#WeMakeEvents – A Red Alert Initiative
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Creatives in the event industry have a deep-seated need to entertain people. It’s what feeds the soul, making the world a better place one concert, play, and smile at a time. With a perfect storm of this year with a pandemic and economic crisis hitting all at once, this period of time has been compared to the Spanish Flu and the Great Depression. However, large gatherings were encouraged during the Spanish Flu to boost morale during World War I, and despite the Great Depression, people still had just enough money to still pay for the occasional evening of entertainment.
Today, entertainment venues of all sizes are shuttered—and have been for months. For decades, the sheer magnitude of the impact of entertainment and events on our global economy hasn’t garnered the kind of public and governmental support it should have, and now the lack of significant economic aid to this sector threatens to ravage both it and the people who work in it long term. Gary White, a British producer, colleague, and good friend of Thinkwell, has dedicated himself to amplifying this issue and increasing visibility of how the pandemic is affecting so many in the live events industry.
A show and technical director, producer of large-scale events having worked on projects ranging from the opening ceremony of the Olympics in Sochi, Russia to the Lumiere London and beyond, Gary’s knowledge of a great show knows no bounds. Once COVID hit the world and the events industry immediately was put on hold, Gary saw the need to bring people emotionally together. He spearheaded a campaign to pay it forward to National Healthcare Service employees by getting as many venues, icons, and locales to #LightItBlue every Thursday night at 8:00 pm. It represented the entertainment industry’s way of engaging the public and thanking the front-line employees for their work during the pandemic. After #LightItBlue and #MakeItBlue took off, Gary shepherded the event through the spring, joining forces with Thinkwell to expand the reach to the United States and beyond. This gave Gary time to step back and focus on what was about to come next…
In mid-July, Gary was approached by colleagues at the Professional Light and Sound Association (PLASA) to be the lead producer for the #WeMakeEvents campaign. A natural progression from his previous endeavors, where the events industry paid respect to the healthcare industry, this new campaign focuses on the needs of the hundreds of thousands of professionals and companies in events and entertainment themselves. #WeMakeEvents strives to bring awareness and understanding of the threats the COVID crisis poses to the industry by broadcasting an iconic ‘red alert’ cry for help. With thousands of people who make their living creating, organizing, and implementing events at a variety of scales out of work, the industry urgently needs aid and public support. Gary set out to raise awareness of the struggles his colleagues and the industry at large have faced since March.
Gary once again leveraged his vast international network, utilizing his expertise to spearhead this new campaign. As an industry that was the first to close and will be one of the last to open leaving millions out of work, the livelihood of every stagehand, producer, and technician became the utmost importance in this awareness campaign. Gary’s focus on creating a megascale, streamed event that was highly visible, safe, and leveraged the skills and talents of events professionals was the natural way to fulfill PLASA’s intent and garner attention worldwide.
The inaugural event was on August 11, 2020: more than five thousand professionals gathered over 20 cities across the UK, such as Manchester, Edinburgh, and Cardiff, with the core of the event taking place on London’s South Bank. The fully live-streamed event featured an event crew dressed in red while holding up red lights into the sky, signifying a ‘red alert’ asking for financial support for the families impacted by the months-long shutdown of events and performances.
#WeMakeEvents has now gone global, reaching 28 countries, and is continuing its efforts to raise money and lobby governments to provide assistance for millions of event professionals out of work for the foreseeable future. Gary and his volunteers have successfully created a wide array of ongoing events both digitally and socially distanced – all completely pro-bono. Artists around the world have stepped up to host “Survival Sessions” – their take on live-streamed jam sessions. Additionally, the #WeMakeEvents website hosts a “Speakeasy” room featuring a variety of options including skills workshops, live stream open sessions, and quiz nights for event professionals to sharpen their skills and network with peers.
On December 18-19, #WeMakeEvents’ final event of the year is one of silence. For one night only across the United Kingdom, thousands of people will ‘sleep out’ where they live or traditionally work (pending local restrictions) as an effort to raise awareness of the nearly three million people who have fallen through the cracks of government support during the pandemic.
What 2021 will bring for everyone is still a guess. For Gary, his focus is simple: taking it a day at a time to help the industry. He noted: “This is about fundamentally being a good person and caring for everyone. It’s something I live and breathe for every day.” It’s a good standard to hold ourselves to as we do our part in enduring this pandemic, waiting for that red light to turn to green. We eagerly await the day when thousands of talented individuals finally able to return to doing what they do best: bringing people together and creating happiness through breathtaking events.
Please join us at Thinkwell this year as we support #WeMakeEvents in this truly important initiative. You can donate directly or get involved at www.wemakeevents.com
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