The events industry has always been a tightknit community, but now so more than ever. Ian Baird, managing director of Whiskey Bravo Productions, discusses collaboration and his personal take on working with Brighton EPIC

“Art created in the darkest hour is the most vital”

I tried to find the exact quote, but I think this will stand for now. This is something I have been thinking a lot about in the last few weeks and is something I am trying hard to embrace. At risk of overstretching the positive affirmation shtick I’m trying to “Be the change I want to see”.

So, what does that look like? At the start of this crisis, as the upbeat but fundamentally fatalistic emails around cancellations started to flow in February and March, I was hit by a real concern and a shadow in our future. At that point we were looking at May events, the start of the season, being delayed. Maybe two or three months of uncertainty but it was clear, even then that the ramifications could be severe.

The problem I saw was that our industry is chock full of good sentiment but, at its core, is a business. A business of high risk, tight margins and an ever-growing emphasis on the power of a few large corporates over a vast body of freelancers and SMEs. The practical outcome of that is that when the green shoots of, most probably, constrained capacities and “socially distanced” events begin to emerge there will be a serious tension that comes to bare between people desperate for work and promoters desperate to save their shows.

Workers will be willing to drop prices because “everyone needs to eat, right?” and events will be looking to get those costs down to supercharge their returns in the face of severely constrained attendance rates. The outcome is inevitable, a race to the bottom that threatens to strip the very heart out of an industry I have grown to love over the last two decades. To sit by and watch my home from home be set ablaze was not, and is not an option.

Luckily I was not alone in these thoughts and in Brighton I am lucky to be surrounded by some of the best and brightest companies in the industry. We began to talk, and plan and the Brighton Event Producers Independent Committee (EPIC) was born. The key here is to break down the barriers between the layers in this business. When suppliers, producers and management companies are sat around the same table, agree the same aims and communicate about their separate fears and constraints then there is only one outcome possible; the best possible chance at an industry that is stronger and more sustainable than before.

We now have more than 60 subscribers from companies, event producers, designers, makers, creators and thinkers in our ranks, focused on making sure the issues we face are known at a national and local Government level and that we find the best possible future for the greatest number of people. Beyond this, it feels like there is something in this model. We’re now being contacted by people up and down the country looking to mirror what we are doing and establishing their own EPICs from Scotland to Bournemouth and everywhere in-between.

It feels pretty difficult right now for many I am sure, sat behind the laptop in the back bedroom watching the Facebook memories pop up each day from this field or that, seeing the last few horses out of the stable in the form of cancellation emails. We’re possibly at our darkest ebb, but now it’s time to put your head up and look forward. Now is the window in which that great work of art can be created, that work is the next 20 years in a brighter, more transparent and fairer industry. That work can be EPIC and I for one want to make sure the pain now is to create aspiration, not that race to the bottom.