Award-winning event production company calls for government support
Pearce Hire provides technical production services, such as lighting, sound, rigging and power distribution, to over 2,000 events in the UK every year. Preparation for 2020's packed schedule required recruiting another four permanent members of staff to cope with the busiest summer season the company had planned. Then, of course, coronavirus happened.
Shaun Pearce, managing director, said that the impact of the first Covid-19 lockdown was "immediate and disastrous" for the business. May to October are usually Pearce Hire's busiest months, but cancellations began to roll in in early March.
Shaun revealed that within six weeks over 85% of annual business was lost - and now late autumn and Christmas work is being cancelled due to fears of a second wave.
The Pearce Hire team were put on furlough at the end of March - but Shaun has still had to make 40% of his workforce redundant. He's been petitioning local MPs, councillors and the chief executive at Peterborough City Council and the Mayor of Cambridgeshire, but feels that not enough is being done to support the production industry.
He said: "Our industry works in the background, literally backstage - the spotlight is never on us. But we need to step out of the wings and demand the support we need. It’s not a comfortable place for any of us to be - upfront and on the stage. But at the moment we need to be. Festivals don’t just happen.
"Tours don’t just appear in a city one day, and another city another day. TV, corporate events, product launches... these events all rely on a skilled workforce coming in and doing what they do best to produce the best events possible and match or exceed their client’s expectations."
Government intervention is required, he feels, to avoid the situation getting worse before any improvement is possible. Grants, business rates relief and an immediate extension to the furlough scheme for the sector would be a start, with further support needed for those self-employed within the industry.
Pearce Hire has been able to partner with some companies to provide technical production support during the pandemic - including working with the Nightingale field hospitals, Covid testing stations and the Outdoor Motorhome Camper Show. It is also helping to run socially distanced training courses to help individuals feel "match ready" once the industry can start up again.
Shaun "can't wait" to get back to his day-to-day life of supporting the running of festivals, gigs and other indoor and outdoor events, but recognises that it could be a "harsh winter" for many skilled workers.
He emphasised the resilience of the creative industries, however, adding: "We are an industry in crisis but there is a huge amount of camaraderie and positivity out there. We will play our part where we can. That’s what this industry does - when faced with a challenge we meet it head on and make things happen no matter what the barriers are! Why should the Covid crisis be any different?"