following the event, the risk assessments and safety measures were released to help event organisers create Covid-safe face-to-face events.

8. For a short period in the autumn hybrid events with a limited audience returned.

Further easing of lockdown measures after the first Coronavirus phase, meant that business events in the UK could returned with a limited audience.

Although this was a very limited period before the next lockdown, we did manage to provide hybrid event production for a corporate event in London.

9. Throughout the winter months we focussed our attention on delivering virtual events for venues and corporate clients.

As winter set in, so did the second national lockdown. It became ever clearer that face-to-face events would not be returning as quickly as hoped. With a new strain of the virus sweeping the nation, the second lockdown quickly followed.

Virtual events were our only option once more. As a result, we welcomed the opportunity to provide the lighting and rigging for a small and exclusive Olly Murs Virtual Concert. The concert took place at our client’s HQ in London. Here, we installed a small stage and lighting rig. The concert was broadcast live to the company’s employees who tuned in from around the globe.

10. In March 2021 finally, Prime Minister, Boris Johnson announces the news we have all been waiting for – his road map out of lockdown!

The nation jumped for joy at the announcement that by the summer we could see life return to a version of normal. This was thanks to the accelerated roll-out of the Covid-19 vaccine. The vulnerable groups would be protected from the virus and there would be less strain on the NHS.

As we mark a year of lockdown, we also mark the restart of events. If all goes as planned, we could see events with a limited audience return as early as May. Read our full blog on the When Can Live Event Restart? for details.

While we rejoice in the notion that all social distancing measures could be lifted this summer, as a UK technical production company for events, we tend to err on the side of caution.

That’s why we’re advising a Plan B for all face-to-face events. The Plan B option includes a virtual back-up plan. This is built-in to every TPP event production booked in 2021.

UK Production Company Warns A Plan B Option is Essential for all Events in 2021

Despite the vaccine roll out, we cannot ignore talk of the third wave spreading from Europe to the UK. As a result, we’re working with clients now to ensure their event can happen regardless of another lockdown situation.

Let’s be realistic, most conferences have an international presence and clearly international travel is not an option at the moment. By including video production and live streaming within the event plan, there is the potential to reach a local face-to-face audience and an international virtual audience.

We deliver a range of hybrid and virtual event production solutions are intended to optimise audience engagement.

To find out more, please visit our virtual event production page.

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