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UK events sector: Unprecedented & unexpected growth

Sam Dimond, founder and director at Spotlight Sound on unprecedented and unexpected growth in the UK events industry

The events sector is one of the largest industries in the UK, estimated to be worth around 42 billion pounds to the economy and with around 85 million people attending UK events each year, it is without doubt a growing sector. As we head into summer 2023, the events of summer 2020 and 2021 seem like a distant memory. Of course the ramifications of the coronavirus pandemic and Brexit still loom large. The events industry was an industry directly and deeply affected by those events. Lockdown saw our 2020 summer events schedules quite literally voided. For us, the outside event hire and setup side of Spotlight Sound completely dried up as it did with many others of our competitors. However, the audio visual installation side of our business remained stable despite hospitality shutting. Businesses and venues needed equipment to be able to meet remotely. Remote conferences and events became the norm. However, the in – person side of events and outdoor hospitality spaces really didn’t recover sufficiently until last year. 

One of the key issues faced by our industry due to the pandemic was labour shortages and those are being felt more so now. The UK event industry provides an estimated 775,000 jobs. 126,000 jobs were lost due to the pandemic. It was mainly freelance events staff who were forced out of the industry. Many turned to other trades and industries where they secured full time jobs. Those people have not returned to our industry. Then Brexit hit us causing issues with supply chains. With much of UK audio visual equipment and components coming from Asia, the result of their more frequent lockdowns is still being felt now in 2023. 

Last year was busy for outside events, many postponed events managed to go ahead but this year we are seeing even more of those postponed events needing our services. To cope with demand It became obvious Spotlight Sound would need to expand. Towards the end of last year and the beginning of this year we ramped up our hiring plans. We went from a team of two to five. January to May 2023 saw our revenue up by 98% from the same time the year before. This is a real positive for our industry because I’m sure we are not the only ones seeing a rise in demand. Clients are reporting that due to the change to the global work landscape with more hybrid and remote working practices here to stay, bringing teams together periodically is paramount. It is back at the top of everyone’s agenda. A stand out event for Spotlight Sound this year was the London Football Awards at the Roundhouse. We took a blank canvas and with lighting, stage, sound and video we set up an awards show to host 400 people including Arsenal, Chelsea and West Ham football teams. 

London Football Awards at the Roundhouse

So where is the industry going? What will it look like in 2024? We will certainly see demand for in-person events rise further. The upward trajectory of 22/23 suggests this. We are also seeing a huge demand for hybrid events. Clients are reporting that as in-person events return to their former glory, there is a need for those events to still provide remote access to the event for many different reasons. This is more lucrative for anyone holding an event and if it done properly provides a wider audience for the client whilst still ensuring that those people who can attend in-person are able to. For us as an audio visual installation and technical event production company we are able to provide both remote AV set up as well as staging, lighting and sound for in person events. There is certainly going to be more demand for that which we have anticipated.

However, with growing demand for events in general, we must address the labour shortage and lack of quality technicians within our industry. Money must be spent on enticing young people into the events industry. Not enough is made of what a brilliant industry it is to work in. For example we look after many of the events on Osea Island in Essex. The island is an uninhabited island off the coast of Essex. Again we take the blank canvas of the island and transform it into an event where more than 300 people come to have fun. Working outdoors in the fresh air is good for us. There are problems to solve and clients we must ensure are happy therefore, it is both fun and challenging. Thankfully there are more ‘Live Event Technology’ courses available to study at University now than the two available when I was training. However, we then need to provide apprenticeships and graduate positions. To deliver this, businesses like ours need financial support and funding from the government to be able to support the training of young people. Otherwise we will find our own supply chain of talent diminishing. For an industry worth 42 billion pounds to the economy, this would seem like a grave error to be making.