News Archive

Surf Phenomenon

by msecadm4921

Crowd surfing has been a growing concern at rock concerts in recent years. We report on how a crowd management firm handled the phenomenon at a big rock event in 2001.

Showsec supplied all of the crowd management services at 2001’s Stereophonics Donington Show. Showsec are past masters of managing crowds at Donington Park and currently look after all events on the track, so they were on site the moment production came on site following the British Motorcycle Grand Prix the previous Sunday. Mark Harding, Showsec’s recently promoted Group Operations Director, managed the overall crowd management operation, which began in earnest from the Friday afternoon when 10,000 campers began arriving. Audiences at past rock events at Donington developed a reputation for very boisterous behaviour. Showsec Directors Mick Upton and Gerry Slater were experienced to ensure this event ran safely. Mick manned the control room with local emergency services and licensing officials, monitoring the whole site with remote controlled surveillance cameras and video equipment. On show day Mark and Gerry, with 20 years’ experience of events at Donington Park, ensured that the 250 Showsec staff on site were deployed to deal with the 40,000 crowd from the moment queues formed before the doors were opened at 1pm. Showsec managers Mark Logan and Simon Battersby were two other key players in the team. ‘The event was very good natured,’ said Mark Harding. ‘Our risk assessments and contingency planning more than coped with the few minor incidents through the day. The crowd were younger, slimmer and less intoxicated than the old Monsters of Rock crowds and presented no major challenges, even back in the camp site after the concert.’
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One of the key areas of interest was the front of the crowd and pit area, following the commitment of SFX Director Stuart Galbraith, made at the International Live Music Conference (ILMC) earlier this year, where he said that SFX would ‘proactively discourage crowd surfing’ at their events. A ‘primary D barrier’ system was incorporated in the risk assessment for the event prepared by Mark and Mick, which SFX accepted without hesitation. This barrier design limits the number of people in the area directly in front of the stage and means that Showsec staff had easy access well back into the audience. John Hadland managed the team in the pit and around the D barrier. ‘Showsec had met with the promoters to discuss crowd surfing, which has been a growing concern at rock concerts in recent years,’ explained Mark. ‘We implemented a policy whereby our staff asked people not to crowd surfing as they were entering the site and making their way in the front pit enclosure, which generally worked very well. The few people who did come over were taken into a marquee at the side of the stage where the dangers of crowd surfing and their consequential liability if they injured anyone were explained.’
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The firm’s London office managed the security for Madonna’s run of sell out concert at London’s Earls Court.
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The new Showsec staff uniform colours are green and aubergine, and there are additional high visibility reversible jackets, all carrying the new logo. The new colours have been chosen, the firm says, so that Showsec staff can maintain a relatively low profile as compared to the artists or sports stars they are working for, whilst still being easily identifiable to audiences.
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Preston University has awarded Showsec the contract to assist management of their on-site security at the main bar during busy periods and for events. During larger events in the Student Union, Showsec will supply trained personnel to support in-house staff, which will initially mean supplying ten door supervisors for weekend events. Showsec has worked with Sheffield Hallam University for two, Bradford University for seven, Liverpool and Leeds Universities for three, as well as supplying security personnel when requested at York University Trinity and All Saints colleges, York College and Ripon College.
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Less hassle
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Ruth Wilson, General Manager at Sheffield Hallam said: ‘Showsec remove a lot of hassle out my life and have saved me an awful lot of management time. They are reliable and after 18 months of watching them work I am confident they deal with situations in a very mature and professional manner.’ Mark Logan is Showsec’s Manchester Office Manager, who said that Showsec with the strong backing of Student Unions train and employ students, which brings revenue back into the student population. Mark Logan said: ‘We have always offered part time employment to students at the college. This means that once students have been trained by Showsec they can also work for additional outside contracts, and during holidays periods. There is usually work for students when they go home for breaks as Showsec is a national organisation with eight regional offices covering most of England.’ This approach has helped forge close relationships with the various student unions. Mark added: ‘It is vital that we understand the nuances of the culture within a college to effectively manage the events there.’
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Crowd management firm Showsec’s special projects division made a review of the match day operational procedures at Portsmouth Football Club. As well as providing a consultant safety (and deputy) safety officer for four months, Showsec has rewritten all of the relevant match day documentation, including the Contingency plan and Stewards Handbook for the club. Showsec received a telephone call a mere five days before the season was due to start, from the new Portsmouth Chief Executive, Barrie Pierpoint. There was an element of panic, from the point of view that they didn’t have a safety officer and therefore the safety advisory group (the local authority) were not going to allow them to play their football matches down at Fratton Park.
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Alan Roberts heads Showsec’s Special Projects Division, and as the ex-Safety Officer at Elland Road, was the man for the task. Alan once in Portsmouth held a meeting with the safety advisory group: ‘We convinced them of our commitment and got the contract to provide safety officers and safety consultancy work. We had to address all the problems of the full match day operation and the ancillary preparation before match days.’ With Alan installed as safety officer and John Curbishley deputy safety officer the pair set to put right the findings of an independent audit, that had revealed health and safety problems at the club. These were primarily in the lack of written procedures and records. Showsec addressed those problems, and with regards to creating a satisfactory paper audit system, copies of everything written was sent to the advisory group, was subsequently accepted, then Showsec has ensured the procedures have been adhered to on an ongoing basis.’ ‘There was certain amount of resentment, I remember the first day I turned up for the first game,’ Alan recalls. ‘One of the stewards turned up in Bermuda shorts and flip flops and was immediately told that from now on the standard was white shirts, club ties, black trousers, black shoes, and the hiss that went round the ground was unbelievable! Quite a few people resigned, not to return. One steward in particular said to me ‘I’m packing in’ and I said ‘well I’ve just been put your name forward to be trained as a supervisor, why are you packing in” He said: ‘I’ve had a cushy number for eight years, it looks like I’m going to have to work now’, and so I said ‘perhaps you ought to resign!’ ‘
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With regards to the operation on match days Showsec recruited new staff, retrained all of the stewards and restructured the match day operation. The club has found that the people that have stayed have proven dedicated, enthusiastic and responsive. ‘They’ve all given a thumbs up to the training,’ said Alan. ‘Saying it was worthwhile and the best they’ve ever had and I think that in itself is something. ‘We’ve found ourselves having to rewrite the contingency plan, rewrite the stewards handbook which was non existent at the time and various other aide memoirs for the match day operation for the stewarding ,’ said John Curbishley. One of the objectives Showsec agreed with the club was that they would obtain the football authorities’ FSQ kite mark on their behalf and that the stewards would be certificated with the FSQ. ‘The club has been very supportive, even when they’ve had to bite the bullet and spend a few quid,’ said Alan. ‘For example £1,500 had to be spent on health and safety signs, a host of equipment that we’ve needed to introduce such as first aid boxes, accident books, plus they gave us money for new club ties, jackets and , peaked caps and they allowed us to increase wages for some of the staff because they were very poorly paid in my opinion.’ As well as satisfying the authorities these steps have not gone un-notice by fans and corporate clients who have said how much more professional the operation is, and Portsmouth have expressed their thanks.

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