The first digital format of Prolight + Sound on 13 April came to a successful and informative end. The event industry is positioning itself as a partner in virus containment. The conclusion: resumption of event operations is possible if all hygiene and infection control requirements are taken into account and events thus become a safe space for visitors. In addition, international experts shed light on burning issues surrounding the impact of Brexit, sustainability and training in corona times.
Despite the Corona-related cancellation of Prolight + Sound, the industry came together at the BIZLounge in the digital space for an incredibly important exchange of ideas. The event industry has shown that it can pull together when it comes to finding solutions for getting out of the crisis and not losing sight of important goals for the future. We are very happy about the insightful discussions with top-class experts - and also about the many international participants who followed the programme from home and enriched it with their questions
Mira Wölfel, Director Prolight + Sound
"Manifesto Restart": roadmap for the return to culture
The central point of discussion at the Prolight + Sound BIZLounge was the new start of the industry under the changed conditions of the pandemic. At the Prolight + Sound BIZLounge, members of the "Forum Veranstaltungswirtschaft", an alliance of authoritative trade associations, gave an overview of the "Manifest Restart", a roadmap for a step-by-step return to the culture business. The comprehensive licensing matrix contains a progressive step-by-step plan and suggested wording for uniform regulations. It also illustrates the impact that the application of individual packages of measures can have on the maximum permissible utilisation of venues. The event industry is thus positioning itself as a reliable partner in the fight against the pandemic.
Model Netherlands: Extensive testing of important keys
The central thesis of the relaunch is to push for a restart under strict conditions. This is said to be advantageous from a cultural and economic point of view, because the implementation of events can have a positive impact on the overall epidemiological situation.
Testing before events is an important key to identifying infected persons and preventing further spread of the virus in private and professional contexts. The risk of infection is also lower at events with a strict hygiene concept than at uncontrolled gatherings that escape official supervision.
The Netherlands, among others, is a model for this approach. Here, the low risk of events with a consistent testing concept has already been proven in recent weeks. The development of new tests that deliver faster results and are more pleasant for the test persons are also causing optimism in the industry.
Brexit impact only really felt after pandemic
In addition to the effects of the pandemic, Brexit was one of the other key topics at the Prolight + Sound BIZLounge. A panel of representatives from the industry associations VPLT (Germany), PLASA (UK) and PEARLE (EU) looked at the immediate effects of the UK leaving the European Union. Among other things, the necessity of customs declarations, different labelling requirements for technical products (CE vs. UKCE) as well as the high bureaucratic costs of visa applications were discussed. The discussants agreed that the effects of Brexit would only really be felt when the pandemic-related travel restrictions were lifted again.
The cabotage regulations in particular would pose challenges for the industry and have a significant negative impact on the touring business. One reason for this is that once a UK-based vehicle has entered the mainland, only two transport services are possible before it has to return to the UK - and vice versa. The panel criticised that the negotiating parties had not taken sufficient account of the operational reality in the events industry. Exemptions for the cultural sector, both in transport and visas, were now the goal, it said, in order to be able to restart tour operations after the pandemic.
The future of the industry is green
"Green events" do not necessarily have to mean more expense. This is the result of the third panel of the Prolight + Sound BIZLounge, which dealt with sustainability in the event industry. The participants, consisting of representatives of the EVVC, the European Music Council as well as the UFI Sustainable Development Working Group, called for the industry to actively drive the change towards more sustainability.
The focus was on a broad concept of sustainability that takes into account ecological, social and cultural aspects. A sustainable event industry is thus made up of different areas. By reducing energy consumption, optimising transport logistics or even doing without meat in catering, industry participants could both save money and make a contribution to the environment. In addition, the event industry must, among other things, counteract market concentration and the associated loss of diversity in the event sector, as well as commit to diversity and gender equality.
Legal certainty through new EU Ecodesign Directive
Christian Allabauer from the Austrian Theatre Technology Society (OeTHG) also presented the impact of the new EU Ecodesign Directive on the theatre and event industry. The Ecode Design Directive came into force in March and will be integrated into the Energy Consumption Relevant Products Act (EVPG) in Germany.
Allabauer explained that the directive has created legal certainty as to which illuminants may be used in the future and called on the industry to take responsibility for sustainable action on this basis. This could be achieved, for example, by consciously using the most energy-efficient solutions possible, taking into account the required light spectrum, consistently switching off equipment that is not in use, and using replaceable or repairable light sources and recycling. In addition, industry players must actively keep abreast of technological developments.
Successful training of event professionals guaranteed despite pandemic
Representatives of the VPLT and various educational institutions believe that the successful training of event professionals is guaranteed even during the pandemic. Although students and trainees as well as educational institutions have to face unfamiliar challenges, the situation also offers opportunities. The biggest challenge is to provide practical experience when hardly any events can take place at the moment. However, hybrid events, virtual productions and the conception and implementation of safety and hygiene concepts offer clear opportunities for newcomers to the industry. In addition, the current situation increases the crisis competence of students and trainees.
Not only remote learning, which ensures the teaching of theoretical basics, but also the digital transformation have - and had even before the pandemic - an impact on the way knowledge is taught in educational institutions. A decisive factor could be lifelong learning in combination with the system of so-called "micro-credentials". The term describes small-scale, Europe-wide certified and recognised learning content, which should enable faster access to further education and training.
Showcase projects in the spotlight
The Prolight + Sound BIZLounge concluded with the presentation of two prestigious industry awards. The "Sinus - Systems Integration Award" honoured the "Osram - World of Light" in Munich. The winning project of the "Opus - German Stage Award" was the production of Giuseppe Verdi's "Rigoletto" at the Seebühne Bregenz. In this context, Sanela Kolb, head of the "Neustart Kultur" project, gave an overview of support programmes supervised by the DTHG. In the future, too, Prolight + Sound would like to keep the entertainment technology sector up to date on current developments by digital means.
The next edition of BIZLounge is scheduled for 14 June 2021. The next Prolight + Sound in Frankfurt opens from 26 to 29 April 2022. All further information can be found at www.prolight-sound.com.
All panels to watch again
Images: Paul Wasserman (above), Aliaksei, Mathias Kutt