Ben Wallace, the UK Security Minister, said that in light of the Manchester and Las Vegas incidents, the live music industry is at the “vanguard” of counter terrorism.
Speaking at the Event Safety and Security Summit last week, Wallace addressed around 250 delegates from venues, festivals, promoters, sports professionals, trade associations and security experts.
Key to responding to this new security paradigm, said Wallace, is effective cooperation between event organisers and government.
“Good counter terrorism is about an aligned response,” the Security Minister said. “It’s not just about the government trying to deradicalise, it’s not just about MI5 [the Security Service] monitoring threats, it’s not just about private sector focusing on their own front door and putting on a good event – it’s about coming together, sharing the threat and sharing best practice.”
The importance of pre-event planning was called a “step change” in the terrorist threat in the UK during the first panel by The O2’s head of security, Colonel Richard Latham. In addition, the group discussed how the threat has changed, pointing to the recent varied attack methods, with “high-profile targets”, such as concerts and other live events, most at threat.
Wembley Stadium’s Liam Boylan said in a different panel that his customers have come to expect rigorous security checks as they enter the England national team football ground.
“Football crowds normally arrive late, in last 45 minutes before the match,” Boylan said. “To give plenty of time for entry, we told them that they needed to be there an hour before – and to their credit people did. But even then we had complaints afterwards that the search was inadequate.”
Meanwhile, Pascal Viot of Switzerland’s Paléo Festival Nyon said that there is a need for any extra security measures to be “proportionate,” while also cautioning that solely focusing on the perimeter is a “ring of steel” at the expense of staff training.
“We’re talking about searches, but we don’t even know what we’re searching for,” he said, stressing that security is a dynamic process that changes and adapts constantly. “If we find an explosive belt at the door, what do we do?”
For concerts and gigs, artists are showing up with “huge expectations” for security at venues, according to Live Nation’s Phil Bowdry. He said: “Most international acts bringing a bigger security detail, and are quite detailed on what they want and how they want it, which we haven’t really seen before.”
Bowdry continued about the need to manage expectations: “It’s about understanding their reasons for it, and showing them, yes, we are aware [of their concerns], but that we have to protect our customers – the people who are buying tickets – too.”
John Sharkey (above left) of SMG Europe, the operator of Manchester Arena that suffered the terror attack in May that killed 22 people, said his firm is driving towards a new increased security environment, whilst encouraging fans to arrive early.
“[Arriving early] both flattens out the arrival pattern and has the benefit of guests spending more money inside the building instead of nearby bars”. This, he said, will “help fund some of what we’re doing [security-wise] over the longer term”.
Images: Event Safety and Security Summit