As the sector makes tentative steps back into a post-lockdown landscape, several serious incidents have called into question crowd management plans. With this bleaker backdrop, it seems like the ideal time for an organisation like the GCMA to be established. The organisation looks to pull together the collective knowledge of the global events industry and advance the crowd management and security services industry within the public and private sector. With the tagline of ‘educate, advocate, motivate’ – this new body has already sparked the interest of many within the events industry with representatives from 18 countries.
TPi spoke to two of the founders, Steve Adelman of the ESA and Eric Stuart of the UKCMA about the origins of GCMA and some of the problems facing the sector. “The original idea of the GCMA dates back to the Events Safety Summit back in 2018 at Rock Lititz,” stated Stuart. “We were keen to join forces with the ESA, which we officially announced at the 2019 event.”
However, as soon as they came off stage, the duo was approached by several similar global organisations that wanted to be part of this collective vision. “We realised that this proposed partnership between the UK and US needed to be much bigger and far reaching,” stated Stuart. “The basics of crowd management issues are the same, regardless of location,” explained Adelman. “Granted, there can be exceptions but that is what has made this exercise of bringing people together very interesting.”
Despite planting the seeds of GCMA, the founders had no idea what was around the corner. As lockdown restrictions begin to ease and the sector enters a new era of live events, the existence of such an organising might prove vital.
“Look back at 2018,” mused Stuart. “The US was dealing with two of the largest mass shootings at a live event, while in the UK, our main issues had to do with terrorism and several mass self-initiated mass evacuations due to wide spread panic such as Black Friday in Oxford Street. Although vastly different issues, both of these problems were not to do with crowd management solely but a reaction to other stimuli.”
According to Stuart, now we’re in a situation where crowds have not been to events for some two years. “The 19 year old today hasn’t had the year of learning the etiquette of how to be in a crowd and instead has learned behaviour online which can be a dangerous mix,” stated Stuart.
“We saw some cases in the test events back in 2021 in the UK of people running to the front of the barricades in a show then retreating because it was too much to be surrounded by that many people.” Adelman concurred: “We simply have no idea how people are going to behave this year when live events return in full force. We can’t just think that it’s going to be business as usual.”
Not only are event’s organisers having to deal with this new breed of crowd behaviour, they are also out of practice and, in some cases, new to the field. “I saw a report that there are more than 600 UK festivals planned for this summer,” commented Stuart. “There are several events that are run by first-time organisers who, although might have worked on events in the past, have never headed up an entire festival site.” This is compounded by the decline in experienced personnel, with many leaving the industry over the past two years. “We’ve seen reports that close to 40% of experienced security and stewards leave the industry. Not only that, but there is also the issue of a lack of readily available equipment,” he reported.
Stuart and Adelman paint a rather bleak picture of the summer to come and were quick to highlight how the GCMA is still in its infancy. “The situation is shifting underneath our feet on almost a daily basis,” stated Stuart. “That said, we only launched on the 1 December, and in two months, we have already surpassed my expectation of signups.”
The duo were keen to state that they were not “selling their services,” but are “open to aid organisers in any way they can” to help make their events safer. “I must admit, I have been sent some site plans that have made me incredibly worried and to those I have offered my advice and experience going over the basic maths and physics principles explaining what happens if you squeeze crowds too tightly,” commented Stuart.
The GCMA are planning on producing a quarterly web-series to further disseminate information about crowd safety and people are able to become members via the website. “We want to continue to grow this community so there is a space for people to talk and share advice and experience and together we can make events safer,” concluded Stuart.
This article originally appeared in issue #268 of TPi, which you can read here.
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